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The Imoca's Seek Shelter From The Storm


  • The Imoca's Seek Shelter From The Storm


    With the three leading skippers having passed the Iceland gate and so ‘neutralising’ their races, effectively now waiting until the bad weather clears sufficiently for them to restart, the remainder of the fleet are dealing with the big, developing low pressure system which forced the race organisation last night to take the decision to impose this safety measure.

    With the low approaching from the SW it has been the solo skippers in the second half of the fleet which have taken the worst of the strong, gusty and very unsettled winds.

    Race direction have been monitoring the evolution of the stormy system, not least staying in regular contact with the skippers. This morning 19th placed Arnaud Boissi?res (La Mie Caline) over 220 miles south of the gate was reporting 40kts gusting to over 55kts, in 21st place Kiwi Conrad Colman (Imagine) much the same.

    First through the Iceland virtual gate was Charlie Dalin (APIVIA) at 00:23hrs UTC (02:23hrs HF). Second through 3 hours 43 minutes and 34 seconds later was J?r?mie Beyou (Charal) with Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) third through 7 hours and 10 minutes behind the Dalin. According to the race tracker Dalin and Ruyant took shelter in a nearby fjord while Charal’s Beyou appears to be maintaining a holding pattern offshore. Next through should be Benjamin Ferr?, the 31 year old who led the early stages of this race, sailing non-foiling daggerboard boat.

    No official decision has been announced yet how and when a restart will happen but race meteorologist Christian Dumard briefed this morning that he expects the low to fill and move off by Saturday night or Sunday morning.

    "The seas could be 3 to 4 meters in the troughs and the wind could rise to 50 knots during Saturday depending on their progress", assures Christian Dumard. "The depression will fill at the end of the night and move off".

    Adviser Yoann Richomme emphasized today: "These are solid boats that have been tested. At the start they would not have kept up such a pace if they were not perfectly reliable".

    Briton Pip Hare in 16th this afternoon still had 195 miles to climb northwards to the gate on her Medallia. She was objective about the decision, admitting “You know, it’s so hard. I sent a message saying to race management because I understand how difficult is because no one’s going to be happy. Every single person has made their tactical decisions. We’re playing a long game. We’ve all got different objectives in this race. Most of all we want to stay safe. We want to qualify and be racing. There’s been a lot of energy put into getting where we are now. I’ve only got behind the fleet now because it always takes me a while to hit my stride. The last thing I want to do is stop.”

    At lunchtime Friday she was only just getting into what she felt was the worst of it,
    “ I think now I’m in the proper bad sector of the low pressure. It’s really hard to work out, none of the forecasts are saying what’s actually going on in the middle of the low. I think the middle of it is quite a bit bigger and further south. But I think this means I’m going to get a kicking this afternoon. I think I’m now coming into that westerly flow and I am expecting for that to build soon and come in a Northwest direction. I might be able to stay ahead of it but I’m bracing myself for 40 knots this afternoon.”

    The spectacular recovery of Switzerland’s young skipper Alan Roura continues. Snared in the second light airs zone of the course, he was last on the ranking at one point but his choice to punch out to the west has paid a continued dividend and he is up to ninth on the VPLP design which was the most recent Hugo Boss, six miles or so behind Benjamin Dutreux (Guyot Environnement-Water Family) who is sailing the previous Hugo Boss which took second in the 2016-17 Vend?e Globe in the hands of Alex Thomson

    Manuel Cousin (Group Setin) abandons

    Les Sables d’Olonne based French skipper Manuel Cousin confirmed his retirement from the Vend?e Arctique Les Sables d’Olonne this afternoon Friday, June 17, a few hours after altering course to head southwards. He is the second skipper of the 24 who started last Sunday from Les Sables d’Olonne.

    Cousin’s decision is one based on his safety and that of his boat and is one he made in two stages. The 55 year old adopted Vend?en - who is a former motor industry executive who turned to full time ocean racing – had turned south on a more cautious route heading towards the south-east to get away from the center of the low pressure.

    Then the neutralization of the race added to his concerns. "I did some routings all night and it appeared that, if I were heading for the Iceland gate again, as the depression is very big, I would have had to sail all the way upwind and would have arrived there very late. I'm sorry to turn around, it's my first retirement since I started out in the IMOCA since 2017, but I didn't want to put my boat at risk".


    The decision by the Organization is because of a low pressure system which is threatening the fleet. The skippers are likely to face tough conditions and the back of the fleet already have more than 40kts at times and gusts to 60kts. Christian Dumard, the race meteorologist and Yoann Richomme, consultant to the Vend?e – Arctique- Les Sables d'Olonne explain the decision.

    "When you see a big red smudge stretching all over the screen, you know it won't be easy to manage." Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) summarizes the current concern for skippers. This "big red spot" is the depression that formed in the southwest of the fleet and which gradually widens towards the northeast of Iceland.

    The effects will vary through the fleet depending on the positioning of the skipper. For the leading sailors it would have forced them to face particularly difficult conditions. "The depression is shifting towards the North-East of Iceland,” explains Christian Dumard, the weather consultant for the race. “ The wind will then hit their race area during the day on Saturday".

    Thus, the skippers who lead the rankings would have had to face "very strong winds on Friday and Saturday morning on the direct route with very strong westerly winds", continues Dumard “With a crosswind, the sea hits the boats, which can lead to significant risks”.

    "There is also a geographical aspect to the problem,” continues Yoann Richomme, consultant for the Vend?e-Arctique - Les Sables d'Olonne. “The race area is quite isolated and this makes any possibility of rescue complicated in the event of substantial damage. It's not as if they have to face gusts of 50 knots off Brittany!" says Richomme whose own new IMOCA will be launched next year,
    “Legally it is the responsibility of the race director and sometimes it is better to be a little too 'safe' than not safe enough.”

    This is also the point of view of Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) who agrees with the decision. "There are big seas which could endanger the skippers.” he explains. “All the choices related to safety are always good choices".

    At the heart of depression
    At the rear of the fleet, depression is already a reality. In the morning, Romain Attanasio was making difficult progress in 35-40kts and the alerts were sounding aboard Fortinet-Best Western. Fabrice Amedeo (Nexans-Arts & Fen?tre) mentioned 45 knots of established wind and gusts to 50 knots.
    “I currently have 53 knots and I had peaks at 60 knots”, continued Arnaud Boissi?res (La Mie C?line). "It's really not easy," added Alan Roura (Hublot).
    "The seas could be 3 to 4 meters in the troughs and the wind could rise to 50 knots during the day depending on their progress", assures Christian Dumard.

    What is reassuring is the quality of the boats. Yoann Richomme attests to this: "these are solid boats that have been tested. At the start they would not have kept up such a pace if they were not perfectly reliable".

    Nevertheless, conditions should improve at the end of the day on Saturday.

    "The depression will fill at the end of the night and move off", concludes Christian Dumard.

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