as Tripon heads for the line
Race update 14/11 - 09:11
The trade wind section of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe is often thought to be the easy part, but this morning came the news that one of the most experienced and successful skippers in this race has capsized in a violent squall about 1,000 nautical miles east of Guadeloupe.
The Multi50 skipper Lalou Roucayrol, who is sailing his fourth Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe and has been on the podium three times already, was caught out by a sudden and violent spike in the easterly breeze during the hours of darkness on his red and grey rocketship, Arkema.
The 54-year-old skipper, who is based in Port Médoc near Bordeaux, was unable to prevent the boat flipping over at around 0630hrs UTC/0730 CET while he was racing in fourth place in the class. Fortunately Roucayrol is safe and well inside the main hull of his boat and was able to alert both his shore team and the race director and a rescue plan is under way.
Roucayrol’s is the second multihull to capsize in this race after Armel Le Cleac’h’s Banque Populaire which turned over on the western fringes of the Bay of Biscay after losing its port hull. Roucayrol had been the early leader in the Multi50 class but after stopping in Porto was playing catch-up with the leading bunch.
The current runaway Multi50 leader, Armel Tripon on Réauté Chocolat, is expected to cross the finish line tomorrow. Tripon is now on a direct course for the famous Tête à l’Anglais. This is a rock off the northwest of Guadeloupe which signals the start of the loop around the west coast of Basse Terre. Altogether, Tripon has less than 650 nautical miles to the line and a lead equivalent to half of that.
Current weather routing predictions have him becoming the third skipper to finish the race, (behind the two ULTIMEs, IDEC Sport and MACIF, which finished in the early hours of Monday morning), some time around mid-day tomorrow (local time, 1500hrs CET).
Tripon should be well inside the record for Multi50s set in 2014 by Erwan Le Roux at 11 days 5 hours, 13 minutes.
The worst of the stormy Caribbean rain clouds, that have provided variable wind over recent weeks, 30-knot rain squalls followed by long periods of calm, are now moving southwest towards Chile, giving the next finishers a clearer runway into the island than faced Joyon and Gabart.
And Tripon will be arriving in Guadeloupe in daylight, which means he should have some breeze, again unlike Sunday night’s ULTIME duo. But the west, leeward side of Basse Terre will still be light, especially in the lee of the 1,500-metre Grande Soufrière volcano where Gabart was stuck for over one hour on Sunday night while Joyon wriggled through inshore on a land breeze.
Just 137 miles behind Tripon and expected to finish a few hours after him is Britain’s Alex Thomson. The skipper of Hugo Boss has been ahead in the IMOCA fleet since five hours after the start on Sunday 4th November and is on course to smash the course record for the IMOCA fleet set in 2014 by François Gabart of 12 days, four hours and 38 minutes.
Thomson reported that he is in “fine fettle” despite very little sleep. He is doing all he can to reduce the number of energy-consuming gybes in the final downwind 775-mile sprint to Guadeloupe.
“Right now the plan is one gybe and get in; the routing has me doing a few more but hopefully I can try and avoid them,” said Thomson. “Hopefully I will get some rest along the way. I am in fine fettle, good spirits, a little tired. It is amazing how the body can operate on so little sleep. So there you are, we can all do more than we think we can.”
Though there are comprehensive leads in the Multi50, IMOCA and Class40 divisions the three tussles for the remaining podium places remain close and intense in each fleet.
In the Multi50 fleet there is 82 miles between second-placed Erwan Le Roux (FênetréA-Mix Buffet), third-placed Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires en Peloton-ARSEP).
Vauchel-Camus, who grew up on Guadeloupe, has had to climb his mast to release the headboard car. “I have had problems with the mainsail headboard car which was the reason for my stop into the Azores. There was something jamming, not letting the mainsail come down and so I had to go up the mast to release it. It was a big problem with a prototype part but for now it is OK. So it's enjoyable right now, but it was a difficult night after 10 days at sea and the mast climb yesterday morning."
Vauchel-Camus continued: “I am having a good race for the places on the podium with Lalou (Roucayrol), Erwan (Le Roux), the three of us are in contact. We have some cloud which has strengthened the wind but there are not too many squalls now which is good. So we really are profiting from what we have now considering what we had before this. The wind is forecast to shift to the right a bit which should let me cross in front of Lalou, it will be a bit more complicated for Erwan. The IMOCAs are fast. We are supposed to be faster than them but it's not so clear when you see Alex Thomson who made an extraordinary start to the race, but the IMOCAs did not stop like we did.”
In the IMOCA fleet the French trio of Paul Meilhat (SMA), Vincent Riou (PRB) and Yann Eliés (Ucar-St Michel), all training partners from Port La Fôret, are within 50 miles of each other. In the brisk trade winds, Meilhat is still giving the IMOCA racers food for thought holding onto second place on his non-foil assisted SMA, racing downwind.
Back in the Bay of Biscay, Jérémie Beyou’s attempt to re-start his race has come to an end after two days following a charging problem on Charal which has forced him to turn around a second time and head for Lorient. Beyou had to abandon his first start when the boat developed problems with its steering.
The Class40 leader Yoann Richomme has already made a loud statement about the reaching and running speeds of his brand new boat, Veedol-AIC, holding a lead of 113 miles this morning. Just as the French IMOCA trio are long time rivals, so second-placed Phil Sharp (IMERYS CLEAN ENERGY) and Aymeric Chappellier (Aina Enfance Et Avenir) in third, have spent many days and nights locked in head-to-head match races in Class40 circuit races. After dipping south to find more breeze, Sharp has banked his dividend and crossed back ahead of his long time rival Chappellier. Behind him in fourth place Kito de Pavant has reported the loss of his spinnaker after getting wrapped on the forestay of Made in Midi.
13/11 - 19:11
Early this morning Sébastien Destremau and Ari Huusela had a minor collision when racing some 555 miles off the North African coast.
Destremeau is racing on his IMOCA Alcatraz It FaceOcéan in second place in the Route du Rhum-Destination Gaudeloupe's Rhum Mono division while Finnish airline pilot Huusela is in 11th place in the IMOCA division on his Ariel II.
Neither skipper is hurt although both report minor damage to their boats. Huusela has some damage to his pushpit on the aft corner of his boat; Destremau has damage to his bowsprit. According to race management Huusela also has some minor hull damage.
Huusela was sailing on a westerly course; Déstremau was heading south in search of stronger tradewinds when the collision happened at around 0600hrs CET.
Both carried on on their respective courses and have both been averaging 10-15 knots boatspeed. Huusela’s shore team are helping him with advice as he makes further checks to his boat.
Here is Vendée Globe veteran Destremau's account of what happened: "I was in my pilot bunk sailing at 200 degrees in 20 knots of wind. The boat gybed suddenly and broached over, and suddenly we were doing 14 knots. By the time I got on deck we were already back on course and I saw Ari's boat less than 100 metres downwind from me.
"It was an almost unreal occurrence. On first sight there is no structural damage but the base of my bowsprit is damaged and there is some damage to the bow. I made a running repair which took four hours and while I was waiting for it to set I went only very slowly. This is such a rare incident which reminds us all to be vigilant. It is all too easy when it is dark and someone is tired to misjudge distances."