Early Drama in the Vendée

A little over a week into the 2012-13 Vendée Globe, with the doldrums still ahead of much of the fleet, and already the field of 20 has been reduced by four, with a fifth looking to be in serious trouble.
Author:
Publish date:
SAVEOL_FUNCHAL_Vendee

A little over a week into the 2012-13 Vendée Globe, with the doldrums still ahead of much of the fleet, and already the field of 20 has been reduced by five, with a sixth looking to be in serious trouble. [Ed note: Since our e-newsletter went out the “sixth” sailor, Polish skipper Zbigniew Gutkowski, has withdrawn as well.]

Although the terrors of the Southern Ocean are what typically come to mind in this storied, solo, round-the-world event, trawlers have proved to be the greatest threat thus far, with Louis Burton aboard Bureau Vallee and Kito de Pavant aboard Groupe Bel both coming afoul of fishing boats within a week of the start.

The other victims included Marc Guillemot, whose Safran lost its keel after colliding with an unidentified object the first night after the start; Samantha Davies, whose Savéol was dismasted in a 40-knot squall; and Jérémie Beyou aboard Maître CoQ, who experienced a breakdown of the hydraulic ram controlling his boat’s canting keel. 

All five sailors escaped physical injury, but the emotional toll has surely been a terrible one, as is evident in a video report Davies sent in shortly after her dismasting. 



Sam Davies après son démâtage/ after her...by VendeeGlobeTV

Others having trouble include Polish sailor Zbigniew Gutkowski, whose Energai has been plagued with a host of technical issues that appear to place his effort in serious doubt and already have him trailing the leaders by over 1,500 miles.

“I have a couple of issues with the boat’s electronic and electric systems. The main issue is that my autopilot is not functioning the way it is supposed to, and it’s been like that since start day, so I can’t sail at speed at all,” Gutkowksi recently reported. “The autopilot issue is that it can’t keep to the true wind angle, which is essential in racing, so I am trying to fix it now... The next problem is with the keel operating system, so I can’t move the keel in a normal way when I need to correct the boat’s position. So that’s the next case I need to sort out.”

It’s difficult to image how Gutkowski will be able to survive in the Southern Ocean with these kinds of serious problems plaguing his boat.

Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, French and Swiss veterans Armel Le Cleac'h aboard Banque Populaire, Vincent Riou aboard PRB, François Gabart aboard Macif, Jean-Pierre Dick aboard Virbac Paprec and Bernard Stamm aboard Cheminees Poujoulat all set a blistering pace down to the doldrums only to have British sailors Alex Thomson aboard Hugo Boss and Mike Golding aboard Gamesa reel them as they struggled through the calms that plague that region. At this point, with the three months of sailing ahead of them, it’s still anybody’s game, and the race promises to be a brutal, long-distance slugfest. 

For more, visit vendeeglobe.org/en

Photo courtesy of GREGORIO CUNHA/DPP/VENDEE GLOBE

Related

Before-and-after-1_silo

Know How: Cleaning Stainless

Without a doubt, the best way to “clean” stainless steel parts is to have them electropolished. Electropolishing is an electrochemical process that cleans the stainless and removes any surface iron particles, leaving a shiny and far more rust-resistant surface. The downsides of ...read more

catstory

Cruising: Sailing With a Young Family

The dark is alive when you are surrounded by water. Black is tinted blue and silver, and sky meets surf with electricity and the lapping sounds of silence. Inside our 36ft catamaran, moored off Cooper Island in the BVI, the raw nature outside, just now settling down from a late ...read more

IslandPacket349

Boat Review: Island Packet 349

After years of quiescence in the wake of the Great Recession, iconic Island Packet is back with its new 349, a re-boot of the old Estero that not only looks great, but takes the Island Packet style of sailing performance to a new level. Design & Construction First among the many ...read more

190219NEEL51

Video Tour: Neel 51 Trimaran

At this past fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, SAIL magazine had a chance to corner Neel Trimarans founder Eric Bruneel and have him give us a tour of the accommodations aboard the new Neel 51, winner of the “Multihull over 50ft” category in the 2019 Best Boats contest. For a complete ...read more

IMG_0173

Electronic “Flares” for Cruisers

The United States Coast Guard requires that all boats operating in coastal waters or on the high seas carry a selection of visual distress signals. Almost invariably, such signals include the pyrotechnic type, either handheld or fired from a flare pistol, but surely there are ...read more

M2-HOOK-TOP-AND-CHAIN-1

Gear: M2 Chain Hook from Mantus

Stay Hooked Chain hooks on anchor snubber lines tend to fall off when you least want them to. Not so this latest example from Mantus. The M2 Chain Hook is secured to the chain by a simple elastic strap, so it won’t come off when the snubber loosens. Made from corrosion-resistant ...read more