British skipper Alex Thomson today said his last chance of winning the 2016-17 Vendée Globe lies with a ridge of high pressure close to the finish line. Thomson said his only hope of overtaking Le Cléac'h, barring mechanical failure, will be if he could get to within 50 miles of the Frenchman's boat Banque Populaire VIII by the time they reach the ridge. If he were able to do that he believes he will be within striking distance of the Le Cléac'h on the final sprint to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, France.
Thomson, who has been attempting to hunt down Le Cléac'h since he stole the Vendée Globe lead from him in early December, began the day 250 miles adrift but by the 1400 UTC update the gap had narrowed to 216nm. Around 300nm west of the Cape Verde Islands, Le Cléac'h, the runner-up in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, had this afternoon slowed temporarily in slightly lighter winds, his eight knots of boat speed significantly less than Thomson's 13.
Although the pair still have around 2,000 miles to go before they reach Les Sables, Thomson admitted Le Cléac'h is now odds-on favourite to win. But he vowed to push his arch rival right the way to the end of the solo non-stop round the world race in his pursuit of the title.
“There’s a ridge and I could catch up with Armel - it depends who gets across the ridge first,” Thomson said. “If there are no dramas, he should cross the ridge before me and then he’ll win the race. It’s getting more and more difficult to make a move, but I remain pragmatic and optimistic. Maybe something’s going to happen. I certainly see us closing up. According to the computer I’ll finish five hours behind him but we’ll have to wait and see - you never know.” Thomson said he expected two days of fairly light winds, then two days of fast sailing before hitting the ridge. “After this light patch I need to be within fifty miles of him,” he said. “In a few days I could make up the fifty miles. If I don’t get within fifty miles by the end of this light stuff, my chances of beating him are quite slim.”
Frenchman Jean-Pierre Dick today became the fourth Vendée Globe skipper in the northern hemisphere after passing the Equator for the second and final time. Dick, competing in his fourth Vendée Globe, passed the line of latitude that divides north from south at 1033 UTC, just shy of 67 days after starting the solo round the world race from Les Sables d'Olonne in France. He now joins Le Cléac'h, Thomson and third-placed Jérémie Beyou on the relative home strait to the finish line some 3,000 nautical miles away.
Following successful Cape Horn roundings for Eric Bellion and Conrad Colman, the next skippers to pass the milestone will be Arnaud Boissières on La Mie Câline and Newrest Matmut skipper Fabrice Amedeo. The pair, currently enjoying fast downwind conditions, are expected to reach Cape Horn on Sunday. “For sailors this is the Holy Grail and particularly for me,” Amedeo said. “My two goals at the start were to round the Horn and make it to the finish. I’m close now to my first goal, so I’m pleased.”
Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary): “During the whole night we were having a very tough ride in 40 knots base wind with even stronger squalls, sometimes at 25 knots boat speed. With such a speed, the waves were slamming and punching us hard, it was impossible to move around in the boat without having to grab onto something. By this morning it had calmed. It will increase again sometime I’m not sure when exactly, we’ll see later. The boat bangs into the waves in front of us as we reach them with our greater speed, then we run forward. Splashes fly several metres high in the air, then descend onto the deck, into the cockpit. Water is flooding everywhere, I’m not completely safe under the protection either as the spray is blown in here by the wind. It is tough and serious, especially when the water is so cold as it is.”
Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest Matmut: “I feel two different things. Each time I get close to land after sailing out at sea, even in a transatlantic race, there’s always that apprehension about getting back to civilisation, as you start to encounter cargo ships, shipping and bits of land. That represents a threat when you are in a boat. There is also the excitement of getting to the Horn. I don’t think I did too badly in the Southern Ocean. I sailed well on the way down the Atlantic. In the South, I had a problem with my halyard, I tore my mainsail and that made me lose 500 miles. After I had repaired that, I had a problem with the hook. I should be rounding Cape Horn in a westerly on Sunday, sailing downwind in thirty knots of wind.”
Kito de Pavant: “A third Vendée Globe, which comes to an end. A boat that is lost. A lot of hard work that is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean… I have continued to write about this experience. Maybe I’ll write a book. A Vendée Globe leads to other adventures. To begin with, it always involves lots of people. You don’t do a Vendée Globe all alone. The adventure before the start is already something fantastic. I was lucky to be able to set up a project with lots of partners. What I did in the race was incredible. My first two finished too soon. This time I felt like I had done part of it at least. I shared that with lots of people. Before the Vendée Globe, my partners said that they wanted to do the 2018 Route du Rhum. I shall be using up a lot of my energy trying to find a boat. The experience has not calmed me down!”