Out of 33 boats that started the Vendée Globe solo and non-stop round the planet on November 8e from the French port city of Sables-d’Olonne, 25 remain in the running. It is expected that six will finish this race on Wednesday January 27 or almost.e.
On a map, the lineup of boats looks like an inverted ‘L’, with the long arm being a vertical array of runners sprinting toward the Atlantic Ocean, while the shorter horizontal arm features the finalists on a wobbly straight line towards the Atlantic. east towards the west coast of France.
The final miles across the Bay of Biscay can be downwind at 30 knots, and the three current finalists in the race are French racer Louis Burton (in the boat Bureau Vallée 2), French skipper Charlie Dalin (Apivia) and l German Boris Herrmann. (Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco).
Of these three leaders, to date Louis Burton, in first place, occupies a most northerly position off the Azores Islands, where he could gain a potential advantage to tap into an extremely narrow local corridor of southerly winds.
This ninth edition of the race, which takes place every four years, features boats grouped closer together than in any previous edition. Skipper Burton summed up the situation.
“It’s rare to have so many boats so tight four days from the finish. It’s pretty crazy and it’s hard to make predictions.
It’s race day 76; the previous 2016-2017 edition included more favorable climatic conditions which made it possible to advance more quickly; in 2017, skipper Armel Le Cléac’h finished the race after 74 days, three hours and 35 minutes.
Boris Herrmann of Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco (now in third place) spoke about the small but precious joys of the last few days of racing on his 60-foot IMOCA class.
“There are big lulls, it’s quite stressful. i just passed [a container ship heading for Guadeloupe] … They walked over to say hello, that was cool. They turned on their spotlights and greeted me from the bridge! It was pitch black, the moon was only present in the first part of the night. Currently, we have 12 hours of darkness a day, unlike the southern hemisphere, where you can navigate in the light all the time except for a few hours. ‘
The skipper Armel Tripon is on the boat L’Occitane en Provence, which is currently placed 11e. He spoke about his struggles, as well as the balm of entertainment technology.
‘I’m in the wind. It really is not a very pleasant situation. The boat is constantly banging, everything is shaking, it’s a bit violent. There are risks of breakage. It’s scary for the boat. Normally I go out during the day. Every minute is painful. I have headphones, I play music, I listen to podcasts. This dampens the noise a bit. I listen to everything, classical, rock, reggae, jazz. I just finished ‘Les Misérables’ as an audiobook. It was cool. ‘
For boats about to pass (or have just passed) Cape Horn at the tip of South America, the ease of crossing this final stage of the “cape” (the other two capes being Cape Bonne- Hope off South Africa and Cape Leeuwin off Australia) is tempered by challenge memories.
French skipper Alexia Barrier, aboard the TSE-4MYPLANET boat, commented on the conditions a few days before reaching Cape Horn.
“I have refueled the past two weeks with fronts up to 50 knots and swells. For hours, a lump is in my stomach. On board … the small problems accumulate: the hydrogenator of the port torn off, a problem with the satellite antenna, a leak of the [fresh] watermaker. I wouldn’t be against stopping for a week in Patagonia to fix everything! ‘
The motto of this hard race around the planet is: ‘solo, non-stop, unassisted.’ The challenges along the way are unexpected and relentless. The French skipper Clarisse Crémer in the Banque Populaire X boat (12e place) recently had to deal with Sargassum seaweed stuck in its rudder, while Romain Attanasio in the boat Pure – Best Western (13th place) – frustrated by his boat calmed down in windless conditions – poured beer into water to implore Neptune, god of the ocean, to stir up a favorable breeze.
For many, the simple act of completing the race – which only 89 humans have ever completed – is in itself a huge reward.
Japanese rider Kojiro Shiraishi, on the DMG MORI Global One, was forced to retire from the Vendée 2016 due to a broken mast. In this edition, he proudly took videos of his sushi meals on board, and he recently shared only the happiness about this event, regardless of his position in the race (19e).
“Every day at sea I am the happiest man in the world.”