BT Knocked Down Whilst DESJOYEAUX Extends Advantage As Vendée Leaders Reach New Zealand Gate
Michel DESJOYEAUX onboard Foncia has extended his lead at the front as the Vendée Globe leaders passed through the New Zealand security gate, whilst Seb JOSSE had a major scare when BT was knocked down in a storm last night.
The BT shore team received a call from skipper Sébastien JOSSE today at 11:47 UTC, reporting having been knocked down by the raging seas generated by the storm the leaders have been negotiating overnight. JOSSE is safe and sound and does not require any outside assistance.
Last night in a 60-knot squall, the BT IMOCA 60 was knocked down by a large breaking wave. The boat was pinned down on her side, with the top of the mast under the water, for several minutes before coming back upright, causing damage that JOSSE will assess as soon as daylight will allow him to (approx 15:30 UTC).
JOSSE recounted, "Yesterday evening I decided to go further north to avoid the worst of the storm, but conditions were horrendous with breaking waves and squalls up to a steady 65 knots, with hail and snow. I was sailing conservatively with three reefs in the main and staysail up when I was knocked down by a wave. The boat heeled over to at least 110º with the top of the mast in the water. It took me five minutes to get a clear idea of what had happened, but the key parts of the boat are ok - mast, keel and she's floating! It will be daylight in a couple of hours, and I will be able to then make a better estimation of the damage and the next steps, until then I need to take it easy."
Making his way north to escape the storm under bare poles, and waiting for daylight, the skipper will carry out a complete check as soon as possible to assess the damage.
Leaders Through The Gate
The low pressure system which gave headwinds for the leaders up to the New Zealand security gate has shuffled the mileages again but the order remains fixed. Since transiting the gate last night leader Michel DESJOYEAUX has gone east then north gaining significantly on Roland JOURDAIN who looked to be a threat yesterday evening. JOURDAIN has carried on north and is slightly closer to the next gate, 570 miles off.
Dee CAFFARI (GBR) onboard Aviva has been quickest in the fleet, covering 389 miles over the last 24 hours, the biggest distance in the fleet, and remains quickest this morning.
In spite of the northerly winds, DESJOYEAUX reached the New Zealand Gate and then immediately headed eastwards extending his lead over JOURDAIN and Veolia Environnement, who opted instead to continue north-eastwards now rather than face headwinds to pass the Western Pacific Gate. Once the front goes over, SW'ly winds are forecast and should offer more favourable conditions for him than for the leader.
Passing the Gate was not a very gratifying experience for JOSSE or Jean LE CAM (FRA) on VM Matériaux, who both lost ground over the leading duo, but also saw the pair behind them narrow the gap.
Vincent RIOU (FRA) on PRB and Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA) on Brit Air did not have to endure the upwind sailing that the pacemakers to go through over Christmas.
DESJOYEAUX crossed the New Zealand gate last night at around 20:00 UTC and almost immediately hitched to the east again, before changing to a more northeasterly course at around 04:00, just as the standings are published, whilst JOURDAIN is now well over 100 miles north of the latitude of the gate.
Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA) on Paprec-Virbac 2 has been making good speeds and is now about 500 miles SW from the New Zealand gate, whilst eighth placed Sam DAVIES (GBR) on Roxy has had a steady night posting good average speeds in the 12-14 knots range. Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA) onboard Safran in ninth turned north at around midnight and is heading to Auckland Island - 250 miles off the south of South Island, New Zealand - to try and affect a repair to his mast track. He has about 250 miles to sail north to the small archipelago.
However, it is Dee CAFFARI (GBR) onboard Aviva who has made the most of the more favourable conditions. Averaging 18 knots in the past few hours, making her the fastest on the water, she continues this trend after overtaking Brian THOMPSON (GBR) on Bahrain Team Pindar last night, and really seems to have the measure of the conditions.
And those in the lower third of the field have been suffering still in very gusty winds and a difficult sea-state.
Vendee Globe Leadeboard - 04:00 UTC 26 December 2008
1. Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Foncia at + 10315.1 miles to the finish
2. Roland Jouardain (FRA), Veolia Environnement at + 119.8 miles
3. Jean LE CAM (FRA), VM Matériaux at + 169 miles
4. Seb JOSSE (FRA), BT at + 169.3 miles
5. Vincent RIOU (FRA), PRB at + 367.7 miles
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