The 20 skippers of the Vendée Globe received their first iceberg alert this morning - 19 days before they have even started the race. At this morning’s skippers’ briefing, they were told there is risk of there being large icebergs and growlers around the Gough Island waypoint, the first ice gate of the Vendée Globe, west of South Africa.
“An ice field has been accelerating north, speeding up from 10 nautical miles a day to 13-14 nautical miles and in 40 days or so, if they continue moving north, will be arriving pretty close to the gate where you (the skippers) arrive,” Louis Mesnier, the project director at Collecte Localisation satellite (CLS), said. CLS is the company that tracks the ice fields for the Vendée Globe and sends daily reports to the skippers. Mesnier was briefing them on how they will receive information from the race office about ice fields.
“Logically they (the icebergs) would start moving south when they get there,” Mesnier said. “But I can see why they (the race office) left Gough Island to starboard. They (the icebergs) do not move in a straight line, this is not an exact science.”
The ice gates are the limits of the course for the sailors and designed to stop them heading into high-risk areas, even if they believe they can get more wind there. Denis Horeau, the Vendée Globe race director, will make the decision over moving the Gough Island ice gate once the lead boats have reached a latitude of 20 degrees south – west of the coast of Namibia.
Bruno Retailleau, the Vendée region general council president, said the French foreign ministry had recently established a new ‘crisis department’ which would use diplomatic channel around the world to speed up aid in the case of an emergency.
“The idea is that we can react faster if there is a problem,” Retailleau said. “We haven’t got a magic wand, but we will do our best.”