The Vendée Globe is off to an eventful start. Nineteen of the 20 skippers were at the start line on Saturday, November 11 in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, for the 24,048 mile solo race around the world amidst hundreds of spectator boats of all kinds. Already, the twentieth skipper, Bertrand de Broc had returned to port before the start due to a small collision with his support skiff.
Said Broc, “I asked a RIB to help us, so maybe it’s my fault in a way. We asked that RIB to help us turn, the bow, but it caught a wave and then bang! That was 25 minutes before the start.” Broc hoped to begin the race at 2300 local time, almost ten hours after the rest of the fleet, but was delayed while he waited for the repair to dry. He finally set off again at 0145 on Sunday.
There was a westerly wind at 12-14 knots at the start, and a straight shot of 300 miles to Finisterre. But five of the boats jumped the start gun and had to re-start—the most re-starts ever in a Vendée Globe. The early boats were Energa, PRB, Macif, Groupe Bel and Banque Populaire.
In the lead in the beginning minutes of the race was skipper Marc Guillemot on Safran on a close reach. Other boats that led the fleet in the early moments of the race were Javier “Bubi” Sanso on Acciona (a 100 percent eco-powered yacht), Louis Burton, the youngest skipper this year, at 27 years old on Bureau Vallée and Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives Couer. About an hour into the race, Cheminées Poujoulat, made its way to the front of the fleet.
The second unfortunate turn of events was on Saturday night, about 50 miles into the race, when Guillemot turned Safran back to port after hearing a loud bang, thought to be from a collision. “I thought I had hit something while bouncing on a wave. I had the feeling that something hit the keel,” said Guillemot. “Almost immediately a more violent noise followed, and the boat began to heel sharply.” Safran arrived back at Les Sables d’Olonne just before 0300 on Sunday. At a press conference on Sunday morning, Guillemot said, “I am disappointed for our sponsor and for the team also. At the moment I am in the phase of trying to find out and understand what happened.”
Unfortunately, it turned out that the keel had broken off of Safran, and as the team does not have a spare keel, Safran will not be able to rejoin the race.
By Sunday morning, of the boats still forging ahead after a challenging night of squalls and high winds, François Gabart’s Macif led the fleet on the Bay of Biscay, 5.2 miles ahead of PRB and Banuqe Populaire. And boats in the lead were rewarded as they reached the fast downwind conditions of the Portuguese tradewinds first. The leaders passed Cape Finisterre late Sunday afternoon and Macif had an 11 mile lead. Following the first three boats were Cheminees Poujoulat, Hugo Boss and Virbac-Paprec 3. A third pack of boats was led by Jean Le Cam on SynerCiel.
Sunday night had most of the fleet taking the northwest corner of the Iberian peninsula, the leaders taking their first gybes. Highlights from Day 2 can be seen, compliments of Vendée Globe.
By Monday morning, there was little change in fleet position, but those at the back have lost between 30 to 45 miles already on day three. And in yet another destructive accident, Groupe Bel was hit by a trawler that reportedly did not have AIS activated, while sailing off the Portuguese coast. Sustaining significant damage to the vessel, skipper Kito de Pavant is safe and is sailing to Cascais, near Lisbon. En route, De Pavant sent the following message: “The problem is with those which are not equipped with AIS are not detected. And that becomes a trap because there is no way of seeing them…To leave the Vendée Globe again, after just two days of racing, is not even possible, not even possible.”
Stay tuned for more updates on the Vendée Globe here.
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