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Return to the news 08 November 2016

I'm getting into the swing of my round the world race

Vendée Globe 2016-2017 Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild Sébastien Josse

They haven't hung about! After two days at sea, the leading pack in the Vendée Globe is already closing on the latitude of Lisbon. However, Sébastien Josse has stuck to his word for the start of the race. Indeed, the skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild was keen to set off in marathon' rather than sprint' mode given the marathon distance of this round the world. In this way, he's endeavoured not to put the five-arrow boat under too much pressure from the outset, especially amidst the lines of squalls that traversed the Bay of Biscay on Sunday night and through into Monday. With the wind oscillating between 10 and 25 knots, the solo sailor has opted to sail with his foils raised in a bid to manoeuvre correctly and calmly negotiate the tricky section off Cape Finisterre yesterday lunchtime. This Tuesday, in the early afternoon, Sébastien Josse was positioned in fifth place some 20.4 miles astern of Alex Thomson, who yesterday opted to position himself over to the East with the aim of holding onto more pressure along the coast of Portugal. On the approach to a ridge of high pressure, which is barring the fleet's way to the South, the average speeds have dropped below 8 knots and the big question now is how this zone of light winds will evolve.

The powerful images of the boats exiting the canal out of Les Sables d'Olonne and the great emotion of the start are now behind them, as is the biting cold, which has since given way to Portuguese sunshine. In more manageable conditions, Sébastien Josse was able to send his first images of the open ocean this morning and he also took the time to contact his shore crew: “Right now, the conditions are still fairly irregular and the wind is rather light. It's set to stay that way throughout the day as the ridge of high pressure sprawls over us. It's doing us good as the start of the race was rather tough. It was a boisterous exit from Biscay in the squalls and I've spared no effort. Conditions are such that you sleep little and eat little,” he explains. At the Vendée Globe radio link-up at midday, the skipper admitted that he'd managed to rack up just two hours' sleep last night.

Whoever wants to go far spares his steed

This adage was seemingly written for the demanding Vendée Globe, the longest marathon in the history of offshore racing. “It was my idea to sail a prudent race at the start and that's what I've done. The Vendée Globe is long and it isn't won in the Bay of Biscay, though it can be lost there!” he pointed out. “I've been sailing with the foils raised and clearly the three boats that have made their escape at the front of the pack have not done the same. I have absolutely no regrets about that because today I'm just twenty miles or so behind that group. To my mind there was too much risk involved and not enough gain.”

Sailing down the middle  

Next up, the entire fleet, with the exception of the Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi and the Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema, opted to pass between the TSS (Traffic Separation System, through which it is prohibited for the Vendée Globe competitors to sail) and the cliffs of La Coruña. Though this course is shorter, the sailor always approaches the zone with a certain apprehension, both in terms of the significant undertow there and the dense maritime shipping, which calls for the utmost vigilance on deck.

Aboard Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien treated himself to two stellar pirouettes in this zone: “On exiting the TSS at Cape Finisterre, under the gaze of Morgan (Lagravière), the automatic pilot malfunctioned and I crash gybed. Morgan called me up to check I hadn't hurt myself, but no, no injuries, just a stanchion that didn't appreciate the freestyling,” explained Sébastien.

In the top trio level with Porto, Alex Thomson and Jean-Pierre Dick chose to gybe in a bid to hunt down more breeze near the coast. “I considered gybing along the coast of Portugal like St Michel and Hugo Boss, but there weren't any real gains to be had. At the start, you could hold onto more pressure but, ultimately, you still have to get in some westing. I've just run the routing on Jean-Pierre's course and our routes are very similar,” he continues. The wind is due to kick back in soon and tomorrow the zone of high pressure should have retracted over to the West, opening the door to the tradewinds. In view of the long term strategy, the competitors are already beginning to position themselves for the section encompassing Madeira and the Canaries, which is one of the reasons why a westerly trajectory is appealing.

Close-contact racing
In his video today, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild offers us a panorama of the skippers within his vicinity. Like us, Sébastien is watching which sails his close rivals are carrying whenever he gets the chance. This source of interrogation will doubtless colour the coming weeks of close-contact racing given how different the forms and the possible sail combinations are from one boat to the next. “Right now, we're bunched together with Vincent (Riou) and Yann (Eliès), within sight of one another, and it's pretty funny because not one of us has the same headsail configuration… We're now going to have to shake off the ridge of high pressure and it'll be essential to get the timing right! For now, I'm gradually getting into the swing of things as a ‘round the world sailor' and it's rather enjoyable!” concluded Sébastien Josse.

Today's figures
At 14:00 GMT, Edmond de Rothschild was in 5th position
Some 20.4 miles behind leader Alex Thomson
Distance covered over the last 24 hours: 287.05 miles
Distance covered over the ground since the start: 692.10 miles 

Ranking on 8 November at 14:00 GMT
  1. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 23,774.2 miles from the finish
  2. Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel - Virbac) 7.1 miles behind the leader
  3. Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 7.2 miles behind the leader
  4. Vincent Riou (PRB) 19.6 miles behind the leader
  5.  Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 20.4 miles behind the leader
  6. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 24.9 miles behind the leader
  7. Yann Eliès (Gueguiner - Leucémie Espoir) 30 miles behind the leader
  8. Paul Meilhat (SMA) 31.2 miles behind the leader
  9. Morgan Lagravière (Safran) 37 miles behind the leader
  10. Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-Cœur) 42.9 miles behind the leader
    ...
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