December 23, 2012
Race time: 43 days, 3 hours
Position: 620 miles to the east end of the West Pacific gate
Ranking: 1500hrs (UTC) (1600hrs, French time)
Bernard Stamm hopeful of leaving in 24-48 hours
Gabart & Le Clèac’h back together
Le Cam breaks away
Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) was forced to use his engine in order to navigate to a mooring at the Auckland Islands on Sunday morning (his evening), but the Vendée Globe race office indicated that he will be allowed to do this under the race rules because of the exceptional circumstances. Marc Guillemot (Safran) was permitted to do the same by the jury after mooring at the Auckland Islands in the last edition, in 2008-09, where he successfully repaired his mainsail traveller track. Guillemot briefed Stamm’s shore crew on navigating the Auckland Islands.
Stamm, who is anchored in Sandy bay, south of Enderby Island, in the northeast of the Auckland Islands archipelago, is hoping to leave by Christmas day after making repairs to his boat. The stop has already cost the 49-year-old Swiss skipper about 350 miles since he diverted at 1700hrs UTC on Saturday night. He will not be alone for Christmas as he is being watched by sea lions, seals and orca.
After arriving in winds gusting up to 40 knots, he is enjoying far more benign conditions of around 6 knots. But each hour sees the four boats ahead of him escape and Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) draw closer.
© R.Hajduk / Shuttersail.com“This morning, just before 6am (French time), when he was 50°30'275 S and 166°16'773 E, Bernard Stamm has broken the seal of his engine to be able to be at anchor,” Stamm’s team said in a press release. “It was a complicated manoeuvre when you know the wind is blowing at 40 knots in the area.”
“He has since begun the repairs on his hydrogenerators. He cut off all the communication tools to save some energy to go back at sea when he will be done. The repairs should last from 24 to 48 hours. Looking at the weather forecasts, he should ideally leave before December 25 in order to escape from the powerful winds coming from the North. On land, seals, killer whales and sea lions are watching.”
Denis Horeau, the race director of the Vendée Globe, explained Stamm’s circumstances: “He had to turn on the engine because approaching this spot was impossible with sails only. So, what he will do regarding race rules is make a report to the jury saying; ‘at this precise time I had to run the engine.’ He could moor at this time at this spot and the jury will make a decision for this special situation when we have all the elements from Bernard.
“The approach was really tricky. He had to tack and gybe with only a small jib (sail) at the bow of the boat. But he fortunately had the help of his friend Marc Guillemot (Safran). Marc had to stop in exactly the same spot four years ago and Marc remembers exactly the situation ashore. He made something like a small roadbook for Bernard saying: ‘When you see this place please take a left, when you see this rock please take care etc.’ It’s a very tricky spot with seaweed, so the anchor has to be really fixed on the ground not to have the boat drifting. Thanks to his experience he was able to do it.”
Stamm has built his last three boats and has the technical ability. He also has the determination not to take the easy road and sail 200 miles to New Zealand and out of the race. He has unfinished business after not finishing in the 2000-01 edition with autopilot problems and tiller damager and in 2008-09 after trying to stop in difficult conditions at the Kerguelen Islands and running aground.
Horeau was certain Stamm would be able to continue and finish the race: “Do not forget that Bernard has tried many times to finish the Vendée Globe and this is his main aim in life, he really wants to finish,” Horeau said. “He’s a really good technician and I’m 100% sure he’ll finish this Vendée Globe.”
After separating briefly on Saturday, Francois Gabart (MACIF) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) were back together on Sunday slanting towards the West Pacific gate, 650 miles away. Gabart is just 3.4 miles ahead and 25 miles south of Le Cléac’h, who had briefly re-taken the lead by 5.1 miles at the 1100hrs UTC ranking. They are back up to speed in a northwest wind, averaging the fastest in the fleet, with Gabart making 20.5 knots over the last four hours. Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) still thundering on, northwest of them, has been almost keeping pace, averaging 18.2 knots, to stay 444 miles behind.
