Skip to main content

Vendée Globe: First Week Recap

Video courtesy of the Vendée Globe: for subtitles in English, click the “CC,” subtitles/closed caption button

The Vendée Globe fleet took off from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, November 8 and has been fighting their way across the Bay of Biscay and south ever since. Currently, the majority of the fleet is just passing the Azores and headed into Theta, the record 29th tropical depression of the season. As the front of the fleet catches 30+kts of wind, they’re rocketing south. The back half of the fleet, however, is sitting in less than 10kts and will have to catch the system before it’s gone, or else risk being left behind.

As always, the first days of the race are riddled with drama. From a closely packed fleet to early shake downs to the Bay of Biscay itself, the standings are in constant flux. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art et Fenetres) almost immediately turned back to shore after starting the race to make repairs on a faulty headsail hook. Formerly one of the top hopefuls in the race, this repair set him back two and half days and about 500nm.

About the time he finally got underway, the rest of the fleet was making a first tactical decision: hug the coast of Spain for a more direct route or head offshore for more wind. Most of the fleet, led by Jérémie Beyou, headed out to sea, but about a third, including then-front runner Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA-Water Family) stayed close to the coast. By the time the fleet re-converged a day later, neither path proved a clear winner—Maxime Sorel (V and B Mayenne), who’d taken the shore route, moved into the lead but Charlie Darlin (APIVA) who’d gone outside was in second.

Meanwhile, Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence) was faced with a difficult decision of his own. After two days and 14 hours, he turned back to Les Sables d’Olonne due to a broken J3 hook. However, after consulting with his shore team, the retreat was abandoned in favor of fixing it himself while underway. By the time he resumed racing, He’d lost about 70nm on the fleet.

About the time of Tripon’s return to course, Beyou’s team announced that Charal would be returning to Les Sables d’Olonne due to undoubtably the most devastating damage of the race so far. Charal’s Technical Director Pierre-François Dargnies reported that it started around 1400 on Tuesday when a sheet block tore off, which sprayed carbon all over the cockpit. Jérémie had to do a little repair, he got in the boat to get it all set up, and while he was inside the boat, he hit something. In so doing the boat gybed it ended up on the other side. He then realized that the starboard rudder was damaged. He decided to wait for the passage of the front in last night to start the repairs on the rudder. He tacked this morning while waiting for the sunrise to be able to tackle this repair, but after a few hours later the starboard backstay (cable that supports the mast from the rear) broke suddenly, probably because the sheet block is quite close beside the backstay and the carbon shards must have sheared it." The damage was devastating for Beyou as he had been one of the favorites to win the race overall and had dedicated four years of his life to preparing for this campaign, to the point of being unable to see his father in the hospital after a stroke due to pre-race quarantining. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), one of his main adversaries, voiced his support and sympathy, saying “it is terrible news, and nobody would wish that on anybody, Jérémie has worked harder than anybody probably. He has done an extra year with his boat. He has a great team, a great technical director, he has done it all and he amazed the world when he brought Charal out. He was the first one flying in the sky, so I am devastated for him.” Thomson, it should be noted, has been in the same position, forced to abandon two of his four Vendée attempts.

Soon after, fans noticed that Sebastien Destremau (Merci) was making a wide loop and heading north again, leading to confusion and concern. It was a few hours before answers were available, but fortunately, it was nothing more serious than Destremau’s exhaustion catching up to him and a few hours of inadvertent drifting while he napped.

The fleet has spread out and a few front runners are beginning to establish themselves, but if there’s one thing fans of the Vendée know, it’s that the race is long, and anything is possible. In the coming days, we’ll see how skippers navigate Theta and whether anyone flies too close to the sun, so to speak. If nothing else, the conditions will be good practice for the Southern Ocean and allow weak points to reveal themselves inhospitable climes while skippers still have a good chance at repair or rescue.

To follow the Vendée Globe tracker, visit vendeeglobe.org/en/tracking-map

For race updates, go to vendeeglobe.org/en 

Related

promo-2048x

Just Launched Mid-sized Cruisers

With so many manufacturers dreaming up bigger production boats, more and more mid-sized cruisers fall on the smaller end of their lines. However, “smaller” does not mean less, and the tricks for optimizing larger models have helped with squeezing more enjoyment into less LOA. As ...read more

05-DSC_0638

Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the ...read more

East-River-Rapids

Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and ...read more

LEAD-Celeste-in-the-Tuamotu

A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed ...read more

01-LEAD-IDECsport_180919_032

Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built ...read more

BVIFeetup

Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, ...read more

AdobeStock_455372159

A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen ...read more

00-Lead-549215sJL2uLEa

Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of ...read more