Curses and blessings, the extremes of life on the Vendee Globe
For the second successive edition of the race this charismatic, twinkle eyed skipper from Port Camargue in the Mediterranean is having to withdraw.
His Groupe Bel suffered serious damage when he was hit by a fishing trawler whilst racing in 11th place, around 45 miles off the Portuguese coast about 75 miles NW of Cascais at around 1000hrs CET this morning.
De Pavant described it as a ‘stupid accident’ grabbing some minutes of sleep when he was awoken by a bang. With damage to Groupe Bel’s outrigger – the deck spreader which supports the rig – losing his bowsprit and sustaining a hole in the hull and deck he announced his retirement this afternoon.
The Groupe Bel skipper’s second attempt at the Vendée Globe effectively ended a little more than 68 hours after the start, a cruel reprise after he lost his mast within 24 hours of the start of the 2008-9 race.
He is unhurt and was making to Cascais where he was expected to arrive this Tuesday evening.
“ All of that energy spent over months and years to prepare, all this is terrible. There is no bowsprit, there is a hole in the front of the hull but the boat itself is safe.To leave the Vendée Globe again, after just two days of racing, is not even possible, not even possible.” De Pavant told his team this afternoon.
A snapshot of life’s extremes
This Monday, two full days into the race, has been nothing more than a snapshot of life through the fleet. The huge disappointment of De Pavant, the second skipper of 20 starters to abandon, is contrasted sharply with the simple joie de vie of both Sam Davies and Tanguy de Lamotte aboard their respective IMOCA Open 60’s in 15th and 16th places. (Neither had heard the news of De Pavant)
Davies was positively singing in her daily video report from Savéol and Lamotte’s pleasure at being well settled on his evergreen Initiatives Couer into his dream race which he had previously worked as shore support crew for Ellen MacArthur and Nick Moloney.
While the relative distances between the groups are opening still more through the fleet, so too the private duels and races within the races are starting to take shape.
At the top of the standings since Saturday night François Gabart has extended again with his VPLP Verdier Macif with his regular ‘running mate’ Armel Le Cléac’h now up to second on the near identical sistership Banque Populaire. The closely matched duo raced cheek by jowl all the way across the Atlantic in last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre with Le Cléac’h finishing less than two hours ahead after 16 days of racing.
Gabart leads by 13 miles this afternoon, gaining nine miles over the course of today. The three leading boats, Macif, Banque Populaire and PRB were separated laterally by about 52 miles as they slanted south west.
Into the pack Arnaud Boissières on eleventh placed Akena Vérandas was happy to be duelling with Louis Burton on Bureau Valley. On similar Owen –Clark designs Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso was less than a mile behind Mike Golding, though the British skipper had passed Jean Le Cam to gain eighth place this afternoon. And speaking to the radio vacs this afternoon Polish skipper Zbigniew Gutkowski confirmed tha,t even though his Energa was in light winds and well to the back of the fleet, he was taking on De Lamotte who was just a handful of miles ahead in terms of distance to the finish.
With a low pressure system building to the NW of the fleet the options to get west and use it and to avoid a roadblock of light, unsettled winds between the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands are being taken through the middle of the fleet. This first strategic choice of the race so far may reshape upper middle order.
François Gabart, FRA, Macif: I am very happy with the beginning of the race, even though the start isn’t the most important bit. There has been quite a lot of wind and waves, but it should get calmer later today. I am not too tired. I had some good sleep, it was so dark so it wasn’t really worth staying at the helm, the autopilot was on. And so I feel well rested.I’ll stay in this north northwest wind for a few hours and then I’ll see what to do. I was expecting more traffic, there were still a lot of cargo ships at Cape Finisterre.I really do enjoy being the leader, I have good feelings on MACIF.I am currently at 22 knots, but that is irregular, dropping back to 15kts at times.
Zbigniew Gutkowski, POL, Energa: “Right now we have light winds. There are two different sets of GRIB files but they both tell me I have to go west. It is not possible for me to go south like the others. I have to go west and find the low pressure. I’ll get past the centre of the low pressure and then be able to go directly south. There is no chance for me to go directly with the fleet. Right now I have had good sleep and have been eating well. I got two hours because it is really light conditions. And the wind direction is stable. And so it is good for me and it has given the boat a rest and I have been able to check over everything. For me the boat is quite new, so I have to learn a little bit more and don’t want to make a maximum risk going at the same speed as the others. I just want to keep going and be looking to the future. Right now the winds are light but I find I go better when there is more wind.”
Javier Sanso, ESP, Acciona 100% Eco Powered: “Right now we are getting south at a good pace. The weather is looking a little bit tricky over the next 24 hours, I am in the middle with some good boats and so I am happy so far. I started pretty well and then I took the wrong decision to go a little bit south. But now I am here with everybody and so it is good.