Marc Thiercelin finally confirmed his retirement from his third Vendée Globe at 10h00 GMT this morning. He was clearly upset at the today’s radio session, after what is the first ever time he has not been able to complete a race in his entire sailing career, always endeavouring to finish what he sets out to do. “Lots of things are knocking around in my head; you have to accept that there’s nothing you can do and bounce back.” For the rest of the now 15-strong fleet, conditions are very different throughout the rankings. The top six are powering along in favourable Westerlies, Riou and Golding making a less rapid comeback on the leader than originally thought as they have had to gybe north to avoid an ice field unusually far west spotted by a Canadian satellite last night. Le Cam is currently leading by 250.3 miles having again covered the most ground over the past 24 hours (332 miles). Behind them a calm has stretched itself lazily across the fleet from Moloney back to Schwab while Humphreys is on a high speed dash on a high speed boat heading up towards Campbell island and the ice field in a pea-souper of a fog just 33 miles behind Schwab. All the Anglo-Saxons are now unofficially in the top ten. Patrice Carpentier rejoined the race in the early hours of the morning after successfully carrying out various repairs, notably to his boom, in a sheltered bay off Southern Tasmania.
Having arrived at around 04h00 GMT this morning in the Bay of Akaroa in New Zealand, the skipper from La Rochelle was able to quickly analyse the state of his monohull. “There is too much to do. I don’t have the right material aboard to make repairs to everything that is damaged on ProForm. I am forced to request outside assistance. It’ll take me ten days to do the necessary work to get the boat back into shape”. Marc then hopes to head towards the Pacific Ocean again and complete his round the world single-handed. Marc will make the repairs himself with the help of a couple of people he knows in the area that he got to know during a stopover in the Boc Challenge in 1998.
Having suffered a great deal in the race during the first weeks of the Vendée Globe 2004, Marc then accumulated considerable amount of damage: destroyed bow sprit, broken mainsail traveller cars, leaks, no internet access (and thus weather data)…It was finally a weakness in his masthead (D3) that forced ProForm to divert to New Zealand. In the throes of his disappointment, Marc Thiercelin said during the radio session that he didn’t want to do another single-handed round the world race. “The Vendée Globe is over for me. You have to know when to stop. It’s the increase in the amount of work which requires an enormous amount of investment. I have other projects, in lots of other domains. The programme with ProForm isn’t over yet either; there is still the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Route du Rhum…”
Leading the Vendée Globe fleet by over 250 miles Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) said that he was itching to get out of the Southern Ocean. “The icebergs are magnificent, but whoever rubs up against one gets stung. I am dying to turn left and I am rather happy to be first. I’ve seen enough of the south and it is time to go onto other things. I’m going to open my package for the 31st and I think that I will cook up a good meal.”
Second placed Vincent Riou (PRB) was on form in second having hooked onto the wagon to the Cape Horn. “It has been a bit strange in the south with the presence of a little depression centre that I hadn’t noticed. I was so absorbed by this issue with the icebergs that I gybed a tad early. I have plotted the icebergs on my computer spotted by the Canadian satellite and I’m going to pass to their north. It is surprising to have ice 200 miles from the Horn. I am delighted with my course since the start. The climb back up the Atlantic should be nice, racing with a boat in good condition. The race is superb. We’re having a ball. Of course I feel really sorry for Marc Thiercelin. The distance of the boats means that it doesn’t affect me quite so much as it did when it was Bilou (Roland Jourdain) for example, that I was racing with since the start. Three quarters of the fleet are still racing which is rather good. At the moment it’s accelerating quite well. Tonight I will be right into my racing and will have little time to think of New Year’s Eve. I hope to pass the Horn on 3 or 4 January.”
“We’re on the right gybe now and finally making some progress in the right direction. It was very marginal and then it came my way” said Mike Golding (Ecover) of the same conditions. “The wind is gently strengthening and in the next 24 hours it will head us [ie the wind will veer further round towards the north] and we will slowly come down on to a course that will take us all the way to the Horn. So, a big arced course, along the rhumb line or to the north of it. If you don’t get to a certain place by a certain time you miss the boat. I think Jean will have to go through this transition and we should be able to close some miles down. I don’t know how much we’ll compress back up. Obviously I’ve been suffering from it for the last 36 hours. Whether or not he will suffer as much, remains to be seen. We are steaming along at the moment.”
