Please select your home edition
Edition
Spinlock - Rigsense - 728x90
Report of the Month sponsored by Henri Lloyd Win a Henri Lloyd Dri-Pac for yourself and the author of the report that receives the most votes.
Your name

Your email address

Why do you like this report?



Product Feature
High Performance Sailing - Faster Racing Techniques by Frank Bethwaite
High Performance Sailing - Faster Racing Techniques by Frank Bethwaite
Boat Insurance from Noble Marine


Full racing risks
New for old cover
www.noblemarine.co.uk

8th Vendée Globe - Day 61: When a victory is staying on course

by Andi Robertson on 5 Jan 5 January 2017

Conrad Colman is in recovery mode. The Kiwi skipper in ninth place in the Vendée Globe is recovering physically after three epic days battling to keep alive his ten year dream to complete the famous solo round the world race.

Rest is the best medicine for his cut hands, his strained and bruised limbs and battered body and the 34 year old solo skipper, who is on his third racing circumnavigation, has enough experience as a sailor and endurance athlete to know he can deal progressively with that requirement. But at the same time as his relief is palpable that his strength of character and the toughness of his boat and rig proved enough to keep him in the race, so too it is impossible for him not to reflect on the miles lost while he was in his fight with the elements.

Keeping his Foresight Natural Energy on the race track, heading east towards Cape Horn since yesterday evening, when he came within a hairsbreadth of losing his mast, should feel like a triumph in itself. But to the hard bitten competitor who has been punching above his weight since the start, the 350 or so miles he has lost to Nandor Fa in front of him and now with Eric Bellion just some 203 miles behind, the miles lost to his exhausted mind have the feel of a knockout punch.

Colman told today how his IMOCA 60 was held on its side for several hours in 60kt winds and huge seas after he ended up in the most violent part of a vicious low. The situation was precipitated by the loss of a mainsail batten which, he reported, broke the intermediate fixings holding his mainsail to the mast. Because he slowed to fix this problem he ended up in the storm which turned out to be much worse than initially forecast. "I was sailing in 50-60kts of wind and it was gusting higher. And so I was sailing with just the third reef and no foresail. I was actually outside helming when I came off a wave with a big bang and saw the forestay go limp. I saw the pin at the bottom had broken and fallen out. That meant the primary forestay which holds the mast up, which had a sail furled on it, was then free to fly about. And so as soon it was not held at the bottom any more, it unfurled and was whipping the forestay about. That was in 50-60 knots of wind. And on that point of sail with the sail flying like a flag from the top of the mast it pulled the boat over, almost capsized," Colman said today. "And it stayed like that for several hours while the mast was shaking. I was very afraid to lose the rig at that point."

There was nothing more Colman could do than protect himself as best he could inside the boat, waiting until the worst of the storm had passed. He then spent the best part of a day, including three periods, totalling six hours, up his mast in 30kts of wind, trying to cut away his knotted headsail. "And to cut the sail away took five or six hours hanging in the harness, to separate it off the bottom of the forestay," Colman continued, "That was a whole day to separate it off the bottom of the stay. Finally the wind reduced, now I was able to put a new pin in and to put a lashing in place to secure the forestay. The mast stayed up. It is secure. I can keep sailing but as far as my race goes. I am down three sails now and I have lost eight hundred miles on my lead on the guys behind me. It will be really difficult to maintain my position in the race. But having seen my race coming so close to ending, I am pleased to be still floating, to have a mast, and the ability to keep on going. Physically I am shattered. Emotionally I am very disappointed I felt like I was doing everything right, I was sailing very conservatively at the time, I was let down by a technical failure. The fact I ended up where I did was not because of my seamanship, but just the wear and tear on the boat. It is disheartening to see my position in the fleet come under risk as a result of a couple of really, really hard days. I just need to look at it relatively and say I have had a really good race. I have been punching above my weight for most of this race. I am now down three sails. And I have lost most of my lead on the boats behind. But if I can get round Cape Horn in this position, then if I lose places coming up the Atlantic then it will be inevitable. I no longer have the ability to fight against other boats which are in better condition."

Miles are coming more easily for Alex Thomson and Armel Le Cléac'h as the top duo extend into SE'ly trade winds which have built to be closer to 20kts now. Le Cléac'h on Banque Populaire VIII has less than 400 miles of Southern Hemisphere sailing left. The Doldrums are enlarging, becoming more active as they approach, but it is the North Atlantic ascent to the Bay of Biscay which is taxing their minds right now, looking ahead. Thomson, back sailing at even speeds with his rival who is 340 miles ahead, said this morning: "By this afternoon I should be matching him. And then on the approach to the Doldrums I might be able to catch up a little. Things are not too bad. Everything is good on board. These are easy miles to make and I am quite comfortable. The only thing I can think about right now is the Doldrums, once get across that I need to look at the strategy for the North Atlantic which looks quite daunting at the moment. It does not look very normal. And so that is where I am looking at the moment. I am looking at how to get to the finish as fast as possible, not thinking at all about the finish."

