Despite dealing with a crash gybe, fire on board, being dismasted and almost running out of food, Conrad Colman has completed his first Vendée Globe
24 February 2017
Kiwi skipper Conrad Colman has gone down in Vendée Globe history as the first person to complete the race without using fossil energy.
Instead, he used an innovative electric motor, solar panels and a hydro-generator by storing energy in batteries on board Foresight Natural Energy.
Colman finished the race at 1400UTC on 24 February 2017 in a time of 110 days, 1 hour, 58 minutes and 41 seconds, taking 16th place.
He sailed 27,929 miles averaging 10.57 knots.
The 33-year-old trained sailmaker and rigger also did it after making one of the most impressive makeshift rigs in the history of the race from his broken boom, storm and part of his mainsail.
He was forced to improvise after becoming dismasted earlier in the month off Portugal, just 740 nautical miles from the finish.
He also faced the prospect of running out of food, and was forced to eat the rations from the life raft.
Only Philippe Poupon and Yves Parlier have previously completed the Vendée Globe under jury rig, while others, like Mike Golding and Loïck Peyron had to set up jury rigs to bring their boats back to shore.
23 February 2017
Conrad Colman is so determined to finish his first Vendée Globe using just renewable energy that he has been reduced to eating the rations from his life raft.
The skipper, who is expected to cross the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France shortly, has suffered a series of setbacks during the race.
He was dismasted less than 300 nautical miles off Portugal on 10 February 2017. Frustratingly, he was only 793 nautical miles from the finish.
Colman was unhurt during the dismasting and managed to free the rigging (mast and mainsail) and save the boom.
He had since made a rather impressive jury rig, and as of 0800UTC on 23 February 2017 (108th day of the race), he was 200 nautical miles from the finish line, achieving a speed of six knots.
But his slow progress means that he has been forced to eat his emergency rations.
“As I said in a previous post, I am down to eating some “cup of soup” instant soup packets that I had left over from the southern legs and life raft biscuits. Like the hard tack ships biscuits that powered merchant seamen in the days of sail, these are concentrated biscuits that have had all moisture driven out of them and then vacuum packed so they’ll last forever,” wrote Colman on board his Imoca Foresight Natural Energy.
“Unlike their ancient cousins, my life raft biscuits are 400 calories each and are fortified with all sorts of vitamins and minerals so I won’t lose my teeth to scurvy while crossing Biscay but I might lose some while crunching the biscuits!” continued the Kiwi skipper on his blog.
“Since the I finished the jury rig, I have been eating an estimated 700 calories per day which amounts to a third of government agencies suggest we eat, or a quarter of your average Chipotle burrito! Hmmm… Chipotle!”
“This daily ration is made up of one biscuit and a couple of soups per day with the extra special treat of some alfalfa sprouts a couple of days ago.”
Colman has already dealt with fire on board and a crash gybe.
On 4 December 2016, one of his solar charge controllers caught alight, which short circuited the auto pilot, causing the crash gybe.
Colman said he has “been touched by the messages of encouragement” he was received, especially after the dismasting and was “surprised” by the praise too.
“I am not naturally gifted in sailing or in mechanical knowledge. At best I’m excessively motivated to compete in and complete this race,” he wrote in his latest blog post.
He said he hoped he had shown that any challenge can be embraced.
“Know too that my Vendée Globe is not the story of individual triumph even though when I cross the finish line (finally!) I’ll be standing alone on the foredeck,” continued Colman.
“I couldn’t have done it alone, from preparing the boat with my small team, creating the campaign with my wife or crossing the start line with the Foresight Group.”
“Your messages have helped too! The Vendée Globe is a team sport dressed in solo clothes and the fact that we’re stronger together than alone remains true,” added Colman.
He currently lies in 15th place.
19 January 2017
At 1537 UTC today, French sailor Armel Le Cleac’h took line honours in the 2016-17 Vendée Globe.
It was a sweet feeling for the skipper of Banque Populaire VIII, who has been runner up in the last two editions of the round the world race.
He crossed the finish line after 74 days 3 hours 35 minutes and 46 seconds, setting a new race record.
The previous holder was the 2013 winner of the race, François Gabart who completed in 78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes.
British skipper, Alex Thomson is expected in second place 12 hours behind Le Cleac’h.
Le Cléac’h covered 24,499.52 nautical miles at an average speed of 13.77 knots during the race, which began from Les Sables d’Olonne, France on 6 November 2016.
“My feeling is that this is a dream come true,” said an emotional Le Cleac’h.
“I hoped to win this race 10 years ago but I finished second. Today is a perfect day. My team have been amazing they’re the dream team, and this is their day too,” he continued.
“I’m very happy for Alex, it’s a great second place. It has been very difficult with him behind me, he gave me a really hard time in this Vendee Globe,” added the skipper.
As the gains made yesterday slip away, Hugo Boss skipper, Alex Thomson seems to be accepting that he will take second place in the 2016-17 edition of the Vendée Globe.
Speaking bluntly about his chances of becoming the first British sailor to win the round the world competition, Thomson said: “I don’t think I can catch Armel.”
“The routing is very clear – we will go nearly to the Scilly Isles, wait for a left shift and when it comes we tack.”
“There are no real options for me anymore, I think my options have run out. It might be possible to catch a few miles but it’s difficult for me at the moment. Until I can get my autopilot driving on a wind angle it’ll be very tricky in the conditions I have,” continued Thomson.
“I can’t imagine another few days like the last couple of days. I don’t have any tension about the finish. I have tension about trying to make the autopilots work. I’ve got an anemometer in my hand and I’m trying to splice wires. I don’t care about the finish right now, I just want to sleep,” he added.
Thomson has been dealing with faulty autopilots over the last 48-hours. Early on in the race, he also had a collision with an unknown object, leaving him without his starboard foil.
In comparison, Armel Le Cleac’h, who is closing in on the Vendée Globe finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, appears to have had few technical problems.
