Vendee Globe - A welcomed tonic for the leading duo + Video

Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe
Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe ©
In the Vendee Globe, a spell of more peaceful life in the Pacific is proving something of a welcomed tonic for the two leaders. Despite the fact that Armel Le Cléac’h and François Gabart - side by side just three miles apart - have been forced to concede 300 miles since Boxing Day to the fast moving Jean-Pierre Dick, second placed François Gabart asserted today that the interlude of lighter winds has been good for him to recuperate and to check Macif before the race rookie’s first passage of Cape Horn.

Gabart may have learned diligently at the Michel Desjoyeaux school of always giving positive spin, but knowing now that there are no big weather surprises set to come between him and the South Atlantic engenders yet another measure of confidence for the race’s youngest skipper, who 47 days into his first Vendée Globe has yet to show any weakness in his armoury, physical or mental.

' It is not so bad.' Confirmed Gabart coolly to Vendée Globe LIVE this afternoon, 'We have easier conditions for the boat and for me, the skipper, just to live a bit easier and to check the boat a bit, to manage to eat well. Without big waves it is always easier. I am quite happy to have these lighter conditions right now.'

Dick was 685 miles behind the leading pairing on Boxing Day. Even this afternoon he was still winding them in with his speed advantage of five knots. Most recent routing predictions still have Virbac-Paprec 3 catching to within 18 hours of the leaders who are expected at Cape Horn during the middle hours of January 1st.

Bernard Stamm raised his anchor at around 0600hrs UTC this morning from his spot off Allan’s Beach at Dunedin NZ and, without fanfare, returned quietly to the Vendée Globe race course. Having repaired both his hydrogenerators it was an exhausted rather than elated Stamm who briefly joined Vendée Globe LIVE to confirm he is back in the race. His first concerns were to make sure that his batteries charged successfully, then to get some very much needed sleep. With both of the hydrognerator propellors re-attached to the back of the boat he started slowly, but by the late afternoon was making 14.7kts. The hard driving Swiss skipper has lost six places since his power generating problems hit but he is no stranger to playing catch up. His initial target is a fast moving one, Arnaud Boissières on Akena Vérandas, is some 60 miles ahead in ninth place.


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'I’m on the way.' Stamm reported dryly,' I am now trying to recharge my batteries. Just now I just try the autopilot. I am happy with me work. I tried to fix the pedestal winch but it has gone again. Now I am tired. I have just never stopped. I am done in. I am going to get some sleep because I need to recharge my own batteries too.'

Meantime Jean Le Cam, who has fourth placed Alex Thomson as a distant hope some 1000 miles or so in front, has restored his own sleep reserves, accumulating more than eight hours. In a more orderly sea, steady winds and under a bright moon, Le Cam is one skipper who has been very much at one with his boat and the elements. The same can be said for his counterparts Mike Golding and Dominque Wavre, but both the British skipper and the Swiss are more than 400 miles behind Le Cam’s SynerCiel and they still stand a chance of being caught by a high pressure ridge now extending from the south of New Zealand.

Ever the upbeat entertainer, Italy’s Alessandro Di Benedetto celebrated his passage of Cape Leeuwin in typically understated fashion with a thundering operatic aria.

Bernard Stamm SUI (Cheminées Poujoulat): I’m on the way. I am trying now to recharge my batteries. Just now I just try the autopilot. I am happy with me work. I tried to fix the pedestal winch but it has gone again. I went to Dunedin because there were more options for shelter. If the winds changed then I only had to move five or six miles. The risks were less. Now I am tired. I have just never stopped. I am done in. I am going to get some sleep because I need to recharge my own batteries too.

Jean-Pierre Dick FRA (Virbac Paprec 3): For me the wind is getting a little lighter, but it’s still there. I have more wind than the two guys in front of me, which is good news. I’m heading towards the last waypoint of the race. I have 600 miles to go to it. And then the Cape Horn. I should cross it in five to six days. Outside the picture has been much the same for a few days now. There is no sun, it’s grey either in the sky or on the water. My best Cape Horn was obviously the first. I remember popping a bottle of champagne just in front of it. There was a lot of wind. I was very impressed. At that moment I knew I was really becoming a true sailor. I also remember when I crossed it with Loïck (Peyron). We did a live vacation at this time. We were only two miles away from the Horn. It was just incredible.

François Gabart, FRA (Macif): The boat is going slower for sure than it has been for the last days. It is not so bad. We have also have easier conditions for the boat and for me, the skipper, just to live a bit easier and to check the boat a bit, to manage to eat. Without big waves it is always easier. I am quite happy to have these lighter conditions right now. I am not sure whether there is a level of stress, or whether it is just the stress of competition. We train for this. We are used to sailing like this with boats very close. Maybe it is easier for us to have a boat so close, maybe if there was not a boat around it would actually be more stressful. I don’t know. In a way we are used to it, to be like this and to struggle with the boat a bit sometimes. To be honest if I could be ahead of Armel at Cape Horn of course that would be better but I would be happy. But it is more important to have the boat there in very good conditions and to be in good shape. I want to be there first of course and so I will do all I can to make sure I do to be in a good shape. I think I will be in good shape for the Atlantic. The next few days don’t look too difficult. And I think it will be interesting in the Atlantic and I need to be ready for that.

Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso, ESP, Acciona 100% Eco Powered: Everything is OK. The boat is going at 100% again and I am happy to hear that Bernard has joined the race again. I am just trying to go fast to Cape Horn, but I am in high pressure but still have some wind. I am moving, 14-15kts. I had to climb the mast. The weather was not really good for climbing but I had to go up. It was pretty tricky. It was very difficult but I accomplished what I had to do. I was up there maybe 15-20 minutes fixing the stuff there. It is fixed and hopefully I have no more problems because I have no more parts. I knew something was wrong when the car came down when I was dropping the mainsail. A piece came out from the headboard car. I did not know what was happening. I though the track might be broken, I thought a screw might be out the track, or something bigger. It turned out to be just the headboard which was damaged, just a simple thing with no damage at all to the track. I am like new right now.Trying to fix this thing with the mast has put me a big out of sync with things.

Cali is coming quite fast from behind with better wind and he will have better wind in the future. I think I can maintain on the guys in front of me but not really gain in the near future. It is going to be transition until at least the next gate. I am told I have a lot of support in Spain, that I am in the news everywhere. I am becoming famous (laughs) I doubt that for sure. But there is a lot of people following me and that is really, really nice. It is good to know. I get a lot emails encouraging me to go fast which is really really nice, to have people encouraging me means you don’t feel like you are sailing all alone here.


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