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Vendée Globe, day 38 - Across Indian Ocean

19/12/2012
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Race time: 37 days, 3 hours
Position: 50 miles to the East Australia gate
Ranking: 1600hrs (French time)

 

After 37 days 3 hours and 13,984.72 nautical miles of racing (as of 1500 UTC) Francois Gabart (MACIF) was just 15.8 miles ahead of Armel Le Cléac'h(Banque Populaire) at the front of the Vendée Globe. Behind them are three more private battles, races within the race, that have been going on almost since the start; Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel),  Mike Golding (Gamesa) and Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud), Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered).

But none are closer in distance and route than the leading duo. Le Cléac'h has been chipping away at Gabart, who took the lead from him on December 11, and had the better of their tactical gybe north overnight.

Contrary to rumour and some evidence Gabart was not building a Macif snowman south of Australia.

Gabart, 29, and Le Clèac'h, 35, know each other well and train together at the Port-la-Forêt training centre in Brittany. They have been communicating along the way although Gabart said it had been a few days. "Armel and I sometimes send some mails to each other," he said. "We've started this in the Indian Ocean. We haven't done it for a few days."

In 24 hours they should have passed the longitude of Tasmania and be in the Pacific.

About 850 miles northwest of them Thomson and Stamm are also gybing together, this time south as they wait for the low pressure system behind them to arrive. "It's good for me to have another boat close by, it would feel a bit lonely up here on my own!" Thomson wrote in his morning message. "Also to match speeds although Bernard's boat is a little faster than mine it gives me a good benchmark to try and achieve."

Golding, 157 miles behind Le Cam and on the same route slanting southeast, made a similar point about having his old sparring partner close by two days ago whilst stuck in a hole. It keeps you honest and competitive because you have to push yourself when another boat is in the same weather system, but it can also keep you sane if you're struggling.

Everyone from Le Cam back to Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM Projets) is struggling. Unlike, the leaders who just have the problems of squalls, those in the middle of the fleet are contending with a cross Indian Ocean, swept different ways by a succession of low-pressure systems. Rather than surfing a course with the wind at their backs, the skippers and their autopilots are having to deal with sudden gusts and swells of five metres from the northwest and southwest.

Golding described what happened when he had to dump Gamesa on its side on Sunday morning and the how hard the conditions are yesterday to Vendée Globe TV, read the transcript here. "Occasionally you come off the back of a wave and there is absolutely nothing beneath it and the boat comes crashing down and that is when things can get broken pretty badly and very seriously, you want to do the surf but when you are one of these surfs I can tell you, you are fully braced for an impact at the other end, it's as good as hitting a brick wall."

Golding's misfortune has allowed Wavre to close a little in eighth. He is 161 miles behind Golding on the same route whilst Sansó, 179 miles behind Wavre, is diving further south on a different track now. But given the miles they have sailed these are small distances that can be bridged in a day or two.

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 12:30

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