Over the last few days, Thomson had closed in on the French skipper, narrowing the gap between them to less than 35 nautical miles.
After sailing close to the Scilly Islands off the west of Cornwall in SW Britain, Le Cléac’h tacked onto port and pointed his bows towards Les Sables at around 1700 UTC last night.
Thomson followed an hour later after and the pair began their passage along the coast of Brittany in chilly easterly winds.
As of 0900 UTC, Le Cleac’h was just 98 nautical miles from the finish line; Thomson still has 194 nautical miles to sail.
Currently Banque Populaire VIII is doing 12 knots compared to Hugo Boss’ 10 knots.
Barring a major breakage onboard Banque Populaire VIII there is little hope of Thomson being able to catch Le Cléac’h at this stage of the race.
If Le Cléac’h wins the race it will banish the ghosts of the past two editions in which he has to settle for the runner’s-up spot both times.
The 39-year-old from Brittany is tipped to cross the finish line between 1600 and 1900 UTC after 74 days at sea.
If he does, he will smash fellow countryman Francois Gabart’s 2012-13 race record of 78 days, two hours and 16 minutes.
18 January 2017
As of 1500 UTC, there are just 34.75 nautical miles between Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h and British skipper Alex Thomson.
The fight to the finish is now coming down to one last crucial manoeuvre.
An anticyclone means that both Le Cléac’h and Thomson are being forced to sail much further north than the latitude of the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France.
This high pressure system is expected to move north-east later over the south of England, allowing both skippers to tack and head towards the finish; the crucial decision for both Le Cléac’h and Thomson will be deciding the right time to make the manoeuvre.
The duo were this morning in decreasing south-easterly winds of 10-12 knots sailing at the latitude of Brest in Brittany.
But as they get nearer to the coast the wind is forecast to gradually swing to the north-east and at this moment they will be able to tack onto port and begin the final sprint.
The home strait is marked with pitfalls – the islands of Groix, Belle-Île and Yeu will disturb the breeze, the currents in the area are known to be tricky and the coastline is busy with shipping and fishing traffic.
It may just be that these obstacles give Hugo Boss skipper Thomson the opportunity he needs to usurp Le Cléac’h and Banque Populaire VIII from the top spot in the final hours of the race.
At 1500 UTC it was Le Cléac’h, runner-up in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, who had a sliver of a speed advantage, making 11 knots compared to Thomson’s 10.
Both boats are set to arrive in Les Sables tomorrow.
Race organisers predict the winner will cross the finish line between 15.00 and 19.00 UTC.
Jérémie Beyou in third, some 800 nautical miles behind, is likely to finish around two and a half days behind Thomson and Le Cléac’h thanks to a relatively stress free final 1,000 nautical miles.
The same can’t be said for fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick, who has a fight on his hands to defend his position from Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam.
Dick faces having to cross a windless patch almost 200nm wide before sailing west of the Azores to lock into an Atlantic depression, providing his chasers with an opportunity to completely wipe out the 60nm that currently lie between them.
16 January 2017
Between 0700 UTC on 15 January 2017 and 0700 UTC today, Alex Thomson notched up 536.81 nautical miles on Hugo Boss, beating the previous world record for the greatest distance sailed solo in 24 hours.
This new record awaits ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council.
Thomson sailed Hugo Boss at an average speed of 22.36 knots, and his 24-hour distance beats the record of 534.48 miles set by French sailor François Gabart in the 2012-13 edition of the Vendée Globe.
He actually bettered Gabart’s record two weeks into the race, sailing 535.34 nautical miles in 24 hours, but the rules of the record state it must be superseded by one whole nautical mile.
The skipper of Hugo Boss has done better than on that day (16th November 2016) and has won back the 24-hour record, which he held between 2003 (468.72 nautical miles) and 2012.
He has already entered the Vendée Globe history books by becoming the fastest skipper to reach the Equator.
Thomson crossed the line in 9 days, 7 hours and 3 minutes at 19.05 UTC on 15 November, 2016.
This beat the previous record set in 2004 by French skipper Jean Le Cam, who did it in 10 days and 11 hours.
This new world speed record comes as the British skipper continues to chase down his arch rival, race leader Armel Le Cléac’h.
As of 0900 UTC on 16 January 2017, there is just 73.29 nautical miles between the pair.
Race organisers expect the first boat to cross the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France on 19 January 2017.
Yesterday, both Thomson and Le Cléac’h were eating through the 1,300 nautical miles which stands between them and the finish, as they tried to squeeze every last bit of speed from their foiling IMOCA 60 raceboats.
After several days of slow progress north in light winds, the pair were racing in winds of up to 30 knots.
At the 1400 UTC position update yesterday, Thomson, who led the race through most of its early stages, had a narrow speed advantage as he hurtled north on Hugo Boss at 24 knots.
French skipper Le Cléac’h, who has topped the rankings since 2 December 2016, was more than two knots slower as he closed in on the Azores.
“We have 17 to 20 knots of breeze at the moment and not very nice seas to be honest with the waves coming in from the east,” Thomson told Vendée Globe HQ in Les Sables yesterday.
“It’s difficult to go fast but I’m not complaining because I am making good speed. It’s going to get windy in the next 24 hours, up to 30 knots. We’ll be going fast, and we’ll have to see how things pan out,” he added.
Thomson is competing in the Vendée Globe for the fourth time and is aiming to become the first Briton ever to win the race in its 27-year history.
If he can continue to eat into Le Cléac’h’s lead there is a chance he could realise his goal.
Le Cléac’h, meanwhile, is hell-bent on ensuring he scores his first ever Vendée Globe win after posting runner’s-up finishes in the past two editions.
The anticyclone currently blocking the duo’s path to Les Sables is moving towards the English Channel and in another 36 hours the pair will be able to point their bows towards the finish line for an upwind drag race to glory.
12 January 2017
As British skipper Alex Thomson continues to hunt down The Jackal, he has received a message of support from former Vendée Globe skipper, Dame Ellen MacArthur.
