Vendée Globe: Inbetweeners

At the front, the leaders race two by two, but in the middle of the spread out fleet, the Indian Ocean is taking its toll.
no way back
Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back is one of the most isolated boats in the fleet, more than 600 miles from the nearest competitor. Jacques Vapillon / No Way Back

In the Pacific the four frontrunners are racing two by two, Cléac’h/Thomson and Meilhat/Beyou, while the three chasing boats (Dick, Eliès, Le Cam) are seeking to avoid the worst of the storm off Tasmania. But today, we look more closely at the fifteen others struggling in the Indian Ocean at a time when the leaders are back up to speed and Yann Eliès appears no longer to be hove to. All fifteen are getting a pummelling in the Indian Ocean.

Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine) has been one of the main beneficiaries over the past 24 hours. He was the eighth sailor to cross the longitude of the legendary Cape Leeuwin yesterday evening and having sailed 427 miles in 24 hours, was one of the fastest in the fleet. He has regained 300 miles from Yann Eliès. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is not much slower having clocked up 393 miles and is doing well in ninth place. He is currently sailing at 18 knots, 900 miles SW of Australia.

Around 350 miles behind Louis, there is a battle raging for tenth place between Stéphane Le Diraison and Nandor Fa. And it is very tight with 425 miles sailed in 24 hours by Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt and 410 miles by Spirit of Hungary. This is the same distance as that sailed by the current leader, Armel Le Cléac’h (410 miles). Stéphane is currently 70 miles ahead of Nandor, who is surprised to be doing so well, as he told us yesterday. This pair is sailing around a thousand miles from the longitude of Cape Leeuwin.


Amedeo and O’Coineen have to climb their masts

It is also very tight between the New Zealander, Conrad Colman and French sailor, Arnaud Boissières. Around 350 miles NE of the Kerguelens, the skippers of La Mie Câline and Foresight Natural Energy are only two miles apart in terms of distance to the finish and ten miles apart out on the water. They are not exactly side by side but almost. Advancing at 15 knots at the moment, they are watching how a low-pressure system is developing, as it may block their route south of Australia later this week.

A little further south and 200 miles back, Fabrice Amedeo, 14th, has not managed to catch them in spite of a good southerly option. It is true that the skipper of Newrest-Matmut has a halyard that is stuck and he is going to have to climb his mast some time or other, preferably in calmer conditions. That is also the case for Irish sailor, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland, 15th) who is also waiting for the right moment to try to resolve a similar problem. “Technical problems? Everyone has them. We have to get the toolkit out every day,” Eric Bellion explained this morning. The skipper of CommeUnSeulHomme left the international gang comprised of Irishman, Enda O’Coineen, Swiss sailor, Alan Roura (La Fabrique) and American Rich Wilson (Great American IV) to head towards the NE. The reason for this radical choice? To avoid the worst of the low-pressure system expected tomorrow to the west of the Kerguelens. Heerema: “I’ll be getting 40 knots but not for so long”

Around 600 miles further back, it’s safety first for Dutchman, Pieter Heerema. “I’m heading towards the NE. I’ll be getting 40 knot winds, but I hope they won’t last as long,” explained Pieter in a short message. No Way Back is in nineteenth place and one of the most isolated boats in the fleet: he is sailing 600 miles behind Eric Bellion and 600 miles ahead of Catalan sailor, Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean), twentieth. Pieter is not going to be disturbed by his neighbours, with the nearest boats more than 600 miles away.


At the rear of the fleet, 750 miles SE of the Cape of Good Hope, yesterday’s summery condition are over now for Sébastien Destremau (technoFirst-faceOcean) and Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys). No more jokes about being outside sunning themselves or wearing shorts in the cockpit while filming. Romain has got nine miles ahead of Sébastien and confirmed that the Indian is not being friendly to them either. “I have thirty knots of wind and am surfing along at more than 25 knots. I have to go and reduce the sail now.” 6700 miles behind Armel Le Cléac’h and Alex Thomson, the fight is on. It is not because you are an ocean apart that you are not allowed to enjoy yourself a bit.”