Please select your home edition
Suntouched 2016 Dinghy Show
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
Zhik Beanie
Zhik Beanie

8th Vendée Globe - Day 62: Three Kings

by Andi Robertson on 6 Jan 6 January 2017

Fa closing Cape Horn, Le Cléach's 34 day reign in the Doldrums, King Jean is fourth

Hungarian Vendée Globe skipper Nandor Fa is having the race of his life in the Vendée Globe. The 62-year old wrestler, turned canoeist turned Olympic sailor, who came back to solo ocean racing after a 20 year hiatus to compete in this pinnacle event of shorthanded sailing, is expected to pass Cape Horn on Sunday morning. This Friday afternoon Fa is some 620 miles shy of Cape Horn and his release from what has been a tough Pacific ocean for him and the IMOCA 60 which he designed himself.

When, 30 years ago, he was making his first passage round the famous cape in a 31 foot cruising yacht which Fa and his friend had built from a bare hull, the current Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h was a nine year old in his Optimist at home in Morlaix Bay. Fa and his friend had sailed away around the world as their expression of freedom from a political regime which, showing solidarity with the Russian boycott, banned Fa from taking his place as the Finn class representative at the 1984 Olympic regatta in Los Angeles. Since then Fa has been round the Cape two more times solo, during the BOC Challenge in 1990, in his first Vendée Globe in 1993 in which he finished fifth, and more recently during the Barcelona World Race when he sailed with Conrad Colman in 2015. Fa's Vendée Globe is far from finished, but the Cape will mark a big emotional milestone. No skipper has the right to finish the Vendée Globe, but Fa has certainly endured enough hardship and frustration in recent years trying to get to the start of this race to at least be granted a safe passage round the Horn.

The Spirit of Hungary which he built in Hungary, overseeing most of the construction, hands-on for much of the time, suffered structural delamination in the Atlantic in 2014 on his way to New York for his first race. He had to repatriate the boat by cargo ship, re-laminating and refitting much of the hull, before only just winning a race against time to start the Barcelona World Race. Some weeks from the start his chosen co-skipper chose to stand down as he feared that he had not yet the experience to contribute safely alongside Fa. Colman stepped in. But the Pacific is not giving in easily to Fa, who said this afternoon, "It makes me happy to be getting closer, but it does not come easy. I am fighting for each and every mile. The wind is not easy. Yesterday I had a terrible night and day and all the waves were coming from ahead and the boat was so slamming I was afraid for the boat. I am moving and I am happy. It is so freezing cold. You can only work outside for a couple of minutes. It is six degrees in the cabin. The boat is OK. I check everything regularly and I always find something. I am really, really keen to be there. It is so cold. It is so difficult, everything. I am really fed up with the Pacific Ocean right now."

The Doldrums are becoming slow and sticky at times for race leader Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) but sometimes he has still been managing to make 15kts in the squally gusts. Second placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is still with a decent SE'ly trade wind and so scything into the French skipper's lead once again. Already today he has reduced Le Cléac'h's deficit by 100 miles to 235 miles and was still making 21kts of average speed.

In third place Jérémie Beyou gets into more established E'ly trade winds and also starts to accelerate at some 700 miles behind Thomson. There seems little doubt that the Doldrums will compact the first three, while the North Atlantic is a strategic chessboard. Alex Thomson said today: "It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in the next couple of days. After the Doldrums into the North Atlantic and we are upwind, it is kind of an unusual situation and the models are not really agreeing. It is not really clear how to find a path through the mess and in to Les Sables d'Olonne. With these scenarios in the North Atlantic it does create some opportunities and what I need is an opportunity to close in on Armel and be able to challenge for the lead. Change is good for me."

On the Epiphany, the day of the Three Kings is celebrated in European countries, but the wily King Jean Le Cam – also a three times winner of the Solitaire du Figaro – has proven masterful at staying with Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès. It is the consistent speed and rhythm of Le Cam that impresses his nearest rivals at the moment. The veteran 57 year old who finished second in 2004-2005 and fifth in 2012-13 is now up to fourth, moving ten miles ahead of Eliès and 20 miles ahead of Jean-Pierre Dick. Le Cam races the Farr designed yacht which won the 2008 race as Foncia which was extensively remodelled before winning the Barcelona World Race with Le Cam partnering Bernard Stamm.

Extracts from Today's Radio Sessions:

Arnaud Boissières, La Mie Câline: "It's a bit cold. There is not much wind. It's a bit odd as I'm sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean. I'm keeping an eye on my car, when I do something with the mainsail, but for the moment, it seems to be fine, so the repair seems to be holding out. It's funny being so far into the race and yet so close to others. It's reassuring. It was a bit stressful in the low. It was forecast, but I found myself right in it, so I eased off to avoid damage. I'm careful not to push too hard. When we get to the Horn, it's a huge relief, but if I'm doing the Vendée Globe, it's to be in the Southern Ocean and face the elements."

Alex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss: "With these scenarios in the North Atlantic it does create some opportunities. I am running my routing to Les Sables d'Olonne at the moment, but then we are running routes which are looking two weeks ahead. Two weeks in terms of weather forecasting is pure and utter fiction. I am in good shape and the boat is in not bad shape at all. There are one or two problems, the anemometer issue is one thing, but apart from that it is not bad at all. A lot of people consider this to be an individual sport. I see it as a team sport like Formula 1. Although there is one driver who drives the race, you have a huge team behind you to make the boat fast and to make it reliable."

Related Articles

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 today at 9:46 am
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
8th Vendée Globe day 68
Thomson eyes final assault British skipper Alex Thomson today said his last chance of winning the 2016-17 Vendée Globe lies with a ridge of high pressure close to the finish line. Posted on 12 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 67
Bellion 'like a kid at Christmas' at first solo Cape Horn rounding French sailor Eric Bellion today became the ninth Vendée Globe skipper – and the first rookie – to round Cape Horn. Posted on 11 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 66
Le Cléac'h vents frustration at complex final week Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h today spoke of his frustration as erratic weather in the North Atlantic complicates his path to the finish line. Posted on 10 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 65
Critical 12 hours for leaders, says Walker The next 12 hours could prove crucial to the outcome of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe, according to British sailing star Ian Walker. Posted on 9 Jan
Vendee 2020 Vision:
New initiative to nurture a British Vendée Globe winner Launched in 2016, Vendée2020Vision is a new initiative to support British sailors along the path to success in yacht racing's most challenging event - the Vendée Globe, the quadrennial singlehanded non-stop round the world race. Posted on 9 Jan
8th Vendée Globe day 64
Beyou capitalises on leaders' woes While all eyes are on the Vendée Globe's leading pair Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson as their epic tussle heads into its 64th day, third-placed Jérémie Beyou has been quietly sneaking up on them. Posted on 8 Jan