In fifth and sixth places Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam were racing half a mile apart this afternoon. Irish skipper Enda O'Coineen who lost his mast on New Year's Day has arrived in Dunedin this afternoon, towed the final miles there. And Sébastien Destremau is expecting to leave the haven of Port Esperance, Tasmania tonight (daytime local) after checking his rig and repairing a spreader, now ready to take on the Pacific.

Extracts from Today's Radio Sessions:

Armel le Cléac'h, Banque Populaire VIII:
"Right until the end, it's not going to be easy. The weather is not in the usual configuration. There's a low off the Canaries, which is upsetting the weather patterns. The Doldrums are going to be a bit complicated. We'll have to deal with what comes our way. Since rounding the Horn, the weather hasn't been kind. I'm focusing on the charts and my trajectory. With less than a fortnight to go, I'm trying to stay in front. The final stretch is looking complicated."

Jean-Pierre Dick, StMichel-Virbac:
"It was tough – a day with thirty knot winds and choppy seas. It's hard to sleep when it's like that. I have more or less got the situation under control. The battle for fourth place is going to be close. It's important for everyone to finish the race. These projects take such a long time. It's really satisfying to see the finish."

Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary):
"I'm in the transition zone. This light wind varies between 4 and 10 knots. I must manage to get through the zone with this little breeze somehow, at least 20 miles to reach the real wind. There's no wind, the sails are luffing and clapping in the never-ending waving, the whole boat is suffering. It's really frustrating but there's nothing I can do. Meanwhile, there is a strong current that is running East with me. The organizers notified me about new icebergs. In front of me, way above the exclusion border there are several icebergs drifting - five to be precise. I'm going their way so it will be crucial to keep the radar on. The temperature has fallen significantly, this could be because I'm near the 55th latitude, but it could also be due to the icebergs nearby. I really wanted to complete the race within 90 days, but I don't see any chance for that. Okay, it's going to be 90 plus 1-2 days... so what? At least my record will be easier to break by the emerging Hungarian youth."

Alan Roura (La Fabrique):
"I've come off quite well. It could have been much worse. We were close to disaster. But I'm feeling fine! I got some messages from other competitors, from the gang of five and Romain Attanasio who were amazed. They told me I was a great sailor and really crazy. They called me MacGyver! The Race Directors were equally impressed... It's unheard of to fit a rudder so quickly in such conditions. They told me I was a champion!"

vendeeglobe.org/en

Related Articles

Former Clipper Race skipper chasing glory
As the Vendée Globe leaders enter final 24 hours After more than 70 days, the Vendée Globe is set for an epic finish, with the youngest skipper to win the Clipper Race, Alex Thomson, closing in on the lead as the race enters into the final 24 hours. Posted on 18 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 74
Victory 24 hours from Le Cléac'h's grasp British sailor Alex Thomson today conceded that his chances of overhauling Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h on the home strait were slim, despite narrowing the gap to just 35 miles. Posted on 18 Jan
Vendée2020Vision sailors inspired
By Alex Thomson's performance Regardless of the outcome of the Vendée Globe Alex Thomson will have put in the best British performance in a non-stop round the world race since Robin Knox-Johnson won the first ever event of this kind. Posted on 18 Jan
Aerial pass of Hugo Boss and Banque Populaire
39 miles separate leaders in Vendée Globe closing stages Yesterday afternoon a Marine Nationale airplane flew over the two leaders; Armel Le Cléac'h on Voile Banque Populaire and Alex Thomson onboard Hugo Boss. Only 39 miles separate them as the sprint finale to the finish continues... Posted on 18 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 73
Thomson running out of time in sprint to finish Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h has an advantage of just 69 miles on second-placed Alex Thomson as the solo round the world race enters its final 500 miles. Posted on 17 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 72
Photo finish predicted The Vendée Globe is going down to the wire with the leading pair of Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson split by just 78 miles as they enter the final 1,000 miles to the finish. Posted on 16 Jan
Thomson smashes 24-hour distance record
Now just 70 miles behind Armel Le Cleac'h in the Vendée Globe British sailor Alex Thomson today smashed the world record for the greatest distance sailed solo in 24 hours notching up 536.8 miles on his 60ft racing yacht. Posted on 16 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 71
Throttles down in sprint to the finish The race to the Vendée Globe finish line today became an all-out, neck-and-neck sprint as the leading pair's speedos rocketed into the 20s. Posted on 15 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 70
'Anxious' Le Cléac'h vows to focus on ultimate prize Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h today admitted tensions are running high as he clings to the narrowest of leads over Briton Alex Thomson just days from the finish line of the solo round the world yacht race. Posted on 14 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 69
Leaders compress in race to Les Sables Friday the 13th might be unlucky for some, but not for British skipper Alex Thomson who has pulled back 85 crucial miles on Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h in the last 24 hours. Posted on 13 Jan