Dame Ellen raced in the 2000-2001 Vendée Globe.
At 24-year-old, she was the youngest competitor to finish the race, coming second behind Michel Desjoyeaux, who has also publicly announced his support for Thomson.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Dame Ellen said she was in a similar position to Thomson during the 2001 race, chasing leader Desjoyeaux.
That was until she hit a container and broke her daggerboard “and had 24 hours of absolute hell to get the broken one out. I had a broken rudder as well. It was full on and I was so knackered approaching the final stages of the race,” she told the newspaper.
“And then I was going into the Azores high, getting closer and closer again, but he got away,” she continued.
“Then I broke my forestay just off the north-west coast of Spain – I could have lost my mast and then it would have all been over. I couldn’t sleep because if we’d broached I would have lost the mast. But I managed to get to the finish, 24 hours behind,” explained Dame Ellen.
“And don’t forget Mike Golding, who lost his keel just before the finish and he was lucky to make it back,” she noted, adding this message for Thomson.
“So Alex must remember: it’s not over till it’s over. Anything can happen.”
Thomson has already had to deal with a collision with an unknown object, leaving him without his starboard foil early in the race.
Le Cleac’h on the other hand appears to have had few technical problems.
As of 0900 UTC on 11 January 2017, the Hugo Boss skipper had lost ground, and is currently 236 nautical miles behind Le Cleac’h.
Race organisers expect the winner of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe to cross the finish off Les Sables D’Olonne on the French coast by 19 January 2017.
9 January 2017
As of 0900 UTC on 9 January, just 77 nautical miles separated leader Armel Le Cléac’h from second placed Alex Thomson.
And the British skipper has received a further boost with double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux putting his money on Thomson to win.
Speaking to the newspaper Le Telegramme, Desjoyeaux, who won the race in 2000-2001 and 2008-9, said he was backing the only British entrant in the race.
“If I was to put money on it…..I’d put a ticket on Alex Thomson!’” he told reporter Philippe Elies.
Thomson crossed the Equator on Saturday.
He has racked up an average speed of nine knots over the last day, while Frenchman Le Cléac’h is averaging just four knots, as he battles light winds around 250 miles north of the Equator.
In the past 48 hours Le Cléac’h has lost more than 100 miles to Thomson, largely due to the widening of the Doldrums.
It is likely that the leading duo will exit the Doldrums today, but their route north is less than clear thanks to a big depression building to the west of the Canaries.
With an ETA in Les Sables d’Olonne tentatively pencilled in for January 17, a thrilling finish is on the cards for this eighth edition of the Vendée Globe.
Meanwhile third-placed Jérémie Beyou continued his assault on the leaders overnight – this morning his Maître CoQ was just 567 miles behind Le Cléac’h and around 200 miles from the Equator.
Jean-Pierre Dick consolidated his fourth place overnight by adding another 50 miles on Jean Le Cam and Yann Eliès.
Hungarian sailor Nandor Fa was this morning less than 20 miles from Cape Horn.
It will be the 63-year-old’s fifth rounding of the iconic landmark on the southern tip of South America.
Eric Bellion and Conrad Colman are some 800 miles behind Fa. Commeunseulhomme skipper Bellion notched up the most impressive performance of the fleet in the last 24 hours, sailing 367 miles.
American sailor Rich Wilson pulled back 100 miles on the trio of Alan Roura, Fabrice Amedeo and Arnaud Boissières just in front of him, while 1,200 miles further down the track Didac Costa and Romain Attanasio continue their battle in 15th and 16th split by just 70 miles.
Pieter Heerema in 17th is now 8,000 miles adrift of the leaders while Sébastien Destremau in 18th is a further 1,000 miles back as he dips into the Southern Ocean.
3 January 2017
Nicknamed The Jackal, Armel Le Cléac’h is known for ruthlessly hunting down the competition from second place.
But now the French skipper is getting a taste of his own medicine, as Alex Thomson applies the pressure in the Vendée Globe.
As of 12UTC on 3 January 2017, just 165 nautical miles separate leader Le Cléac’h from the Hugo Boss skipper.
Both of them are waiting for the trade winds, with the French skipper expected to hit the longed for weather system this evening.
Race organisers believe there is around 15 days of competition left between the two.
Meanwhile, the eighth Vendée Globe has claimed further casualties.
Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen dismasted 180 miles to the south east of New Zealand on 1 January 2017.
He was sailing 35 knots in south/south-east wind when the mast broke.
Uninjured, O’Coineen secured his boat and the broken pieces of rigging, and has enough diesel to get him safely to port in New Zealand.
“I was a little taken aback. I was in 20-25 knots of breeze and fell into a nasty grain of 35 knots pile at the moment the pilot jumped. I missed a jibe. The boat was uncontrollable,” he explained.
“The bastaque was not well attached and the mast broke clean at deck level. It was intact. I had to choose between saving the rig and saving the hull of the boat. I preferred safety by dropping the rig so that it does not pierce the boat. The sea was quite restless,” he continued.
“I am devastated. Things were going very well for me, I was in great shape. But I have to accept this situation. This type of navigation is on the razor’s edge,” commented O’Coineen.
Meanwhile, Alan Roura has also been forced to make repairs after hitting an unidentified floating object in the water, damaging his starboard rudder and causing a leak.
The 23-year-old Swiss skipper managed to change the saffron and stem the waterway and has resumed course.
21 December 2016
French skipper Thomas Ruyant is safely docked in New Zealand after his IMOCA 60 was severely damaged by a violent collision with an object.
Le Souffle du Nord pour Le Projet Imagine is believed to have hit a freight container, which caused the racing yacht to start cracking.
The incident happened on 18 December. At the time, Ruyant reported a “an exceptionally violent” bang.
Coastguard officials were put on board the yacht with a pump as they battled to rescue the vessel.
