Vendee Globe: Rich Wilson reaches Cape Horn

Monday, 26 January 2009

Rich Wilson rounded Cape Horn around 1500hrs GMT; a big moment for the American skipper who at 57 years is the oldest in the race, who is now looking forward most to heading north up the Atlantic after he clears the Island los Estados. He has been pushed by a strong NW’ly wind and reported this morning that seas were big and angry as he crossed the continental shelf. After two months in the Southern Ocean, he is only the second American to have got this far in the Vendée Globe race after Bruce Schwab.

Rapahel Dinelli was at the final Pacific ice gate at 0730hrs GMT this morning, Norbert Sedlacek 80 miles behind. Then they have 1750 miles to make to Cape Horn and so they should be there at about the same time the Roland Jourdain is finishing, perhaps just before. Norbert Sedlacek has an ongoing problem with his mast track and now cannot get his main above the second reef of Nauticsport Kapsch. 

Michel Desjoyeaux is now heading towards Cape Finisterre, whilst Roland Jourdain is still in the trades, for the next 36 hours, before he will have to cross the high pressure ridge. Brit Air is making 13.1 knots into good trade winds, but they are not as strong as they were for Michel Desjoyeaux and for Bilou.

Sam Davies is now just 30 miles behind Safran and has now made up more than 100 miles, on Marc Guillemot, since Saturday night. His inshore position is giving him lighter breezes than Sam and the trades are pretty weak for them anyway. Davies is still very much in ‘Kick Ass Mode. There are nearly 400 miles between Dee Caffari and Sam, with Brian Thompson 104 miles ahead of Aviva this morning. 

Dee Caffari was a little closer to the edge of the ridge that they were extracting themselves from yesterday afternoon and evening. She was sail making yesterday, by all accounts to better effect than last time, although her repairs are not going to be tested hard for a while. Steve White is between two high pressure systems and will get a bit of frontal activity today, sailing upwind, again in northerlies.

Here is today’s round up from the French speaking skippers on today’s radio vacs, the last in Paris:

Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia): Quieter than he thought.  Wind down to below 10 knots.  Has been varying between 6 and 12.  Expecting stronger winds this afternoon.  Wondering whether to head towards Ireland or Cape Finisterre.  Best route is not always the shortest. Has been trying to weigh up that choice by studying charts. 

Port rudder was the problem he had at Christmas.  Was still dark 3-35 knots of wind sailing close to the wind.  Port rudder was up. In heavy seas with two or three reefs, so not much sail up.  A wave broke the mechanism that keeps rudder up and box and arm. Tried to get it back in place, but could not manage it.   Risked damaging carbon on rudder. Miraculously after a while got it back in place.

A few days later he consolidated the system against the transom.  Worried about hitting something as he could have lost rudder or attachment, so later carried out repairs using remains of carbon to allow rudder to kick up. 

His impression that he was close to disaster.

Two rudders are necessary as boats are wide and when boat heeled over one rudder out of the water.  Usually possibility to raise it up to avoid damage and cause less drag. Sometimes he puts rudder back in the water before manoeuvres in case anything happens.  He has left his repaired one in place for fear of further damage in manipulating it.

Sylvain Mondon (Météo France): Michel Desjoyeaux has light winds, but these will strengthen as a front arrives from the north-west. This 20-25 knot wind should allow him to adopt a more direct route as the wind veers.  Roland Jourdain has 36 hours of decent sailing ahead before being slowed down in lighter winds.  Between 2 and 4 days difference in their finishing times according to forecasts.  50 knot gusts for Rich Wilson.  They may be lighter off the Horn, but will freshen again with 6-7 metre high waves.

Arnaud Boissières (Akena  Vérandas): Choppy seas but very variable.  Wind between 12 and 22 knots, so requiring a lot of work.  Sun is out and it’s hot, but I can stand the heat. I’ve been spending time at the helm as it’s pleasant and the spray is warm anyway.  A lot thinking about the finish, but he still has a long way to go, so not concerned for the moment.  Long and tiring at the moment and more than a transat to go.

Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement): Complicated Monday morning with squalls and light winds after a restful Sunday.   Out of the first three he has been the one that has suffered most from unfavourable weather recently.  The first three places seem clear as based on the weather he cannot see any changes ahead.  It would take a major incident to upset the rankings.   Hoping for downwind conditions for final stretch to avoid putting more pressure on his repairs.  Feeling tired this morning – no time to enjoy himself.  Pleased to be leaving this area behind.  Still determined to keep going fast as would like to get by the high before it weakens.

Raphaël Dinelli (Fondation Ocean Vital):  Finally past the final gate so now it’s straight for cape Horn.  Conditions back to normal now.  Hopes to reach the Horn in 8 days or so. His power system is working well, but he is limiting his consumption.  Limiting computer use for example.  Variable wind strengths, short passages up to 40 knots, but eases off again quickly as fronts pass over.  Hoping to avoid the worst as most deep lows are a long way south.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 26 January 2009 )