With some totally windless zones behind in the mish-mash of high and low pressure systems sweeping between the two capes, Conrad Humphreys is lucky enough to in a great system. “Things are looking complicated up front with a high pressure ridge to negotiate. I think it´s possible to pass Bruce in the next 24 hours though. I´m in good winds at the moment but the ridge is moving east and I have to round it at some point. I will have to go north to round the ice, and then west. I think I should be able to get going again. For now I can´t see beyond the bowsprit, and we´re still sailing in 20 knots of wind..it´s stressful and I´m on edge. I´m relying on the fact that no ice has been reported in this area. I really need to have the radar running all the time but it draws a lot of power so I´m switching it on and off. I´ve got enough power at the moment to last me until the end of the race if I go carefully. I´m nervous, can´t sleep or even rest easily it´s too tense…I will head towards Campbell island and then gybe onto a safer course. I´m very pleased with my pace – since Cape Town I have made up 300 miles on the leaders even though I haven´t been pushing overly hard. I feel I could push harder but I don´t want to break anything. I couldn´t be in a better place but it would be nice to spend New Year´s Eve with a few more people! For 2005 I´d like a new 60 footer for the next Vendee and a fast drive to Cape Horn.”
The first competitors should pass the Cape Horn on Monday.
Happy New Year from all the Vendée Globe Team here in Paris.
Quotes from the Boats
Karen Leibovici (Benefic): “I am becalmed, stuck in a ridge of high pressure. I’m not moving along very quickly. I’m making the most of it to make repairs and check the boat, especially going up to see what it looks like up forward. I have repaired by generator underneath the boat that converts the energy made by powering through the water into onboard power and helps me charge my batteries. My back is still causing me pain but I have decided to just live with it. The pain will only go away when I’ve had the iron bars taken out of my back (after a car accident in August). My wishes for 2005? Wind to catch up with my friends.”
Anne Liardet (Roxy): “I’ve had some real hassles today! My main automatic pilot has gone haywire and I have spent all day on it trying to understand why it’s broken down. I think I’ve found out the reason but it’s nigh time at the moment and I’m going to sleep a little before I can repair it tomorrow. I think it’s a problem linked with the dampness. The past year has involved a great deal of emotion and work to get where I am today.”
Nick Moloney (Skandia): “Crossed the dateline, so my New Year is tommorrow! New Year’s Eve, not got much planned…I’ve got a bottle of champagne for Cape Horn though. Think I can still catch some of the boats ahead of me, but it’s likely to be a procession to Cape Horn, and then we’ll see what happens in the Atlantic. It has surprised me every day that I have got this far to be honest. Pretty hard work. A lot harder than I thought it was going be. Only 40 more days of eating of Go bars, and then never again in my life! Hardest thing for me is not being able to go down below, get my oilskins off and get in my bunk knowing that everything is ok on deck with the other guys up there, and go to sleep. I can never shut my eyes and think everything is under control, that makes life tough and very limiting! The good thing about having New Year in the middle of the ocean is that the cops can´t chuck me in jail. It´s really good to be approaching the new year and I really hope that 2005 has in store for me a fantastic memory of the finish and a fantastic memory of a large portion of this adventure, and I hope 2005 brings for everybody else a lot of happiness and a lot less world grief. My thoughts a primarily with people in desperation or heartbreak from the effects of the tidal wave.”
Bruce Schwab (Ocean Planet): “Regarding our much less dramatic efforts at sea, I have been battling to stay in front of a ridge of high pressure that would park us for some time if we get caught. The options have been limited; either very far south towards the icebergs or the more northerly route we are taking. Right now we right on the edge of the ridge just barely staying in the wind, and that is why we jibed to the north for a few hours last night, which worked quite well. If we can hold on, hopefully we can pass under New Zealand without getting swallowed by the high. If we get stuck then there will be headwinds afterwards, so the going will be very slow. Behind us, Conrad on Hellomoto is flying with good winds while we try to keep crawling along. But that is the way it goes. He is also apparently willing to sail a very daring course right through the area of icebergs south of New Zealand at 51/52 degrees latitude. I wish him luck.”
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