In the throes of a gale
The Indian has stirred. In tune with a low pressure system that he observed a few days, Sébastien Josse is currently making headway in 25 to 30 knots of breeze along the edge of the ice exclusion zone. Less than 600 miles from the longitude of Cape Leeuwin (SW tip of Australia), conditions are set to get tougher, with a bumpy road ahead for the skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild.
Contacted by Vendée Globe Race HQ in Paris this morning, Sébastien admitted that this bad weather forms part of the scenery in this race and you have to endeavour to deal with the situation in a seamanlike fashion. We're beginning to get into the teeth of the matter with a series of low pressure systems, the likes of which we haven't seen until now but this is what it's all about, it's a circumnavigation of the world, it's the Vendée Globe! he explains, before describing the atmosphere: I have 25 to 30 knots of breeze with a four-metre swell. Today's programme involves dealing as best I can with the low pressure system and also paying attention to the ice zone, which has to be negotiated properly. There's no way out and I'm trying to slip along between the two. Today, I'm expecting to go sailing (laughs)! The wind will build, I'll have to reduce my sail area and I'll certainly have to gybe. At midday this Monday, the skipper did indeed put in a gybe, which is an incredibly tricky manœuvre in such strong winds, requiring the utmost concentration and a great deal of composure.
Almost everyone, without exception
In truth, the skipper entered into the thick of things last night, when he experienced up to 40 knots of wind. Meantime, further up the racetrack, the great escape' continues. Armel Le Cléac'h has just passed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, whilst Alex Thomson, who acknowledges that he's eased off the pace a little, is now 100 miles shy of the leader. Though this top duo is still racking up high average speeds, they haven't yet had to negotiate any strong gales. The same cannot be said for the bulk of the chasing pack, who have all been scooped up by it over the past few days from the South Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. This first big test has led to a certain amount of freestyling for some as well as a catalogue of damage, albeit minor fortunately, as well as the breakage of Spirit of Yukoh's mast, which resulted in the retirement of its skipper, Japanese sailor Kojiro Shiraishi.
A second night in the storm this Monday
At the present time, it's Sébastien Josse whose alone in experiencing the worst the low pressure system has to offer with another 12 to 24 tricky hours ahead. I'm in the low pressure system: last night I was sailing under three reefs (in the mainsail) and J3 (the smallest of the headsails). Right now, I'm still picking my way through the bad weather with an average of 30-knot winds. At the moment, I'm under downwind staysail with two reefs in the main and I'll have to reduce the sail area again later today. Last night I was reaching but further down the track I'll have 40 knots of downwind conditions. I'm already in the mindset of a guy whose sailing in strong winds, the worst of which is to come, albeit from a different direction: last night I was making headway 80 degrees to the wind with 35 knots of breeze and tonight I'll be 140 degrees to the wind with 40 knots, and maybe even more in the teeth of the low pressure system.
Ranking on 5 December at 11:00 GMT
1. Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 13,459.8 miles from the finish
2. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 107.7 miles behind the leader
3. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 610.7 miles behind the leader
4. Paul Meilhat (SMA) 1,187.8 miles behind the leader
5. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 1,443.5 miles behind the leader
6. Yann Eliès (Queguiner Leucémie Espoir) 1,720.8 miles behind the leader
7. Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel - Virbac) 1,936.9 miles behind the leader