Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) is forecast to cross the finish line at Les Sables d'Olonne between 9 and 10 (French time) on Sunday, February 17. It would give him a race time of around 98 days, 21 hours. But he will not be able to relax until he is home. He faces an upwind finish with more breeze than was expected – 15-18 knot easterlies – and in these conditions the rudder and daggerboard damage to his boat suffered on Sunday February 3 makes stability an issue. He will need to tack once more to the finish but the damage means both tacks are complicated.
"With a 15-knot wind almost coming from Les Sables so I'll have to tack to finish the race," De Lamotte wrote. "The bad news is, on that tack, I can't use my stabiliser and when I'm on the other tack, I'll have to keep the boat in an upright position so both rudder blades are in the water."
In a call this afternoon he also spoke of the stress of the increasing maritime traffic. Collisions with fishing boats, not far de Lamotte, knocked out Louis Burton and Kito de Pavant in the first week of the race. "I am just going through the middle of a fleet of fishing boats," he said. "You really have to be careful because the traffic is intense. I am currently on starboard tack towards the coast and I'm turning in the night onto a port tack to Les Sables d'Olonne."
His advantage is that he has been able take his time, as Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique), is a long way behind him. De Lamotte, averaging 9.1 knots over the last 24 hours, is not racing against the clock. He has had a tough time coming back up the Atlantic, but it could have been tougher. This will be his first time around the world but also the first time for his boat, in it's third Vendée Globe. His Marc Lombard-designed Open 60 was launched in 1998 and was Catherine Chabaud's Whirlpool in the 2000-01 edition. Chabaud, the first woman to finish the Vendée Globe, in the 1996-97 race, was in fifth place, just 500 miles from the finish when she dismasted on February 20, 2001, 250 miles west of the coast of north-west Spain and was forced to head for Vigo. In the next edition, Marc Thiercelin sailed the boat, re-named Pro-Form, but was forced to stop in New Zealand with technical problems, before sailing back to Les Sables out of the official ranking.
De Lamotte's finishing time would have been good enough for fourth place in the 2000-01 edition. That race, won by Michel Desjoyeaux in 93 days 03 hours and 57 minutes, was the benchmark for him and his boat.
On another tally De Lamotte was even more successful. By Saturday his sponsor, Initiatives Cœur, had 165,000 likes on Facebook. That has been enough to fund heart operations in France for 13 children underprivileged children from around the world, with at least 14 likely by the finish. The operations are organised by the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque charity, which De Lamotte has been supporting for almost a decade.
Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) is back on track for an arrival on February 21. After twisting his way slowly through the Azores high, he is in 22 knots northwesterlies that will take him south of the Azores archipelago. He has averaged 11.9 knots in the last 24 hours and covered 284.6 miles.
Leaderboard at 4pm:
1 - TANGUY DE LAMOTTE [Initiatives Coeur] 128.5 miles to the finish
2 - ALESSANDRO DI BENEDETTO [Team Plastique] at 1,201.6 miles from leader
Full rankings can be found here
Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA, Initiatives Coeur)
I'm now 160 miles away from the finish line, with a 15-knot wind almost coming from Les Sables so I'll have to tack to finish the race. The bad news is, on that tack, I can't use my stabiliser and when I'm on the other tack, I'll have to keep the boat in an upright position so both rudder blades are in the water. Let's meet in the Sables d'Olonne channel in 24 hours, I should be there around 11AM. I'm being very careful over the last nautical miles and enjoying the ocean and the nice weather. I can't wait to see you all again!
No more spinnaker for me, I hoisted the code zero sail and I'm finally sailing upwind, but it's raining, unfortunately. It looks like I'm getting seriously close to the finish line, honestly, it feels so strange... But that's what the plan was and I had been looking forward to sailing upwind so I'm happy. I'm now facing southerly wind on a starboard tack and I have my sight set on the finish line 300 miles away. I should cross it by the end of the night on Saturday so I hope to see you all on Sunday morning along the canal. In the meantime, I'll stay focused on the traffic and the settings of the boat. See you soon, face to face!