News from Vendee – On hold at the Horn

Since yesterday afternoon Brian Thompson’s Vendée Globe race has been stuck in a Cape Horn holding pattern, stalled for safety reasons as he awaits the passage of a violent storm.
Sheltering under the 25 miles long Island del Los Estados, at times less than four miles from the south coast of the island, sixth place Thompson’s plan appears to have produced the desired result. Meteo files suggest the centre of the low is passing just to the north of him, over the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego at around 0400hrs, but he could have many more hours to wait.

In the face of a forecast of gusts to 70-85 knots and swell to 7 to 9 m Thompson has been no further west than about 15 miles from the west tip of the island and the Le Maire Straits.

Arnaud Boissières (Akenas Veranda) passed the longitude of Cape Horn at 0025h GMT, 45 miles to the south of the rock making to the SE and around 0400hrs tacked slowy back towards the NE, his plan also keeping him away from the worst of the winds, reporting 25-30 knots of wind and relatively mild sea conditions.

And Dee Caffari’s passage round Cape Horn is also on hold. At about 60 miles from the rock she maintained a SE’ly course too and slowed about 2230hrs last night, and since 0330hrs has been heading slowly NE back towards the Horn. She, too will have to wait for her time to round the mythical rock, at least until the wind to shifts to allow her to sail downwind past the famous headland. Even then, waiting around in the strong NW’ly wind and cross seas (northerly swell and SW’ly waves) will make this unpleasant for the next ten hours or so.

Making an average speed less than 10 knots Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), 250 miles off the Brazilian town of Porto Seguro, where the first Portuguese explorers stepped ashore in 1500, is continuing to sail due north towards the Equator, which is some 1000 miles ahead or the equivalent of four or five days sailing. He now has 270 miles in hand over his friend Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnemnt) who in turn has 417 miles on third place Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air). Le Cléac’h has been struggling for speed in light, fluky conditions as he tries to escape from an extended ridge of high pressure which seems determined to move north with him for the immediate future.

In fourth place off the Argentine coast Sam Davies (Roxy) had been making steady upwind progress, in slightly bumpy unpleasant conditions but for the British skipper that has given way now to crawling along in light and very fickle breezes. Marc Guillemot (Safran) in fifth is 350 miles behind Davies.

Meantime Steve White, GBR, has seen only a positive benefit so far from the big low pressure system, running just to the south of it. He has been posting some of his quickest averages yet on Toe in the Water during yesterday evening and has made around 180 miles on the trio ahead of him.

Rich Wilson, USA, (Great American III) noted last night that he has now ticked off more than 17,000 miles of the course and is making good progress in 35-40 knots of wind and big waves, while behind him Raphael Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital) yesterday observed the SW Pacific Ice Gate and is now 18 miles ahead of Norbert Sedlacek, AUT, (Nauticsport-Kapsch) with the pair less than 40 miles apart in terms of lateral separation.

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