Speaking from the port of Bluff, the skipper said: “I’m torn between immense sadness and relief. I bring a boat seriously injured, my Vendée Globe is finished and I will not go up the channel of the Sands! But I was well into my run before this incident.”
Meanwhile, Paul Meilhat on board SMA is battling with keel jack damage.
He is continued to head north/northwest at a speed of 8-10 knot as he tries to preserve his yacht.
“I managed to secure the keel in line with a security system,” reported Meilhat to the Vendée Globe organisers.
“All the hydraulic system of the actuator is inoperative, therefore, the keel can walk 45 degrees from one side to the other if it is not maintained in the axis. But this creates enormous constraints and if there is sea, there can be play. My priority is to preserve the boat,” he added.
Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) continues to lead in the race, and is expected to round Cape Horn on Friday.
He is 533 nautical miles ahead of Alex Thomson.
The British skipper is expecting better conditions during the day, which will enable him to sail starboard tacks, and therefore rely on the foil still in place on HUGO BOSS.
The coastguard is trying to save Thomas Ruyant’s racing yacht, Le Souffle du Nord, after it hit a floating object, thought to be a freight container during the Vendée Globe.
The coastguard is currently onboard with a pump, hoping to rescue the vessel.
Ruyant’s said in a message to his shore team: “I have two New Zealanders aboard my boat and we’re currently setting up the pump to empty the forward compartment. I have eight knots of wind and calms seas.
“I think I can say that I am going to save Le Souffle du Nord and that we’ll manage to bring her safely to port. Since rounding the southern tip of New Zealand, everything has been made safe. We are in sheltered waters. The boat is nose down but we are stabilising the situation.
“A few hours ago I thought it was all over for my mighty boat. I could no longer make headway in 45 knots of wind. I was below with one finger on the beacon button to ask to be picked up. I thought I was going to lose Le Souffle du Nord forever. I rounded up every couple of minutes. I couldn’t control my boat with the damage to the steering system.
“The rig was limp and I no longer had any backstays. It was all hanging by a thread. After that tricky moment and rounding the famous cape, I understood that I as going to make it. There was an incredible moment of satisfaction with the sun going down along the coast of New Zealand” he concluded.
Le Souffle du Nord is due to reach the port of Bluff in New Zealand at around 9pm this evening if everything goes well, although the situation is still difficult.
France’s Armel Le Cléac’h is currently leading the race, with Britain’s Alex Thomson in second place, 507NM behind.
As of 0900 UTC on 16 December 2016, Banque Populaire VIII is currently more than 382 nautical miles ahead of Hugo Boss in the Vendée Globe.
Armel Le Cléac’h is making the most of a north-westerly flow on the edge of a high pressure system in the Southern Ocean.
Both Le Cléac’h and British skipper, Alex Thomson were struggling in a light wind zone in the south east of a small depression which is situated to the north-west.
At 1500 UTC yesterday (15 December 2016), Banque Populaire VIII emerged from the weather system ahead of Hugo Boss, allowing Le Cléac’h to reach speeds of 20 knots while Thomson struggled behind on 8.8 knots.
“I can not do anything, I try to manage at best to continue to do the maximum,” said Thomson in a video sent to the race organisers.
“The routes to Cape Horn give two and half days apart at worst with Armel, sometimes less than 12 hours, the weather situation changes a lot, so I’m not worried. I look forward to jibe to sail on starboard tack,” added the British skipper.
Meanwhile just 20 nautical miles separate third place Paul Meilhat on SMA and Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ.
Kito de Pavant, 55, is now making his way to dry land by supply ship after he was forced to abandon his boat, Bastide-Otio to the South Indian Ocean
The vessel hit an unidentified object while sailing at 16 knots under mainsail with two reefs in very heavy seas.
“I hit something hard with the keel. It was a violent shock and the boat came to a standstill. The rear bearings of the keel were ripped off and the keel is hanging under the boat kept in place simply by the keel ram, which is in the process of cutting through the hull,” explained de Pavant following the accident.
“The keel housing has been destroyed and there is a huge ingress of water there, but for the moment, it is limited to the engine compartment.”
The supply ship, Marion Dufresne II, was alerted to de Pavant’s plight and made its way to the skipper’s position, waiting until daybreak to rescue de Pavant.
He was transferred to the supply ship at around 2.00 French time on 7 December 2016, where he was seen by the ship’s doctor.
“Kito de Pavant has been recovered by our rigid and board the Marion Dufresne II : he is tired and very disappointed to have to leave the race and his ship,” explained the commander Duduit of the Marion Dufresne II.
de Pavant is pragmatic about his situation, saying he was “lucky in my misfortune”.
“The Marion Dufresne was in the zone and there is only four times a year … The conditions were bad and end of the night, I was not able to spread the waterway. Floating floors: it was hard to leave my boat and abandon in the middle of nowhere, it hurts my heart to lose the boat,” he said.
“But it was the only solution because I had almost no energy for pumps and I could not recharge the batteries since the engine was under water … Much of the hull is badly damaged as the background shell is gone with the rear bearing of the keel. And the keel ram tore the hull over a meter; it was eerie to see the boat in that state. It became too dangerous for me,” added the skipper.
“It’s terrible to leave the boat on the spot because I lose a lot and the consequences will be severe: this is the first time I lose a boat … Morally, I’m pretty marked, physically, I can’t do anything,” stated de Pavant.
The Marion Dufresne II is en route to the Crozet Islands and Kerguelen, Amsterdam.
Meanwhile, Sébastien Josse, who was in third place, has also been forced to abandon the race after major damage to the port foil on his Mono60, Edmond de Rothschild.
The boat slammed into the trough of an 8 metre wave in 35 knots of wind on 5 December 2016.
“I wasn’t really pushing her any harder when the incident occurred, but conditions were rough ahead of the area of low pressure. The wind was blowing at 35 knots and the seas whipped up to around 4 metres,” explained the French skipper, who is currently in the Southern Ocean.
