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Return to the news 19 November 2016

On the leading edge of the front

Vendée Globe 2016-2017 Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild Sébastien Josse

As expected, the leading boats have hooked onto the back of a low offshore of Rio de Janeiro, which is enabling them to bend their course round towards the Cape of Good Hope. Most importantly though, with this phenomenon, where the wind has strengthened to between 20 and 25 knots as it gradually shifts round to the North, Sébastien Josse and his adversaries have been able to pick up the pace. Since last night, the speeds have been constantly increasing and they've switched things up a gear in relation to what was already a very steady pace. As a result, the 24hr record* held by François Gabart since 2012 may well fall! At the 14:00 GMT ranking, Edmond de Rothschild was lying in 3rd place in a fleet still led by Alex Thomson. The Briton has made his first break this Saturday afternoon with a lead of 130 miles but via his website we've learnt that the latter has been experiencing issues with his starboard foil following a collision with an unidentified floating object this morning.

The phenomenon was identified several days ago but it was still necessary to respect the timing that would enable them to make the most of the system. For those leading the way in this Vendée Globe, it's job done in that regard, as testified by the speeds recorded by the top boats since this morning. From Hugo Boss to Maître CoQ, this group of seven – of which five are foilers – has managed to hitch a ride down to South Africa, carried along by a stormy low that was generated in the bay of Rio de Janeiro. For now, they're making headway on the leading edge of this front, but we'll have to wait for the coming days to see if everyone manages to hang on in there and use this express ride to its full potential.

“Since the start, the conditions we've been benefiting from have been perfect for getting the boat making headway. It puts pressure on the sailor, but at least we're making good speed and devouring the miles!” admitted Sébastien Josse. Besides the sharp movements generated by the Imocas at such speeds, life aboard is becoming more than tricky and the solo sailors are stepping up the vigilance in a bid to prevent injury: “I've been making peak speeds of 30 knots since this morning! In these conditions, you limit your movement around the boat as much as possible and you wedge yourself in where you can down below or under the cuddy. That said, the sea is already smoother, which is quite a help,” explained the skipper of the five-arrow racing stable.

Keeping pace 
Boasting an average speed over the past four hours of 23.3 knots at the last position report, Edmond de Rothschild is unquestionably the fastest of the fleet, closely followed by PRB and Safran. The rhythm set by Sébastien Josse since this morning has enabled them to make up a little ground on the leader with some 18 miles clawed back since the 08:00 GMT ranking. All the more so given that Alex Thomson has reduced his speed substantially over recent hours following a collision with a non-identified floating object this morning, which has caused some pretty significant damage to his starboard foil. 

Watching how things play out
In front of Edmond de Rothschild, the weather situation appears to be rather complex as the Saint Helena High is still positioned a long way South and right out to the East. In this way, though the negotiation of the South Atlantic promises to be quick, the passage of Good Hope and the entry into the Indian Ocean is likely to be tough for the leading solo sailors. From his chart table, Sébastien Josse is already examining the forecasts, even though for now the main focus aboard the latest of the Gitana fleet is to slip along as quickly as he can to the South-East, keeping man and machine safe.

Today's figures

At 14:00 GMT, Edmond de Rothschild in 3rd place
130 miles behind the leader Alex Thomson
Distance covered over the past 24 hours: 487.58 miles at an average speed of 20.3 knots
Distance covered over the ground since the start: 4,872.39 miles at an average speed of 15.5 knots

Ranking on 19 November at 14:00 GMT
  1. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 19,860.7 miles from the finish
  2. Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 125.6 miles behind the leader
  3. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 130.9 miles behind the leader
  4. Vincent Riou (PRB) 190.9 miles behind the leader
  5. Morgan Lagravière (Safran) 228.7 miles behind the leader
  6. Paul Meilhat (SMA) 290.3 miles behind the leader
  7. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 370.7 miles behind the leader
  8. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir) 624.5 miles behind the leader
    …
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