In the breakaway group
Crazy times for the Vendée Globe fleet, who today lost one of its favourites following the retirement of Vincent Riou. The news came in midway through this afternoon that the skipper of PRB has been forced to retire from the race after suffering keel damage resulting from a collision with a UFO (Unidentified Floating Object). This second withdrawal from the 2016-2017 edition serves as a reminder of how tough a mechanical sport this offshore racing can be. For front runner Sébastien Josse, the race continues. Lying in second place behind Alex Thomson since yesterday, the skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild is positioned 94.7 miles astern of the British boat this Tuesday at 17:00 GMT, forming a tight pack with Armel Le Cléac'h, currently in 3rd. For now, this trio is managing to keep ahead of the front, which has been propelling it along towards the Cape of Good Hope since last weekend.
At the start of this 17th day of racing, the majority of the competitors in the Vendée Globe are continuing to make headway towards the first major cape of this round the world, Good Hope, at the western tip of South Africa. However, in these southern latitudes, the unusual weather patterns evidenced by a Saint Helena High that is untypically far South and East, are not without their share of surprises. Indeed, this Tuesday 22 November is marked by a fresh split in the outposts.
Hanging on in there
Since last Friday, which is when the head of the fleet - that then comprised seven boats - hooked onto a low offshore of Rio de Janeiro, the atmosphere has been that of a drag race across the South Atlantic. Benefiting from a sequence of weather systems worthy of a scenario snapped up by record hunters, this band of leaders has enjoyed a series of fine days of sailing with daily average distances bordering on 500 miles.
For over three days, the sailors have spared no effort in holding onto the benefits of this generous front, managing to stay ahead of it and thus making the most of the N'ly winds and a more manageable sea.
However, this zone of low pressure is moving faster than the monohulls and one by one the solo sailors have seen the system roll over the top of them and leave them floundering on the wayside. Benefiting from their lead at the head of the pack, for now, solely Banque Populaire VIII, Edmond de Rothschild and Hugo Boss are still managing to keep up the pace. At 17:00 GMT, the trio was making headway at an average speed of 20 knots whilst the speeds of its pursuers were dropping off sharply. They're no longer in the same system and the bill is a steep one.
For Sébastien Josse and his two fellow escapees, the goal is clear: to make headway as fast as possible ahead of the front. Indeed, though they know that their impending fate is inevitable as they too get swallowed up by the system, before stumbling into what promises to be a rather tricky transition zone, they are all too aware how important any miles gained over their rivals will be for attacking the Southern Ocean. As such, they are digging deep!
The Deep South beckons
Currently sailing at 37°43 South, the atmosphere is changing quickly aboard the latest of the Gitana fleet. On Sunday, Sébastien Josse was still describing perfect sailing conditions in light clothing at 25°C. This afternoon though, in a video sent back to shore, we discover the sailor sporting a hat, a sign that the temperatures had plummeted.
Ranking on 22 November at 17:00 GMT
- Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 18,359.1 miles from the finish
- Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 94.7 miles behind the leader
- Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 97.4 miles behind the leader
- Morgan Lagravière (Safran) 257.3 miles behind the leader
- Paul Meilhat (SMA) 405.6 miles behind the leader
- Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 528.4 miles behind the leader
- Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir) 950.2 miles behind the leader