“While surfing along, the boat reached 30 knots before slowing right down to 10 knots as she dug in. It only lasted for a few seconds. I was under the protective cover between the two doors in the companionway. When the boat got going again, I felt that something wasn’t right and I soon saw that there was a problem with the port foil.”
“It was in the water, although I had been sailing with the foils up. I opened the cover to the foil housing and I could see there had been damage. The attachment to the top of the foil, which is a part made of carbon and designed for such strains, had broken. I had to act quickly, as the foil was just being held in place by two screws and if it came out of its mounting, the consequences would be much more serious,” explained Josse.
“It could damage the whole housing by slipping sideways, which would lead to an ingress of water. I quickly gybed to secure the foil and stop that from happening, but unfortunately the timing wasn’t good in terms of the weather. To protect the damaged equipment, I would have had to continue towards the NE, but the worsening weather meant I dived to the SE resting on the damaged foil in some nasty weather,” continued the French skipper.
“On this boat I have already been through worse weather, particularly in the Transat St Barth-Port-la-Forêt, when we had winds up to 50 knots, but here in the Southern Ocean, that is completely different because of how isolated we are,” he added.
While Josse weathered out the storm and sailed with three reefs in the main, several repair solutions were considered by his shore team.
Unfortunately, the extent of the damage means that to carry out effective repairs, Josse had to make the decision to abandon the race.
“When you do the Vendée Globe, you know that every day, you will have work to do on the boat. But that means we’re talking about patching the boat up. I am a first aid nurse, not a surgeon,” explained the solo sailor, who is currently heading for Australia, after 31 days at sea.
5 December 2016
There is a reason why the Vendée Globe is considered one of the toughest sailing races in the world…especially when the worst can happen.
Kiwi skipper Conrad Colman has been revealing more about the dramatic events of 4 December 2016, which left him dealing with a fire on board and a crash gybe.
“I saw Arnaud (Boissières) on the horizon and was happy to gybe away from him in nearly 30 knots on a shift to improve my age to the east. Then inside I started to smell a faint plastic smell.”
“Thinking maybe that the batteries were having a problem I ran my hands over all the electrical system and ran diagnostics on the computer. Everything was fine… maybe it was just a figment of my imagination! I went outside to take a reef and when I came back inside I saw black smoke and yellow flames leaping from behind the chart table,” he told Vendée Globe TV.
“One of the solar charge controllers was burning and was in the process of taking down the entire electrical system as several important cables pass close by. I took the fire blanket and smothered the flames, ignoring electrical shocks and the burning heat in my desperation to save my boat. When the flames were gone I heard one beep from the autopilot and my world turned upside down.”
“The burnt cables next to the charge controller had short circuited the auto pilot and the boat bore away from the wind and did a crash gybe with me still inside, hands full of molten plastic. The copious ballast tanks and canting keels that make these boats some of the fastest in the world also contribute to them being very unstable when things go wrong because all of their weight is on one side and after my crash gybe the boat was actively trying to capsize itself.”
“When I poked my head out from the door the boat lying heeled over at 80 degrees, the tip of the mast only a couple of metres way from the water. As you have seen in the video I shot, I stood on the side of the cockpit to furl the gennaker and arrange the mainsail and stays so I could right the boat.”
Colman said that even with Foresight Natural Energy righted, he was “still in a tight spot”.
“The wind was increasing, I had a poorly furled gennaker that could flap itself to pieces and no instruments or autopilot. I had to drop the gennaker before I could secure the boat so I could start to repair the electronics. Unfortunately, the bad furling job I had done when the boat was on its side, combined with the strengthening wind, meant that it started unfurling backwards and thrashing around so that I was afraid it would take the mast down,” he explained.
“It took me a long time to try to furl it again while sailing downwind with the helm between my knees so I could use the pedestal to control the winches but eventually I had to resign myself to dropping the twisted mess. I managed to tangle the sail around the other forestays and stop it from falling in the water. However with the sail down it still took me two hours of solid effort to control the writhing inflated mess as the wind gusted 40 knots, spray blew horizontally off the tops of the mountains heaving under, and over, boat as I danced on the foredeck with sail ties and pocket knives.”
“With the boat finally secure I came back inside to find everything swimming. Because the boat had spent so much time on its side the keel box had leaked hundreds of litres and I found my food bags, carefully packed spares clothes bags dripping wet or actively floating. My team and I had vacuum packed most of the equipment on the boat in thick plastic so the damage was minimal but some cold weather clothes, spare boots and sleeping bag were soaked,” said Colman.
“I was eventually able to dig through the ashes of the fire and splice important cables back together and get the autopilot back online. I screamed with joy when the little lights danced across their screens again because the alternative was to hand steer to Cape Town and abandon the race,” explained the skipper.
Colman is currently lying in 15th place.
Meanwhile Kojiro Shiraishi, skipper of Spirit of Yukoh, has been forced to abandon the Vendée Globe after he dismasted.
At around 0230 UTC on 4 December 2016, Shiraishi, who was inside the boat, heard the sound of the mast breaking.
At the time, Spirit of Yukoh was sailing in a moderate breeze – around 20 knots.
Unable to repair the damage, Kojiro is now safely heading for Cape Town.
There has been better news for the race leader, Armel Le Cléac’h, who has set a new reference time for the Cape Leeuwin.
He crossed the cape’s longitude in south west Australia at 0815 UTC on 5 December after 28 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes of sailing.
Le Cléac’h smashed the reference time set by François Gabart in 2012 by more than five and a half days.
As of 12.00 UTC on 5 December 2016, Le Cléac’h has more than a 107-nautical mile advantage over second placed Alex Thomson.
14.13 on 1 December
Alex Thomson has regained his lead in the solo, non-stop, around the world race, the Vendée Globe.
As of 14.00 UTC, the British skipper is just ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h on board Banque Populaire VIII in the southern Indian Ocean.
10.35 on 1 December
Alex Thomson’s team believe the British skipper is on track to re-claim his lead in The Vendée Globe Race.
