As the repercussions of Irish stalwart Enda O’Coineen losing his mast this morning ripple across the rest of the Vendee Globe fleet on this first day of 2017, the remaining skippers have been spurred on to ensure everything is shipshape aboard their own vessels, with an emphasis on safety and ingenuity…
Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-Face Ocean): “To celebrate New Year’s Eve I spent a lot of time on the telephone and naturally the first person I called was my mum! This festive period is radically different to anything I’ve done before. I did have a very nice dinner though of duck leg with ceps and morel mushrooms, lovingly prepared. I’ve decided to make my pit stop in Recherche Bay, Tasmania now, near Hobart, which is on my route, with an ETA around tomorrow evening, depending on whether I choose to make a night stop. It is important I make a stop whatever happens, especially given Enda’s catastrophe this morning. The boats are suffering. Only yesterday I was repairing some anti-friction patches on the J2, when I happened to notice that the furler needed tightening. In the time it took to hunt down the key, the pin had come out and it was held on by just two lines… quite something when you consider that it supports the mast. After going half the way around the world, the boats are really copping it so this morning’s events have bolstered that idea in me.
I changed all the rigging in late August after the dismasting so the loops and lashings have never been tested and I’m scared that where they touch the carbon, there could be wear. It may transpire that all is well but I need to check. Given my broken rib, I’ll have to take some anti-inflammatories before I scale the mast and I’ve absolutely no desire to do that at sea for obvious reasons. With my injury, putting in a reef takes 20 minutes now instead of 5 and I shake out the reefs later. I’ll change the lashings if need be, repair the hydrogenerator and then attack the second half in very good shape hopefully.
Mooring up will be done according to the wind and the chop. I have 2 big problems though. Firstly, my engine only starts using a sail, so I would need to kill the motor once I moor up. So either I will have to find a mooring I can sail back off, or I’ll have to find another way of starting the engine such as hoisting a sailbag to the top of the mast and then dropping it. The pit stop may last hours or up to say 2 days depending on what I find aloft.”
Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII): “I’m in the South Atlantic off Brazil, less than 400 km from Rio. We’re close-hauled and heeled over so it’s not very comfortable and the boat’s slamming, but we should be able to pick up the pace again in 3 or 4 days. I’m happy to be making more speed today after some complicated days of late.”
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss): “Not much sleep again last night with the wind shifting everywhere and without the anemometer and hence no wind speed. But I now have an anemometer again and I’ve just noticed that I’ve picked up a bit of seaweed and kelp on my deck spreader so that shows the bit of heel I’ve had from sailing with no foil on port tack. So, the anemometer is now hanging on the back of the boat. The pieces were made before we left so all I had to do was fit them in place and glue them, wire the whole thing up and stick in the offsets and so now I’m driving on wind angle, which means I’ll be able to get some sleep, which I’m really looking forward to!”
Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac): “The sun’s out again after a bracing night and I have a big decision to make regarding whether to pass in front of or behind the depression. In the meantime, I’ve prepared some bubbles just to get my priorities straight!”
Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys): “I have no air at all! The sails are flogging. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing here. Not a breath of air! The wand is at a standstill so I’m stuck fast, unable to find a way out. What are the chances? A big storm for Christmas and becalmed for new year! What a cheek!”
Jordi Griso (team manager of Didac Costa-One Planet One Ocean): "It's quite a symbolic moment to reach the halfway mark, perhaps even more so than rounding a cape or switching oceans. Passing the midway point shows you the true scale of the distance that remains to be travelled. Mentally this is an important moment. Didac is now moving closer to Les Sables rather than away from it. You have to deal with the fatigue of the equipment while continuing to race intelligently now. For Didac, the primary objective is to make Les Sables. He must remain attentive because the slightest problem can become a big concern in this area. The past week was a bit difficult with the passage of a big depression and gusts of more than 40 knots, head on! He had problems with his autopilots and helm that have now been resolved. The boat is not in tip-top condition, but Didac can continue racing and Romain Attanasio is not far away so the rest of the race is going to be interesting."
Alan Roura (La Fabrique): “I wish you dreams that go forever accompanied by a passionate desire to make some of them a reality. I hope you love what you should love and forget what you should forget. I wish you passion and I wish you silence. I wish you birdsong on waking and the laughter of children. I hope that you can respect the differences of others, because discovering the merit and value in each other is a journey worth taking. I hope you can resist stalemate, indifference and the negative virtues of our time. Finally, I hope that you never give up searching, adventure, life or love, for life is a fabulous adventure, and no one should give up on it without a tough battle. I wish you above all to be you, proud of who you are and happy, because happiness is our true destiny.
Here on the racetrack the wind has begun to gradually pick up, the sky changing colour to pave the way for a fine low pressure system that’s looming. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to climb as far North as the others, so I’ll get hammered by a lot of wind from a very bad angle, which is not very reassuring. La Fabrique is ready though. I went over her four times today and she has been checked from top to bottom. For this first day of 2017, there isn’t a lot to say. It's just magical to celebrate this day alone and lost in the ocean and it's an incredible time to live fully in the moment. I just watched the ocean on New Year’s Eve and took some time for myself, to take in what I am doing here.” (www.vendeeglobe.org)