Another Vendée War of Attrition

Author:
Updated:
Original:
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

BoatTalk-2048

VIDEO: Sailing Not just for Millionaires

Sailing and boating can come with a hefty price tag, but there are plenty of ways to get on the water without breaking the bank. In this episode of Boat Talk, SAIL's managing editor Lydia Mullan and Power & Motor Yacht's executive editor Charlie Levine share tips on getting out ...read more

Cornell-2048x

Elcano Challenge Resurrected

In late 2020, sailing legend Jimmy Cornell set off on his Elcano Challenge, a green-powered circumnavigation aboard the custom Outremer Aventura Zero. Unfortunately, shortly after setting out, the boat encountered major power-generation issues. "I took the decision to turn ...read more

F8V-BOOK-for-SAIL---1

Book Review: The Figure 8 Voyage

“What is the color of the ocean that rolls beneath Pacific trades? How does a wave curl and crash at 47 degrees south? Can an albatross remain awing in the worst of weathers?” Randall Reeves has always found images to be the most compelling part of the stories we tell about the ...read more

AC210117cb_23806

VIDEO: Capsize in the Prada Cup

American Magic's Patriot capsized during day three of the Prada Cup. If you haven't yet watched the catastrophe unfold with your own eyes, check out the above video or any number of others that are circulating on social media. It's truly a tip that has to be seen to be believed. ...read more

210115-AC36

Prada Cup: Brits Take First Two Races

Who saw that coming? After getting skunked in December, INEOS Team UK has swept the first two races in the Prada Cup elimination series of the 36th America’s Cup  Racing took place on racecourse “C,” sheltered between Auckland’s North Head and Bastion Point to take advantage of ...read more

ac-2048x

Hutchinson: 36th America’s Cup will be a Close On

On the eve of the Prada Cup challenger series, the official start of the 36th America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson says it’s anyone’s game. "As we've seen in the last week, everyone's gotten faster," said Hutchinson said at the event’s ...read more

Episode1_Thumbnail4_00000_00000_00000_00000

Sailing Docuseries Released Online

Endless Media's Reaching Reality is the story of three friends, a 24-foot sailboat and 1,200 miles. With candor and humor, this series proves that you don't need to be an expert or a millionaire to cast off on the journey of a lifetime. Produced by Emmy-award winner Barry ...read more

01-LEAD-nder-sail-3

Prepping for a Transatlantic

Growing up on the coast of northern England, I dreamed about crossing oceans on my own boat. Like most of us, though, education, a family and a career took precedence, and before I knew it, we had mortgages, young children and endless work obligations. We also became landlocked, ...read more