Over the past 24 hours, Thomson has gained 22.2 nautical miles, cutting Armel Le Cléac’h’s lead on board Banque Populaire VIII from 29.9 nautical miles to 7.7 nautical miles.
For the vast duration of the race so far, Thomson had been leading the fleet; however a week ago he sustained damage to his yacht, Hugo Boss, after a collision with an unidentified floating object whilst in the Southern Atlantic.
This resulted in his starboard foil breaking off which robbed his IMOCA60 of its ability to foil on port tack.
Despite the damage, the only Brit in the round the world race was able to hold his lead for a while until the wind angles changed on day 21 and Banque Populaire VIII was able to take the advantage.
The leading pair have just passed north of the Kerguelen Islands, a remote archipelago of islands in the southern Indian Ocean.
Their incredible battle for the top spot was also captured by the French Navy, who are in the area. One of Marine Nationale’s helicopter crews shot video footage of Hugo Boss bearing down on Banque Populaire VIII.
Le Cléac’h and Thomson are now en route to pass Australia on their way towards Cape Horn in South America.
“You certainly feel isolated here in The Southern Ocean,” noted Thomson. “You are miles away from land in one of the remotest locations on the planet. There is no one here to help or rescue you if something goes wrong and the only things around you are birds and albatrosses.”
“It’s for this reason that you need to be careful in The Southern Ocean. You don’t want to push the boat too hard and break something,” he continued.
“I’m currently ahead of the front sailing at 18-24 knots. I’m going to stay conservative and try to nip at Armel’s heals, If I can,” added Hugo Boss’ skipper.
Alex Thomson has become the fastest Vendée Globe sailor to reach the Cape of Good Hope.
At 15:04 UTC on 24 November 2016, Thomson smashed two more race records in the solo, non-stop, around the world race, as he reached the Cape of Good Hope in 17d 22hrs 58mins.
Thomson has beaten the previous race record to this milestone by 5d 0hrs 48mins.
The former record of 22d 23hrs 46mins was held by skipper Armel Le Cléach onboard Banque Populaire in 2012.
Le Cléach is currently in second place.
As of 0900 on 25 November, the French skipper was just under 40 nautical miles behind Thomson onboard Hugo Boss.
Thomson has also broken a second race record from the Equator to the Cape of Good Hope, passing in 8d 15hrs 56mins, which was previously held by Jean Pierre Dick in 2013 onboard Virbac-Paprec 3, at 12d 2hrs 40mins.
Thomson is determined to be the first British skipper to win the race, which could take up to 80 days to complete.
There have already been casualties, with the winner of the 2004 Vendée Globe, Vincent Riou being forced to retire earlier this week because of keel damage to PBR.
The skipper of Safran, Morgan Lagravière also retired on 24 November, following the damage to the steering, and is now heading for Cape Town.
With 28% of the race sailed in 18 days, the skippers still have to pass Cape Leeuwin in Australia and the famous Cape Horn before turning north and sailing back through the North and South Atlantic and crossing the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne.
British sailor Alex Thomson has become the fastest skipper in the Vendée Globe over a 24-hour period.
He sailed 535.34 nautical miles in 24 hours on board Hugo Boss, beating the current record holder, Francois Gabart.
The French skipper set the record of 534.48 nautical miles in 24 hours during the 2012 Vendée Globe.
However, the official rule of the world speed sailing record states that the record must be exceeded by one complete nautical mile further than the previous record in order to be ratified.
The distance Thomson sailed in 24 hours on 19 November 2016, which has been confirmed by the race organisers, makes him the fastest solo sailor on a 60ft monohull in a 24-hour period, according to Thomson’s media team.
This is despite an incident on the morning of 19 November, when Hugo Boss hit an unidentified object, breaking part of the vessel’s starboard foil.
Speaking about the incident, Thomson said: “Having had pretty quick night where the boat was sailing high averages and the boat was super uncomfortable I had retracted the foil 30% early this morning and was sailing the boat pretty conservatively in a building breeze.”
“At 09.35 UT this morning I was down below trying to sleep and the boat was sailing in 22kts of wind with a J2 and one reef in the main. I was averaging 24kts of boat speed when I heard an almighty bang and the boat stopped and turned to starboard by about 30 degrees and the rudder popped up,” he continued.
“I quickly went on deck, eased the main sheet and realised I must have hit something. I put the rudder back down, eased the boat down wind and went to take a look and the starboard foil has broken off. Right now I have taken the foot completely off the throttle and changed sails and retracted the remaining part of the foil and will sail on in these conditions until the wind and sea state moderate and I can inspect the damage and assess,” explained the skipper.
“I didn’t see anything in the water but it felt like the boat wrapped itself around something and it has caused some pretty significant damage to my foil. I was instructed to carry out an internal inspection of the boat and there does not appear to be any structural damage to the hull that I can see. For now I am going to continue and assess when I get the chance,” stated Thomson.
As of 0900 UTC on 22 November, 2016., Thomson remains out in front, with second placed Sébastien Josse around 90 nautical miles behind him.
This is the second record Thomson has broken during this edition of the Vendée Globe.
He became the fastest skipper to reach the Equator in a tine of 9 days, 7 hours and 3 minutes.
Alex Thomson has entered the Vendée Globe history books by becoming the fastest skipper to reach the Equator.
The British sailor crossed the line in 9 days, 7 hours and 3 minutes at 19.05 UTC on 15 November, 2016.
This beat the previous record set in 2004 by French skipper Jean Le Cam, who did it in 10 days and 11 hours. Le Cam currently lies in 9th position in the 2016 edition of the race.
Thomson onboard Hugo Boss has now entered the South Atlantic Ocean in the Southern Hemisphere.
The skipper has led the Vendée Globe fleet since Saturday evening.
As of 0900 UTC on 16 November, Thomson has a lead of 62.41 nautical miles ahead of Armel Le Cleac’h onboard Banque Populaire VIII.
The Vendée Globe is a single handed non-stop unassisted race around the world.
