With the Vendee Globe only taking place every four years, the development of technology used to monitor the position and movement of Antarctic pack ice advances rapidly between races. Nowadays, thanks to state of the art satellite imagery, the race's directors are able to set a course through the world's oceans that ensures safety from the dangers of icebergs.
Unlike in previous editions in the race where sailors had to pass 'ice gates' at chosen coordinates, for the 2016/17 Vendee Globe an exclusion zone surrounding the areas of the Southern Ocean known to contain ice has been imposed. The Antarctic Exclusion Zone (AEZ), the red area which can be seen at the bottom of the race tracker, prevents sailors from dipping into dangerous waters where they might put their boats – and themselves – at risk. It is made up of 72 carefully-calculated points around Antarctica based on information from the Collecte Localisation Satellites, a subsidiary of the French space research centre.
Although the measures could potentially prevent sailors from reaching the most desirable conditions further south, they will ensure their safety – and so if any skipper strays into the AEZ, he will face a penalty. Should they cross into the AEZ they will be made to return to exit it at the point they entered it, or even further west, and if that is not adhered to, an international jury can issue penalties that range from 24 hours to complete disqualification.
Race Directors send weather warning to racers
The Vendée Globe Race Directors issue a weather warning for safety reasons, when the wind gets above 35 knots, depending on the area in which the fleet is sailing. The pack will be affected by a deep low, which will catapult them towards the Cape of Good Hope. With forecasts announcing 35 knots, the skippers will have to deal with 40-45 knot gusts. Although they are sailing downwind, the seas are going to be very rough for at least twelve hours, according to Jacques Caraës, the Vendée Globe Race Director. Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager – Team Ireland) and Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) will be the first to be affected and tomorrow morning these winds will reach the pack.