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Storm's A Brewing In North Atlantique


  • Storm's A Brewing In North Atlantique


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    In the face of a forecast for deep low pressure system set to bring strong gales in the area of Iceland, the organisation of the Vend?e Arctique Les Sables d’Olonne race this morning took the decision to change the scheduled course to eliminate the passage round to the north of Iceland for the 24 solo skippers racing. The altered course is maintained at the original distance of 3300 nautical miles.
    Vend?e Globe Arctique Les Sables d’Olonne Race Director Francis Le Goff explained: “ We set a gate to the east of Iceland so that we could guarantee a good, sporting course. It has become obvious since last night and especially this morning that the weather models show the weather getting worse with a depression which is very active generally over Iceland with winds in the NE of Iceland of 40 knots on the files which usually means more, certainly 50kts in the gusts and in a confined strait which is not like the open sea for example, with a lee shore (to the south) so it would be dangerous to take the boats through there. So we have maintained the course distance and moved the mark in the Atlantic and so likely still finishing back into Les Sables d’Olonne after 12 days.”

    Alain Leboeuf, President of SAEM and the Department of Vend?e said, “On this second edition of the Vend?e Arctique – Les Sables d’Olonne, we hoped that the skippers would be able to circumnavigate Iceland for the first time, crossing the Arctic Circle. We knew that this innovative and extreme course was subject to change until the last moment, depending on the weather conditions around Iceland. After an in-depth study of the situation with the race direction and our expert meteorologist, we have decided on this modification of the course. It is a prudent choice. The primary duty of any organizer is to ensure the safety of sailors. As I said before we will not make them take excessive risks”.


    Race direction of the Vend?e Arctique Les Sables d’Olonne took the decision on Thursday morning to cut out the westwards passage around the top of Iceland because of the threat of northerly gales gusting to 50 knots between Friday and Saturday. In the strong, gusty winds along with big, confused cross seas the risks associated with racing along the exposed north coast of Iceland with a lee shore and limited sea room were deemed too much

    Swell Forecast

    wind forecast

    The organisation made the decision to require the fleet to turn SW at the Iceland East gate and head directly to the Atlantic mark which has been moved 180 nautical miles west to preserve the course distance at a meaningful 3300 miles and the proposed duration at around 12 days.

    The decision maybe eliminates the circumnavigation of Iceland but the 24 strong fleet will still have the low pressure system to negotiate, which was, in itself, already causing some considerable apprehension in the IMOCA fleet.

    Positions June 16th

    Race leader Charlie Dalin (APIVIA) has some 75 miles in hand over second placed Jeremie Beyou (Charal) this afternoon at just under 200 nautical miles from the Iceland gate. While France basks in a sticky heatwave, the temperatures for Dalin and Beyou are already dropping to single figures and they have a strong sense of what lies ahead.

    Tight lipped and focused, Beyou said, "My big concern is knowing how to manage this descent down the Atlantic because we will have to face gusts of 40 knots on a reach".

    Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) claims to have had her eyes " riveted on the weather files for three days ". "We're going to have to come back down after passing the waypoint and it will be difficult to manage.”

    Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiaishi (DMG GLOBAL ONE) remarked, “If experience does help it does not stop you being afraid".

    The President of SAEM and the Department of Vendee, Alain Leboeuf spoke today about "making the right choice……we will not make the skippers take undue risks". “The weather patterns are getting worse and worse,” confirmed Francis Le Goff, the race director. Christian Dumard, weather consultant highlighted: “The depression is forming in the South-West of the fleet and will gradually deepen towards the North-East of Iceland”.

    In advance of the decision Briton Pip Hare was already wondering about the possibility of a change of course:

    “ The fleet is going to be split.” Mused Hare, “So it will be interesting to see what race direction do. Because Charlie is so far ahead, how do you now create a course which doesn’t favour some and penalise others? The answer is I don’t think you can. However they need to be pragmatic because none of us want to break our boats. And 50 knots is not a place you ever want to be.”

    The rest of the fleet stretches for 370 miles. Further east three competitors are at the latitude of the Scottish coast: Antoine Cornic (EBAC Litterie, 6th) was just 20 nautical miles west of the island of Lewis.



    With a few exceptions the 24 sailors on the Vend?e Arctique – Les Sables d’Olonne race around Iceland now have downwind conditions. After the main body of the fleet spent more than 24 hours snared in a wide band of calm most have escaped and are making decent speeds northwards in valiant pursuit of the breakaway Charlie Dalin. The APIVIA skipper is now less than 250 miles to the Iceland waypoint on the east side of the Arctic island, and has built an impressive lead of over 100 nautical miles ahead of J?r?mie Beyou (Charal) who won the inaugural edition of this race in July 2020. Meantime in the extreme east Louis Duc and Antoine Cornic continue their journey up the west coast of Scotland, sailing together some 50 miles to the west of Coll and Tiree islands.

    feathered hitchhiker

    The extended period in the calm has tested the nerves, even those of the experienced and mentally tough sailors like Italian philosophy graduate Giancarlo Pedote, “Getting stressed changes nothing. We learn to keep a lid on things mentally. We just do our best to sniff out the new breeze. Same with Damien Seguin (APICIL Group): "I'm not someone who gets stressed on my boat, I'm quite zen, but I hate the calm. I try to stay calm even if it gets on your nerves. A depression coming from the west will bring the wind back and allow us to climb fairly quickly towards Iceland."

    The fleet will see a southerly becoming southeasterly wind of 15 to 20 knots. The day will see the pace pick up substantially, gybing downwind towards the north. Leader Charlie Dalin did two overnight. Dalin has already created an impressive gap, just as he did in last month’s Guyader Bermudes 1000 race, Race direction expect him at the east Iceland waypoint in the early hours of tomorrow morning followed by Jeremie Beyou (Charal)


    In sixth and seventh on older straight daggerboard boats rookies Louis Duc (Fives - Lantana Environnement) and Antoine Cornic (EBAC Literie) are continuing their strategy closer to the coast of Scotland, They are working a band of wind around fifty miles wide which could well move with them and allow them to sail directly towards Iceland without slowing down too much. Les Sables d’Olonne based Manu Cousin (Groupe Setin) has suffered more than most after changing his strategy several times and made just 73 miles in 24 hours.

    Belgian rookie Denis van Weynbergh is eighth on the former Spirit of Hungary, also benefiting from a very easterly position. Switzerland’s Alan Roura has profited in the west and is up to 15th leading the main pack of foilers which has effectively restarted heading NW whilst to their east the daggerboard boats are sailing a higher more direct angle.

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