The race takes place every four years and has historically been dominated by the French.
Alex Thomson has strengthened his position as he continues to lead in the Vendée Globe 2016.
As of 12 UTC on 15 November, 2016, Thomson is now 65 nautical miles ahead of the next competitor Armel Le Cléac’h, racing on Banque Populaire VIII.
48 hours after the race started on 6 November, Thomson expressed his frustrations with his decision to gybe early on in the race and head inland. This cost him many miles, placing him in 9th place.
Since then, Thomson has been climbing back up the leader board.
His decision to pass through a passage between the western Cape Verde islands put him almost 100 nautical miles ahead of the leaders, allowing him to take back pole position.
Although he slowed down when he entered the notorious doldrums, Hugo Boss is now through and still ahead.
With a full moon lighting the deck last night, Thomson said: “It’s been a fantastic day today. I think that is the easiest doldrums crossing I have ever had.”
“Normally the rich get richer at this stage. As I get further south I’ll get more wind and the wind will get more left which means I can ease the sails and go faster. That’s the normal trend and looking at the forecast that should happen,” he added.
Hugo Boss is now approaching the Equator on the 9th day of the race which could see Thomson as the first non-French sailor to reach the Equator in the Vendée Globe.
On top of this, the British skipper is on course to break the current record to the Equator, which was set by Jean Le Cam in 2004 when he reached the Equator in 10 days 11 hours.
In the last 24 hours, Alex Thomson has climbed through the fleet of IMOCA 60’s to take pole position in the 2016 Vendée Globe.
Having reached speeds of 17.8 knots to take back the lead from Armel Le Cléac’h, Hugo Boss has now slowed down significantly as Thomson sails into the doldrums.
As of 0900 UTC on 14 November 2016, Hugo Boss was doing between 9-10 knots.
This particular part of the Atlantic is notorious for its unstable conditions of light, unpredictable airs, but also violent squalls and thunderstorms with heavy rain.
This will be the first major obstacle for the frontrunners as they all look to find the fastest route through to the Southern Hemisphere.
Currently, Thomson appears to be going for a route to the east of his four closest rivals, Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire VIII, Sébastien Josse on Edmond de Rothschild. Vincent Riou (PRB) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ).
Thomson has already made a number of bold decisions since the race began. His decision to pass through a passage between the western Cape Verde islands is credited for putting him in his current position.
On 13 November 2016, the seven leading boats were spread out with a gap of 110 miles between then.
As of 0900 UTC on 14 November, that gap is down to 71 miles.
It is Sébastien Josse, who has achieved the best performance, allowing him for a while to grab second place from Vincent Riou before losing that spot to Armel Le Cléac’h, who had lost some ground after the Cape Verde Islands.
The skipper of PRB has regained around ten miles from Alex Thomson. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) regained 18 during the night, Morgan Lagravière (Safran) around 20, Paul Meilhat (SMA) 40, but honours go to Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) in eighth position.
In 12 hours, he has cut the distance to the leader from 192 to 132 miles.
Over the next three days, there is likely to be plenty of movement in the rankings as the boats pass through the doldrums.
This is only the eighth day of racing that is coming to an end, so for the leaders, there is still nine tenths of the voyage ahead of them.
This morning, Armel Le Cléac’h stressed that the 50 mile lead he had at the Equator in the 2012 Vendée Globe melted away in the Southern Hemisphere.
After doubts about his initial race strategy, Alex Thomson says he is in “high spirits” onboard Hugo Boss as the 2016 Vendée Globe fleet heads south.
As of 11.00 UTC on 10 November, Thomson is currently lying in ninth place as the IMOCA 60’s head towards the west coast of Africa.
He is just under 70 nautical miles behind race leader Armel Le Cleac’h on Banque Populaire VIII.
However, Hugo Boss, which initially led the race which began on 6 November, is now positioned as one of the most westerly boats.
This could be to Thomson’s advantage as this part of the Atlantic is renowned for having a wind shadow up to 150 nautical miles west of the island Madeira.
The winds have also picked up overnight and are forecast to continue to do so throughout the day.
This could see Hugo Boss pick up speed as the fleet approach the Equator.
Le Cleac’h is currently 10.53 nautical miles ahead of Vincent Riou on PBR.
Paul Meilhat on SMA lies third.
As of 11am UTC on 9 November, 2016, Hugo Boss skipper, Alex Thomson is in 8th place, after falling from podium position.
The leadership of the 2016 Vendée Globe has swapped between five different skippers since Sunday’s start.
Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h, a runner up in the last two Vendée Globes, is now out in front on Banque Populaire VIII.
Thomson, who came third in the 2012-13 race, yesterday questioned his strategy to break away to the east.
He admitted that his choice – executed partly in light of pre-start strategy – may not be as beneficial in the long term.
“I am not too sure about my positioning now,”” Thomson told Vendée Globe Live at midday (UTC) on 8 November.
“Initially I thought it was a good idea and part of the strategy at the beginning, I am not too sure it is going to pay off that well in the next day or so,” he conceded.
Le Cléac’h has sailed a more conservative line on Banque Populaire VIII, sticking closer to the direct route.
“The strategy has changed somewhat since the start, said Le Cléac’h on 8 November.
“The high is blocking us and the choice down the Portuguese coast isn’t as interesting as we initially thought. We’re keeping out to the west to pick up the next lot of wind. When you’re dealing with strategy it’s for the long term, in particular how to deal with Madeira and the Canaries. We need to choose our position in the coming hours,” he stated.
Closing in on Le Cléac’h is second placed Paul Meilhat on SMA, who was in fact the fastest in the fleet on Tuesday sailing almost 300 miles in just 24 hours.
Third place is Vincent Riou on PBR.
As expected, the conditions in the Bay of Biscay are favouring the new foilers in the 2016 Vendée Globe.
Overnight, the fleet has divided as British skipper Alex Thomson takes podium position with top speeds of 20 knots.
