Leaders of the Pack in the Vendée Globe
More than two months into this ninth edition of the Vendée Globe solo around-the-world race, Yannick Bestaven continues to lead, though only by a bit. On the long ascent of the Atlantic Ocean that caps off this epic race, Bestaven on Maître CoQ IV maintains only the smallest of cushions as the leaders begin to slow down in light air off the Brazilian coast. Just behind Bestaven, Charlie Dalin, Thomas Ruyant, Damien Seguin and Louis Burton have closed up to create a five-way race for first place in the closing stages. In a race dominated by challenging conditions, underdogs and close competition, it’s only fitting that any potential breakaway by the leaders would be quelled by light, fluky winds that further compress the fleet and shuffle the rankings.
The top five boats are separated by just over 100 miles, and the second pack of five boats is beginning to close quickly. We could soon see an unprecedented and highly tactical situation where nearly 10 boats are lining up close to the equator in a virtual restart. Although many fans may resent the fact that pre-race favorites such as Alex Thomson and Jérémie Beyou are no longer in contention, this race will be acclaimed as the most competitive Vendée Globe of all time. We can all now merely stand by as witnesses to the closest race up the Atlantic in ocean racing history.
Troubles for Some Fleet Members
Though Isabelle Joschke had been sailing as high as fifth place just a couple of weeks ago when racing across the Pacific Ocean, her keel ram and boat damage have gone from bad to worse on MACSF. She has unfortunately retired from the Vendée Globe.
Pip Hare has capped off her maiden voyage through the Southern Ocean with some memorable heroics, having just replaced her port-side rudder. She should soon round the Horn in 17th place, a commendable effort in the largest Vendée Globe fleet in history.
“Here’s a short video of Pip Hare changing out a rudder with a cracked shaft and replacing it with a spare,” writes Latitude reader and contributor Pat Broderick. “When this happened she was in the southern Pacific Ocean approaching Cape Horn.”
The top female sailor is now the young Clarisse Cremer on Banque Populaire. While never sailing her legendary boat to its full potential, she has remained smart and consistent and now sits just outside the top 10 in 12th position.
As of this writing, Jérémie Beyou and his yacht Charal have just rounded Cape Horn in 16th place. Having sailed back to Les Sables-d’Olonne and re-started just days after the start of the race, Beyou never fully realized the potential of his revolutionary yacht, the first ‘new generation’ IMOCA 60 to be launched. Despite his position deep in the fleet, Jérémie has managed some mid-race heroics by recording the fastest elapsed time between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.
Trophée Jules Verne Redux
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the foiling maxi-trimaran Gitana 17, co-skippered by Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, is making a second and likely final attempt this season at setting a new outright around-the-world record. Starting just over 40 hours ago as this story is posted, the revolutionary ocean foiler — the first big trimaran of this new breed of fully foiling boats — is currently making more than 34 knots. She’s roughly 100 miles ahead of the reference time set by Francis Joyon and IDEC Sport in January 2017. The team is referring to a “dream window” from France to the South Atlantic. We’re keeping our eyes glued to the tracker to see if Gitana 17 can stay ahead of record pace and make good time into the Southern Ocean.