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) has been able to find only a more sedate 14.2 knots. Unlike Stamm he has chosen to keep sailing with his hydrogenerator problems and will now have to make the repairs in the South Pacific with the next land, Cape Horn, almost 4,000 miles away. “I was sorry to hear about Bernard and also sorry to lose someone sailing close by,” Thomson said. “I know too well the frustration of his situation. I have spent the majority of the day also working on my hydrogenerators but luckily I have been able to work on these whilst still travelling at speed. Conditions are due to get quite a bit lighter by 2am tomorrow which should help me with these repairs.”
Thomson passed the hypothetical halfway mark in miles at 04.28hrs (GMT) on the December 21st, but he is 150 miles from the International Dateline at the 180 degrees. The time difference, going from 12 hours in front, to 12 hours behind, makes no difference to the skippers, but for many it marks the halfway mark of the race, where they are officially and psychologically sailing in the western longitudes home.
Jean Le Cam, in sixth, made his expected break, but not a decisive one yet on the three behind him. He is catching Stamm fast though and was just 477 miles behind.
Mike Golding (Gamesa), 299 miles behind Le Cam, may just catch hold of the northwesterlies that have been taking Le Cam away. But the situation is less clear for Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) and Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered), who was averaging just 4.8 knots in the last hour and is firmly caught up in the confused transition zone and bubble of high pressure south of Australia. Sansó explained the difficulties to Vendée Globe TV and you can find the transcript here.
At the back, 4527 miles behind the leaders but logging impressive speeds is Alessandro di Benedetto (Team Plastique). He has powered through the Amsterdam gate and has averged 16 knots in the last hour.
Ranking at 1600hrs (French time)
1 François Gabart (MACIF), 10,466.6 miles to the finish
2 Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), 3.4 miles to the leader
3 Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) +444.5 miles to leader
4 Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) GBR +870.5 miles to leader
5 Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), SUI +1231 miles to leader
Alex Thomson (GBR, Hugo Boss)
“As I enter night down here it is now dark and it’s still a pretty rough southern ocean sea. Saying that conditions have definitely improved from what they have been and I have been able to maintain good speed. Last night I had a bit of a shock, I was sat in the cockpit reasonably relaxed and then Bang! My first instant reaction was the mast I looked up and everything was fine. I then looked back and could see the windward rudder was up. I checked the rudder system and could see the fuse had broken. Something must of hit the windward rudder. Luckily on our rudders we have a fuse system in place which is a weak link, breaking to allow the rudder to kick up so it doesn’t break. I replaced the fuse and put the rudder back down. There doesn’t seem to be any damage to the rudder blade so most likely it was a soft impact maybe with a fish. I am glad that we have got the fuse and it did its job well in preserving the rudder. I gybed last night so am currently sailing on starboard.
Javier Sansó (ESP, Acciona 100% EcoPowered)
It’s been tricky night and the meteo(rological) models were really guessing models (laughs). The weather did not do what it was expected to do. But it’s not to bad, at least we didn’t lose too many miles. I’m still in the game with the two guys in front. I have not used hydrogenerators in the southern hemisphere yet.
Read the full the interview here
Dominique Wavre (SW, Mirabaud)
I’m great. I found some wind again. It’s a bit weird because there is a lot of sea. The boat is dancing between the waves. I hope it will go on like that for Christmas.
This depression is a bit strong and there are some places were you don’t want to go.
Sometimes the European and American files don’t agree on the weather conditions. We try to adapt. So far, the American file is the most trustable.
François Gabart (FRA, Macif)
It’s dark night outside. I’m in second position today. Sometimes it’s Armel, sometimes it’s me. I hope we’ll keep on fighting like that until the end. It would awesome to be very close before arriving in Les Sables d’Olonne. After 40 days of race it’s incredible to be in this situation.
Christmas day will just be another day on board. I don’t really care about it. I don’t know what I’ll have for Christmas. I hope there’ll be some surprises in my Christmas bag.
Arnaud Boissières (FRA, Akena Vérandas)
I’m fine. It’s the end of the day. I have some good wind for 2-3 hours. Inside it’s hard to hold but it’s nice to keep on going like that. At night it’s cold, around 8°C.
I can’t wait for Christmas. I want to open my Christmas bag with the good food and the presents…
My boat is doing well even if she is less powerful than others.
Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA, Banque Populaire)
It’s dark night outside. There is some sea. The weather conditions are going to be harder in the hours to come. The depression is coming on us. Christmas is going to be tonic.