As the “Hugo Boss” heads at more than twenty knots like a missile towards the Intertropical Convergence Zone, “ITCZ”, the IMOCA platoon stretches some 750 miles to the north. Thomas Ruyant, in second position with the «LinkedOut», is one hundred miles behind the leader; “Papi” Le Cam continues in the resistance in third position and Charlie Dalin approaches him from the northwest with the “Apivia” in fourth position.
Leading the second group Kevin Escoffier with the «PRB», fifth overall, 228.5 miles from the first and 94.7 miles from the «Apivia». This morning Escoffier commented: “I was looking at the satellite photos to see the state of the Pot au Noir. Right now, the trade winds in the southern hemisphere are easterly rather than southeast there is less conflict (between the trade winds) in the intertropical convergence zone. The more Parallel the trade winds (to each other in opposite hemispheres) the easier the Doldrums are to cross. These are good conditions, but despite all the wind is quite unstable, it could be a bit too east I think. Not easy to find the right combination of candles. If I could sleep more it would be better. I don’t eat very well either. As I speak I am eating a few ounces of chocolate. The first week was intense, I thought it was due to my lack of solo experience, but I understand that everything the world is a little tired ”.
The rhythm of the IMOCAs emotionally affects all those seafarers who are having problems on board their ships. First it was Fabrice Amedeo’s turn when he had to return to port with the «Newrest – Art et Fenetres» as soon as the Vendée Globe 2020 – 2021 started; returning to the regatta three days later when the fleet was already west of Cape Finisterre: “I’m a little disappointed, but it’s almost a chance that I had this problem now. If I had had it in 10 days it could have been catastrophic. There is frustration about being docked, but I have total confidence in my team doing a great job as well. I’m glad to be back. It was a necessary evil before going on a trip around the world. “
On the same day that Amedeo was sailing again, in the northwest of the fleet Armel Tripon was in trouble in one of the hooks of the L’Occitane en Provence; Fault that continues to try to solve in the last six days when it is west of the Canary Islands: “The boat is physically challenging in general, when there is wind it is physical, and even in the short time, it is energy intensive. You have to think about recovering, because it leaves traces, it is a real management. I am through the Canary Islands, 110 miles less, it’s nice, yesterday I went to work on deck. I’m at the chart table right now, I’m looking at the winds, it varies in intensity, you feel the wind from the islands, even if we are far away. I’m in the setup of the sails and the angle of the course, you also have to play with the keel…, I will take advantage of the fact that the sea is ordered to make a new ascent on the mast. In fact, a few days ago I made a hook to put a J3 support, but I couldn’t remove a ring that had stayed in place because there was too much sea. So I’m going to ride today with a hacksaw to cut this ring. I’ll take the opportunity to check the top of the neck. I don’t feel dizzy, no it bothers me Although alone, it adds an apprehension. This shouldn’t be shit! “
Kojiro Shiraishi is a veteran of round the world regattas, he has returned for the second time to the Vendée Globe. In 2016-2017 he had to retire due to a broken mast in the Indian Ocean, now he has returned with a good sponsor, but it is known that decisions and events at sea are things of nature. Yesterday Monday the upper part of the mainsail of her IMOCA “DMG MORI Global One” broke due to failures in the autopilot, the boat turned sharply causing the cables of the coarse to tear the sail by the second saber. Shiraishi momentarily sailed with a 2 jib and two curls on the mainsail until he found a solution and one where he could make the repair.
Hands to work, and following instructions from the shore team, Shiraishi cleaned up the tear zone of the sail to apply a high tenacity adhesive that will allow him to reattach the two parts of the sail, later hoist it, hunt sails and continue heading south.
On his route to the Cape Verde islands, Nicolas Troussel confesses: “Now I realize that everything is over … I’m on my way to Cape Verde, almost facing the wind and facing the sea, so it will take a while to get there. I’m going about 4 knots and I have 180 miles left. I must have done 70 miles since I de-treeed. Above all, I have thoughts for the people who worked, who supported me, and who made this project exist today. I personally get carried away. I don’t particularly want to go back to shore right away and see people. I’ll take some time to digest this. “
Digesting four years of hard work for Jérémie Beyou, one of the sailors who was aiming to win the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe: “On the way back you focus on not having more damage on board, possible collisions, arrival at the dock, you communicate with the team on how to repair or not. But there in the end, you put in a lot of emotion, it’s not easy to handle. You would like to be everywhere except here. It is true that there are people, but that is a bit sad anyway. Yes, it gives energy, but it is not easy to handle ”.
Beyou’s head has been spinning a lot these days: “It is a tough race. I went through such tough things, but so beautiful in this regatta. It is the contrast that makes this race so special. Statistically, I’m sure I’m not the best … You’re there because you wanted to be there, because you chose to be there and you know before you go that any scenario can happen, and crazy scenarios like that. Of course I have never been so prepared and here you are: you hit something and that’s it! You have to manage to live with it, otherwise you shouldn’t do this. Anyone could not be sensitive to what is going on. The race stops. Some will say that it is only sport, it is sport, but I have put everything on the table for more than four years ”.
The multiple breakdowns (a broken rudder, broken pulley roots, breakage of the starboard rump, structural delaminations) on board the «Charal» seem to have been solved at Le Sables d’Olonne thanks to the great work group that they have formed the ground crew. Since last Saturday in the docks, a command operation was created with the designers, the shipyard, the technical sponsors and four specialists in composites as reinforcements. The Charal Sailing Team technical director, Pierre-François Dargnies, details what was done in record time: “The starboard rudder has been replaced, we checked the entire system that it was not affected. We also inspected the starboard foil and keel that were also not impacted, we changed the starboard backstay and the defective antenna; while the mainsail, which had also been damaged, made a round trip to the sail to repair it. The largest job was the bulkhead of the maiden sheet bar which required more extensive repairs than expected ”.
A state-of-the-art IMOCA costs about 6.5 million euros, for those who live in “pesetas” it is a whopping 1,081,600,000 pesetas (one billion, eighty-one thousand pesetas and six hundred thousand pesetas); plus the millions of euros it costs per season.
The weather report for the next few days from the Race Directorate says that the models do not show much calm, but we still see many areas with rain, showers and some thunderstorms. Therefore, the former must have very irregular conditions for the next 36 hours.
At pot au Noir, we often try to follow some rules to get out as quickly as possible. Rule number one: Once stuck, the exit is in the south. There is no point trying an option in the west or east. Always navigate the edge that gets you as fast as possible to the starting gate.
No.2: Avoid navigating under showers or cumulonimbus whenever possible. If there are gusts ahead of the clouds, there is usually a large area of weak wind under the stormy areas. Satellites are used to measure the temperature at the top of clouds with infrared radiation. The colder the clouds, the higher they are and the more active they are. Dark red and orange clouds should be avoided in the infrared satellite image. They are the coldest and therefore the highest and most active.
Rule number three: Don’t lose your composure. In the 18th and 19th centuries, ships were sometimes stuck for several weeks at the Pot au Noir. Today, the slowdown lasts only a few hours. Countercurrent areas are also better known to avoid.
The first competitors of the Vendée Globe should leave this difficult area and enter the trade winds from the southeast on Wednesday the 18th, just before crossing the equator.
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