A vicious cold front bringing winds of 40-50 knots wreaked havoc on the Vendée Globe fleet, with eight of the 30 skippers already forced to return to port to affect repairs just two days after Sunday's start.
All the 30 Vendée Globe skippers were expecting an extremely tough opening 24-48 hours of racing, and that what they got with eight boats now having returned or on their way back to port since the start in Les Sables d'Olonne. The carnage in the fleet has been caused by extreme weather conditions just 24 hours after the start with a vicious cold front bringing with it 40-50 knot winds and huge seas on the Bay of Biscay.
Following early problems for Dominique WAVRE (SUI), Bernard STAMM (SUI) and Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Jean-Baptiste DEJEANTY (FRA) on Group Maisoneuve and Derek HATFIELD (CAN) onboard Algimouss Spirit of Canada both reported they would be returning to port after suffering damage during Monday. Then in the evening both Aquarelle.com and Groupe Bel dismasted. British skipper Alex THOMSON was the eighth boat to have been forced to turn back to the Vendée start port Les Sables D'Olonne after reporting structural damage to Hugo Boss late last night. Under the race rules, boats may carry out repairs using outside assistance only if they return to the start and they must restart the race within a ten-day window from the start date of 9 November, giving them until 13:02 French time on Wednesday 19 November.
Read a summary of the boats returning to port at the end of this report…
Those who rode it out the under 50-knot gusts and 6-metre high waves with lashing rain, have made their tacks as the cold front passed over and the winds have eased to give faster reaching conditions. However, even if the wind suddenly veered by 90° and eased off in just a few minutes, that has not changed the sea state. They have not only tacked to head southwest, but have also had to hoist more sail, which has required a lot of physical effort.
Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA) on Paprec-Virbac 2 and Roland JOURDAIN (FRA) on Veolia Environnement seem both to have timed this well after continuing westwards for as long as possible and they now lie in first and second, with 1.1 miles of difference between them. Loïck PEYRON (FRA), leader yesterday evening on Gitana 80, chose to tack first and is now to leewards of the fleet, inshore, closer to the coast of Spain.
Sailing at more than 15 knots in the 25-knot northwesterly, the leaders will benefit from a sea that will begin to calm and a wind veering to a favourable northerly and easing off a little.
Mike GOLDING (GBR) on Ecover 3 has gained two places overnight and is up to tenth, 41.4 miles behind leader DICK, and he has Dee CAFFARI (GBR) on sistership Aviva, slightly offshore and to leeward, calculated to be about 12 miles behind him. Brian THOMPSON (GBR) on Bahrain Team Pindar is up from 17th on yesterday evening's report to 14th and is on a more southerly heading than GOLDING and CAFFARI, mirroring PEYRON's move to stay closer to Finisterre , Sam DAVIES (GBR) on Roxy made one place to 15th .
Despite his last minute, rushed preparations Steve WHITE (GBR) on Toe in the Water appears to have ridden out the worst of it in good shape and lies 17th, 87.4 miles behind the leader Paprec-Virbac 2.
At 05:30 UTC this morning, Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA) on Foncia left the harbour in Les Sables d'Olonne: he is expected to set sail again imminently and restart the race to the south of the Nouck Buoy. Foncia has around 360 miles to sail to catch up the leaders, as they approach Cape Finisterre.
"Foncia set out again this morning at around 05:40 after a pit stop worthy of Ferrari. It's as if she was brand new. Many thanks to the support team and everyone at Nanni. The sea is still very rough, although the wind has eased off and gone around to the WNW."
Summary of the entrants who have had to return, or are making towards Les Sables d'Olonne:
Dominique WAVRE (SUI), Temenos II: had an electrical problem and returned to Les Sables d'Olonne. He returned to the race course late in the evening of Sunday 9 November.
Bernard STAMM (SUI), Cheminées Poujoulat: had a collision with a cargo ship, returned to Les Sables d'Olonne during the night of 9-10 November. Damage to bowsprit.
Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Foncia: electrical and engine problems following a leak from a water ballast tank, arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne during the night 10-11 November. Now sailing again
Jean-Baptiste DEJEANTY (FRA), Group Maisoneuve: damage to deck reported during the morning of Monday 10 November. Arrival expected in Les Sables d'Olonne on the morning of 11 November.
Derek HATFIELD (CAN), Algimouss Spirit of Canada: electrical problems during the afternoon/evening of Monday 10 November. Expected to return to Les Sables d'Olonne during the morning 11 November.
Yannick BESTAVEN (FRA), Aquarelle.com: dismasted reported during the evening of Monday 10 November. Arrival expected Les Sables d'Olonne during the night of 11 or 12 November.
Kito DE PAVANT (FRA), Groupe Bel: dismasted during the evening of Monday 10 November, arrival could be in Les Sables d'Olonne during the night of 11 to 12 November
Alex THOMSON (GBR), Hugo Boss: structural problem in the evening of Monday 10 November, arrival predicted in Les Sables d'Olonne during the night of 11/12 November.
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