He is battling against two of the French favourites Armel le Cleac’h onboard Banque Populaire VIII and Jean Pierre Dick racing on St Michel Virbac.
Speaking ahead of the start, Thomson, who came third in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe, believes Hugo Boss is capable of winning.
“After four years, the day has finally arrived,” said Thomson. “The team has worked incredibly hard to get Hugo Boss ready and I am confident that we now have a boat which is genuinely capable of winning the race.”
“Of course, today is bitter sweet for me. I get to enjoy the atmosphere as thousands of people gather to wave myself and the other sailors off, but I also have to say goodbye to my wife and children, which never gets easier as time goes on,” continued the skipper.
“The next time they see me, I hope to be crossing the finish line on board Hugo Boss in first place. That would be an incredibly special moment not only for myself and my team, but for British sport as a whole,” he stressed.
Find out about the 2016-17 Vendée Globe in numbers below
The three leading boats are now around 14 nautical miles ahead of fourth placed Safran skippered by Morgan Lagravière.
The fleet has separated into three groups.
All the foilers except No Way Back are in the leading group. Pieter Heerema said from the outset that he would determine his own pace.
In addition to the trio out in front, Morgan Lagravière’s Safran, Jérémie Beyou’s Maître CoQ and Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild are in 4th, 6th and 7th place respectively.
Among the boats with straight daggerboards, it is Vincent Riou, who is doing the best, after a great start yesterday. PRB is currently in 5th place.
Paul Meilhat (SMA) aboard the boat that won the last edition (ex-Macif) is in 8th place, 20 or 30 nautical miles back from the leader.
It is here that the battle will rage between boats from the 2008 generation skippered by Yann Eliès, Tanguy de Lamotte, Thomas Ruyant, Jean Le Cam, Bertrand de Broc and Louis Burton.
How do you cook meals as well as sail in the Vendée Globe – one of the most competitive single handed yacht races in the world?
British skipper, Alex Thomson invited F1 race driver, Susie Wolff and big wave surfer, Sebastian Steudtner on board his £4.5 million IMOCA 60, Hugo Boss to taste the selection of freeze-dried food that will make up his menu for the next three months.
Once the race begins, the entrants are not allowed any additional food on board. Freeze-dried food is also lightweight – an all important factor when speed matters.
During the last Vendée Globe, Thomson lost eight kilos in 80 days. He calls his race menu “the most expensive diet in the world”.
Thomson finished in third place in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe.
This year, he seeks to make history and become the first British sailor ever to win the iconic race.
“If I can win this race it will be a huge moment in British sport. It’s been a long journey to get here, but we’re more ready than we will ever be. My motto for this race is simple: sail, survive and succeed and that’s what I aim to do,” commented Thomson.
The 2016 Vendée Globe starts from Les Sables d’Olonne in western France at 1202 UTC on 6 November 2016.
In all, four continents and ten nationalities are represented in the race.
There are 20 French competitors, one New Zealander (Conrad Colman), one Spaniard (Didac Costa), one Hungarian (Nandor Fa), one Dutchman (Pieter Heerema), one Irishman (Enda O’Coineen), one sailor from Switzerland (Alan Roura), one Japanese skipper (Kojiro Shiraishi), one from Britain (Alex Thomson) and an American (Rich Wilson).
This is the eighth edition of the race, which now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the official Vendée Globe Village, which is open from 15 October until 6 November, 2016.
During the first week, 300,000 people have visited the village, with 380,000 visiting the second week.
Commenting on the event, the President of the Vendée Globe, Yves Auvinet said: “We had prepared ourselves for crowds at the official village, but I must admit that the figures for the first two weeks surprised us, particularly with crowds strolling up and down the pontoons and in the aisles in the village.”
“The Indian Summer in Vendée since the opening, the high standard of the line-up for this eighth edition and the quality of the events and exhibitions in the Village have clearly attracted a lot of visitors. Once again, the magic of the Vendée Globe is working, as it has done with each edition,” he added.
The 2016 Vendée Globe in numbers
1: Previous winner lining up: Vincent Riou (in 2004-2005).
2: Number of birthdays to be celebrated at sea before mid-February (Conrad Colman 2nd December, Didac Costa 22nd December).
5: Sailors lining up for the fourth time: Bertrand de Broc, Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam, Vincent Riou and Alex Thomson.
7: Boats fitted with foils, including 1 older generation boat: Maitre Coq.
8: Editions. Launched in 1989, this is the 8th edition of the Vendée Globe, which takes place every four years.
10: Nationalities represented with for the first time a Japanese skipper, a Dutchman, a New Zealander and an Irishman.
14: the number of rookies lining up for their first Vendée Globe: Didac Costa, Thomas Ruyant, Alan Roura, Morgan Lagravière, Sébastien Destremau, Conrad Colman, Kojiro Shiraishi, Pieter Heerema, Romain Attanasio, Eric Bellion, Fabrice Amedeo, Enda O’Coineen, Paul Meilhat, Stéphane Le Diraison.
23: The age of the youngest entrant, the Swiss sailor Alan Roura.
43: Difference in age in years between Alan Roura (23) and Rich Wilson (66), the youngest and eldest competitor in the Vendée Globe.
50: The percentage increase in the number of boats in comparison to 2012.
78: days, 2 hours and 16 minutes: At the finish of the last race in 2013, François Gabart shattered the Vendée Globe record. The Frenchman improved on the previous reference time set by Michel Desjoyeaux in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe by six days.
80: Days. Only two sailors have completed the Vendée Globe in less than 80 days, the legendary time it took Philéas Fogg: François Gabart and Armel Le Cléac’h in 2013.
1998: the year the oldest IMOCAs in the 2016 fleet was built (Romain Attanasio’s Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) and TechnoFirst-faceOcean (Sébastien Destremau).
24,020: miles, or 40,075 kilometres – the theoretical distance. Remembering that most of the competitors will sail more, sometimes even more than 52,000km to avoid icebergs and areas of high pressure (where there are light winds).
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