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New York to Vendée Race – France fights back
StMichel-Virbac - New York to Vendée Race © Yvan Zedda - Sea&Co

New York to Vendée Race

With 1,000 miles left to go in the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode, there has been a major change-around at the front of the fleet. Long term leader, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, has dropped to third place as the boats to the black boat’s south hit rocketship speeds.

At 1300 UTC Hugo Boss had averaged 14.6 knots over the previous four hours while Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ and Sébastien Josse on Edmond de Rothschild had made 20.3 and 21.3 knots respectively over this same period. Maître CoQ had taken the lead, just three miles ahead of his French rival, but was 26 miles ahead of Hugo Boss.
The reason for this downturn in the British boat’s performance at present is unclear, but may be related to the 28 knots to zero, crash tack followed by a knock down that she experienced after her automatic pilot disengaged of its own accord on Thursday evening. The incident occurred in 40 knots of wind and Hugo Boss, along with all her gear, would have felt the full brunt of this gale when she came to a stand-still.

Hugo Boss is currently being pummelled again, in fact by the same gale she endured over Thursday. The centre of the depression generating these fierce winds is now just 110 miles to her west and set to move closer before finally heading off to the north tonight. So with 40+ knot winds, this time from the south and veering into the west later, Thomson may just be trying to preserve his finely tuned racing machine from the strong winds and, by now, heinous seas, until conditions abate tomorrow morning.

This was the opinion this morning of Jérémie Beyou: “Alex perhaps went a little too far north. We must all come out of this depression without damaging our boats. The big seas are behind us and, if we go fast enough, we’ll get by. The wind, now is 35 knots, with 40 to come.”

Of his personal race, Beyou said he is gaining confidence with his boat, which finished the last Vendée Globe second as the former Banque Populaire, and which this winter has had latest generation foils fitted to her: “I am a little less afraid to send it, but I’m still holding back at little. However it is so loud on board that I have to use noise-cancelling headphones, but I cannot always wear them.”

Behind, the mid-fleet is passing through the Azores islands today. Paul Meilhat’s SMA passed just 20 miles to the east of Flores, the westernmost of the mid-Atlantic island group. Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives Coeur gybed at around 1030 UTC and will pass through them further to the east, closer to Faial. Between them, Vincent Riou on PRB is still planning on making a pitstop in the Azores to repair a leak and some power issues.

There’s good and bad news for the five-strong race-within-a-race at the back of the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race today. The boats are finally starting to make good speeds. Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back to the north of the group had averaged 16.8 knots over the four hours leading up to 1300 UTC, while in the extreme south, down at the latitude of Virginia/Cadiz, Jean-Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac was making 16.2. Thanks to a depression moving east northeast across the Atlantic, this group has the opportunity, finally, to make up some lost miles on the leaders over the next two to three days.

New York to Vendée Race – France fights back

Paul Meilhat’s SMA passed just 20 miles to the east of Flores – New York to Vendée Race © Brian Carlin / SMA

Following his pitstop in Newport, Rhode Island this morning Dick admitted: “It was a little hard to get back into the race, but it’s nice to be in contact with the four other boats. I think we’ll have a good race.
“The wind is not back yet fully, but it will be by tonight. Then we will attack…but with caution. We will be downwind in similar conditions to the Vendée Globe and it’ll be interesting, a really good workout. But the peculiarity of this race is that of the five boats in our group, four have no foils/daggerboard on the port side. We are each therefore like a bird that’s missing a wing. That will dictate when we can push downwind.”

However as a downside, three boats – Safran, No Way Back and StMichel–Virbac – have today received penalties from the race’s International Jury for entering an exclusion zone around a Traffic Separation Scheme to the south of Nantucket as they headed to Newport on Monday to effect repairs to their boats. These three boats have been given a three hour penalty, which they must carry out by crossing the same GPS point twice over this time period.

Delma, Official Timekeeper of the New York-Vendée presented by Currency House and Spacecode.

A special IMOCA Ocean Masters edition Delma Shell Star Automatic will be presented to the first three skippers home in the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) as well as the holder of Delma Record, for the boat which has made sailed the most miles over a 24 hour period during the race.

At present the outright singlehanded IMOCA 60 24 hour record is held by François Gabart and MACIF who covered 545.34 miles at an average of 22.72 knots average, during December 2012 which crossing the Indian Ocean en route victory in the Vendée Globe 2012-2013.

Today (Friday), Hugo Boss’ 487 nautical miles passage up until 0500 UTC Wednesday (1 June), has not been bettered.

Rankings – 4 June 2016 à 17.00 BST:

1/ Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) : 959.9nm to the finish
2/ Sébastien Josse (Edmond De Rothschild) : +1.1 nm behind leader
3/ Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) : +32.8 nm
4/ Paul Meilhat (SMA) : +307.7 nm
5/ Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) : +339.1 nm
6/ Vincent Riou (PRB) : +347.6 nm
7/ Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) : +443 nm
8/ Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) : +558.1 nm
9/ Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) : +1 333.9 nm
10/ Morgan Lagravière (Safran) : +1 355.7 nm
11/ Yann Eliès (Queguiner-Leucémie Espoir) : +1 379.8 nm
12/ Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy) : +1 397.9 nm
13/ Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) : +1 417.2 nm
Ab Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII)

by Marion Cardon

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