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Vendée Globe, day 39 - Le Cléac’h extends lead on Gabart

19/12/2012
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Race time: 38 days, 3 hours
Position: 650 miles to New Zealand
Ranking: 1600hrs (French time)

 

The leader Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire) and Francois Gabart(MACIF) were just 6.3 miles apart after becoming the first two of the Vendée Globe skippers into the Pacific Ocean. It is more of a psychological than a physical line for the skippers, the point at which they begin to feel they are on the way home.

The beginning of the western end of the Pacific is defined by the International Hydrographic Organisation as 146°55' E longitude, marking the border between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. Draw a line south from Tasmania to Antarctica and you have a rough guide.

It was exciting news for Vendée virgin Gabart: "I've entered the Pacific Ocean? Wow, that's great, another ocean for me!" He said on Vendee Globe TV. "That's perfect, let's round Cape Horn and go home, now."

Le Cléac'h was the first to enter the Pacific at 0708hrs (UTC, 0808hrs French time), followed by Gabart (0724hrs UTC). Whilst the others are getting a more traditional buffeting from the Indian Ocean, despite being further north because of the ice gates, the leaders are already starting the great crossing that will take them to Cape Horn.

After reeling Gabart in slowly on Monday and then extending past slightly on Tuesday, Le Cléac'h was himself being hunted as Tuesday wore on. Gabart, to the North of Le Cléac'h as they head east to New Zealand.

Fleet News

Meanwhile, the bumps and breakages are mounting for both the skippers and their boats in the Indian Ocean. Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM Projets), already nursing an injury to his elbow, is also wondering what to do about the hole near the bow where one of his stanchions has ripped out.

De Broc said the repairs are serious enough that it is currently investigating where he could anchor, perhaps on Auckland Island, in the southwest of New Zealand.

At the rear of the fleet, Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-heart), after hissmoke on the water, was closer to being smoked by it on Tuesday. He seemed torn between fascination of 35-45 knots and the enormous waves of seven to eight metres breaking on the back of the boat and the fear of breaking something.

It is De Lamotte's first time this far south, but even for Jean Le Cam(SynerCiel), on this third Vendée Globe, sheer joy and fear co-mingled as he surfs down enormous waves. "I did an incredible nosedive, the 'nicest' crash in my life," Le Cam said. "It was like crashing your car at full speed into butter." Better that than the slamming landing that is closer to hitting a brick wall with the hull.

As he feared, Mike Golding (Gamesa) in seventh place, has hit a ridge with little wind by the West Australia gate and has lost 50 miles to Le Cam in the last 24 hours with more to come as he was averaging just 8.6 knots in the four hours before the 1500hrs (UTC) ranking.

Behind him Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) was averaging 13.7 knots and there is real opportunity for Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) to bank some more miles as he continues his epic catch-up.

Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) had the best average speed – 18.6 knots - over the last four hours and had closed the gap to fourth-placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) by 12 miles to just 28 miles. Thomson, reaching south on the same track but three knots slower, was slightly envious:

"I am very aware that Bernard's boat with her fat bow (Cheminées Poujoulat) will have less trouble with these conditions than I am having," Thomson said.

He has cracked open his winter gear now, but not in preparation for some Christmas skiing and tartiflette, but rather the Furious Fifties.

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 14:45