Another Vendée War of Attrition

Author:
Publish date:
The French frigate Nivôse shadows Banque Populaire VIII, deep in the Southern Ocean

The French frigate Nivôse shadows Banque Populaire VIII, deep in the Southern Ocean

For all the advances made in IMOCA 60 design and safety, when it comes the Vendée Globe solo nonstop race around the world, there’s still an element of Russian roulette to the event, especially in the Southern Ocean portion of the race—and the 2016-17 installment has been no exception.

By the time this issue hits newsstands, the winner will presumably already have arrived in Les Sables d’Olonne, France. However, at press time, the battle was still very much raging in the world’s roughest and most remote waters, and several broken and battered boats were in the process of either falling by the wayside or being nursed along despite serious damage.

First and foremost among these was British sailor Alex Thomson aboard Hugo Boss, who seemed unstoppable until he collided with an unidentified floating object in the South Atlantic that destroyed his starboard foil. This, in turn, meant he could no longer plane effectively on port tack, which allowed second-placed Armel Le Cléac’h of France aboard Banque Populaire VIII to quickly overtake him. The good news for Thomson was that Hugo Boss is designed to be able to continue to race without a foil, and he remained within striking range of Le Cléac’h as the two boats sped across the Indian Ocean.

Soon afterward, 2004 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou aboard PRB was forced to retire after hitting another submerged object that damaged the axis of his canting keel, showing that the event’s superstars are as subject to the whimsy of fate as the also-rans. And in case the point hadn’t been made sufficiently, third-placed Sébastien Josse aboard Edmond de Rothschild, one of the pre-race favorites, had barely repaired a damaged rudder before his port foil blew up while blasting along in 35 knots of wind and heavy seas.

Other victims included Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi, who was forced to divert to Cape Town, South Africa, after his Spirit of Yukoh lost its rig, and Kito de Pavant, who had to abandon his Bastide Otio after he struck something at speed a little farther west of that. For the popular de Pavant, who was rescued by the 360ft research and supply ship Marion Dufresne, the loss was an especially bitter one as this was the third Vendée Globe in which he’s been forced to retire, and his stated goal had been to simply finish in one piece this time around.

On a more positive note, a little over three weeks after the start videographers aboard the French frigate Nivôse commandeered the ship’s helicopter to capture footage of both Hugo Boss and Banque Populaire VIII at full speed in the heart of the Southern Ocean, a first in the race’s 27-year history.

“I had about 25-30 knots, and the sea state was really horrible—very gray, bloody freezing, so it was a nice distraction for the helicopter to come,” Thomson said afterward. “I think I was averaging 21.5 knots, so top speed was possibly 28, and down as low as 17 probably… It was good to have some other people around.”

For the latest on the race and to see some of Nivôse’s footage, visit sailmagazine.com/racing

Photos courtesy of Marine Nationale/Vendee globe; Yoicki Yabe; Anne Recoulez/TAAF; Kito de Pavant/vendee globe

February 2017

Related

albintoilet

Gear: Albin Pump Marine Toilet

Head Start Is there room for a new marine toilet? Albin Pump Marine thinks so, having just introduced its line of Swedish-built heads—ranging from compact to full-size models—to the American market. The toilets feature vitreous porcelain bowls and either wooden or thermoplastic ...read more

07n_45R2699

Multihull Sailor: Classic Cats

If you’re looking for a decent sub-40ft cruising cat, you have few choices when it comes to new-boat offerings. It is a well-known fact that the multihull market has taken off in a way very few could have predicted. Despite Hurricane Irma’s recent destruction of a large part of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Thanks a bunch  This scene is very calm and seamanlike. No frantic rope throwing or shouting. As he passes the line to the gent on the dock, the crew on the boat says, quietly and clearly, “Would you ...read more

mcarthy-and-mouse

Experience: McCarthy and the Mouse

Sitting at the helm in a light breeze, my arms crusted with a fine rime of salt, my skin so dry I’d lost my fingerprints, I heard a clatter and a curse from below. There were only three of us a thousand miles from shore and only one on watch at a time. Usually, the off watch lay ...read more

2018-giftGuide

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Brass Yacht Lamp Does someone on your gift list spend the whole winter missing the warm days on the water? Let them bring a little bit of nautical atmosphere home with this new lamp from Weems & Plath. The glass enclosure means the flame cannot be blown out even by ...read more

image001

Opinion: On Not Giving Up Sailing

E.B. White was 64 when he wrote his now-famous essay “The Sea and the Wind That Blows,” which begins as a romantic paean to sailing and then drifts, as if spun around by a pessimistic eddy of thought, into a reflection on selling his boat. Does an aging sailor quit while he’s ...read more

1812-JeanneaueNewsVideo

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410

Designed by Marc Lombard, the Sun Odyssey 410 shares much in common with her older siblings including of course, the walk-around deck. Other features that set the 410 apart from other models being introduced this year include the 410’s “negative bow” shape allowing for a longer ...read more