Jacques, what are the key elements this morning for the Vendée Globe skippers?
“The situation is very rough for two boats in particular. Firstly for Edmond de Rothschild, which was near a very deep low with very heavy seas on the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. A situation that is far from simple for Sébastien (Josse, 3rd). He has been sailing along the edge, but is still 5-6m high waves. (Since this interview, we have learnt that it is closer to 8m and 40-knot winds for Sébastien Josse – editor). Further north, Paul Meilhat, SMA, is also in a very active system and heavy seas. It was quite risky so we were keeping a close eye on these two during the night.”
What about the two frontrunenrs, Armel Le Cléac’h and Alex Thomson?
“The two leaders are still going at speed. Thye have picked up the front coming towards them and have accelerated again with speeds above 20 knots or even 23 at times. They are getting away fromthose behind once again. It’s an incredibly intense duel between Alex and Armel. 84 miles separate them this morning, so it’s still very close. Neither of them are easing off and they are both maintaining high speeds. A front is propelling them towards the Pacific. Their performance is impressive.”
Everyone is fast
What about the chasing boats?
“Maître CoQ (Jérémie Beyou) is back in the game with full use of the mainsail. He is back up to speed and is chasing after Paul Meilhat. In the rest of the fleet, everyone is very fast – Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Elies, Jean Le Cam… - they are in a strong air stream, but with seas that are not as heavy as for those ahead of them.”
“Kojiro has done over half of the voyage to Cape Town. He just has 160 miles left to go. Romain Attanasio has not retired, but is aiming to seek a place to shelter in a bay near Cape Town. He should be there in two and a half days.”
What are the main lessons after a month of racing?
“After a month at sea, we have twenty-four competitors still racing. Five boats have retired, which is a very good score, if you see what I mean. For a week most of them have been in the Southern Ocean. It’s here they are facing much tougher conditions with the boats being battered and pressure on the sailors. They need to be cautious here in this strip until they get out at Cape Horn.”
What about the weather?
“We are really into classic patterns for the Southern Ocean. The racers are having to deal with low-pressure systems and go from one system to another. This means a lot of work and heavier seas, leading to potential broaching. So now is the time to be cautious.”
“We have seen all the records broken. When we see that Banque Populaire VIII passed Cape Leeuwin five and a half days ahead of François Gabart’s reference time. The weather was favourable all the way down the Atlantic. Boats are faster and faster and their speeds have been exceptional. Foils act as boosters, so it is not that surprising to see these reference times shattered.”