From the mountains he holds so dear, Aurélien Ducroz has been keeping an eye on his first Class40, Crosscall, which is currently under construction at V1D2 in Caen. Hugely excited by the progress of his Lombard plan, which should splash before the beginning of the season, Aurélien has set himself several objectives, firstly to continue developing his double-handed sailing, culminating in the Transat Jacques Vabre and then to focus on delivering the boat back to Europe solo. Between each ski run, Aurélien hasn’t lost interest in the Vendée Globe and follows every move played out by his friend and former teammate Yannick Bestaven, who currently leads the fleet as they make their way north and to the sanctuary of home.
I couldn’t be happier for Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ). He’s shown just how good he is, at times it has been total mastery. He’s racing the race of his life and it’s so good to see. It seems that his boat remains at 100%, perhaps an advantage over his two nearest pursuers, Charlie Dalin (Apivia) and Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOUT), but these two are exceptional sailors! Yannick will be looking over his shoulder whilst remaining entirely focused on what is ahead. The last few days of the Pacific certainly “hit him hard”. Once the Horn was passed the relief must have equalled his level of tiredness. After some sleep his decision on how to tackle the high, once again, really paid off!
Thanks to Yannick I’ve certainly raised my game. We finished 4th in the 2013 Transat Jacques-Vabre in Class40, we had some great conditions and an old boat, it really was an extraordinary opportunity to sail with him!
From the start, he has had an exceptional Vendée Globe and to see him pass the Horn in the lead was really exceptional. It is the perfect revenge for him after the 2008 Vendée Globe which was disastrous (Yannick dismasted only 24 hours after the start). He seems really on his way to winning this Vendée even though the deal has not yet been concluded. Yannick still has a decisive two-three days left before securing the lead.
Even though he knows he has extra time for the part he played in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier, he's not going to be wondering. There are of course the doldrums but that is still less complicated when you take it in the west than in the east. That said with Yannick, in 2013, we entered 4th and came out in 8th… It was a real pain!
The beautiful surprises of Burton, Seguin and Sorel
Maxime Sorel (V&B), is in my opinion, having one of the most beautiful races. Sailing a boat that has never gone further than the Pacific in the two previous editions (ex-Groupe Bel and ex-Souffle du Nord) he must be loving life. Damien Seguin (Apicil) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) are two others that are sailing the race of their lives!
Louis quite frankly through caution to the wind in his choice of trajectory. He’s sailed a very clean race and even after stopping at Macquarie Island to repair the mainsail lock, he’s recovered well and maintains 5th place. He’s showed an incredible ability to control the boat and make daring stratetic choices that have paid off! Of course Jean Le Cam (YES WE CAM!) has sailed the perfect race and his stable mate, Damien Seguin has been unbelievable and remains well placed for the return up the Atlantic. We know the boat is still running at 100%.
A crazy scenario and disappointing last generation foilers
This edition of the Vendée Globe will nevertheless remain as an incredible succession of surprises and scenarios. The weather has been hugely complicated and the skippers had to take control as opposed to letting the boats do the leg work. There has been relatively little damage so far, that’s pretty cool. On the other hand, the small amount we have seen has been limited to the lastest edition of foiling boats. I wonder whether they have gone too far in their quest for speed? It feels like they were always sailing with the breaks on because they might be going too fast, perhaps even out of control in the deep south.
We also saw that in the depression before Cape Horn, Armel Tripon (L'Occitane en Provence), with a latest generation foiler, could not overtake Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire) although she has a 2012 boat. (ex-Macif)!
I fully agree with Ian Lipinski (read last column) in opening the discussion of bow volumes in IMOCA. It revolutionized the design of the Class40, I can't even imagine what a carbon IMOCA60 with a real scow bow could do!
Picture 1: Yannick Bestaven / Muriel Vandenbempt / Maître CoQ
Picture 2: Maxime Sorel / V&B
Picture 3: Damien Seguin / Robin Christol
Picture 4: Louis Burton Atour du Monde