It is probably the most exciting Vendée Globe of all time: After the initial phase, five skippers took the lead, kept changing places, the lead of 800 miles on the field melts down to 100 in a few days. Almost all skippers around the world fix themselves, thanks to the ever more detailed video updates from on board almost every participant, the fans understand what a lot of work it is to keep an Open 60 in race mode and how much breaks down all the time.
But the really exciting thing is that the new foilers are far less able to dominate the race than all pre-race predictions had predicted. Boris Herrmann has been fighting tough fights for thousands of miles against seemingly inferior opponents like Jean Le Cam ("Yes We Cam"), Damien Seguin ("Groupe Apicil") or Benjamin Dutreux ("OmiWater Family"). Louis Burton cuts through the field with a boat from 2016 with small foils like the proverbial hot knife through the Breton salted butter. And at the very front, in an equally old boat with the same foils, Yannick Bestaven apparently controls the race at will - although pursuers Charlie Dalin and Thomas Ruyant have been on the hull side with the foil intact for days.
Boris Herrmann provided part of the explanation for this again and again in the weekly interviews that he gave on board via the zoom switch: "The old boats like Jean Le Cam's are not slower than we are in pure VMG downwind running. The foilers show their advantages especially in close-hauled conditions in not too high seas. " And so far there have hardly been any. To clarify: The new, larger foils bring about 400 kilos more weight on board; afterwards, many teams found that the structure was not up to the forces in some areas and strengthened various bulkheads and areas. The team leader of "DMG Mori" once said that practically every newly built foil was later laboriously re-laminated. Each team has put an extra 200 to 300 kilograms of extra weight on itself. In addition, in winds below 10 to 12 knots, the attachments of most foilers tend to brake rather than bring more speed because they are not retracted completely.
Status of the race this morning
And: The competition of the non-foilers was not idle: Ryan Breymaier recently said that Jean le Cam had done everything to get his Open 60 further out of the water with the bow. So he drives a 7 degree mast halyard aft, so that his boat doesn’t dive too early with the tip of the bow into the waves in rough seas; In addition, it has also been weight-optimized. If it gets rough, the old master can keep his foot on the gas longer. It was also noticeable that Le Cam drove much deeper courses somewhat than Boris Herrmann on large courses and was therefore faster because he drove slower, but the more direct route. It's not surprising to hear that Damien Seguin's "Groupe Apicil" has also been tweaked by Le Cam's team.
Second problem: At the head two boats are sailing whose foils broke without colliding with floating debris ("LinkedOut") or they almost levered the sword case out of the hull ("Apivia"). One boat actually broke it in the sea under the weight of the foils ("PRB"), another showed massive delamination of the force-transmitting structure ("Hugo Boss"). It is quite clear that the new, huge, sometimes almost three times longer foils have the power to completely destroy the boat. Accordingly, their skippers have been sailing on raw eggs for a long time. "I sail with the foils fully taken in", Boris Herrmann often admitted, especially in the Indian Ocean. Many boats have load sensors that are supposed to start and protect against overload. They obviously do that a lot.
Only two boats seem to be different: When Yannick Bestaven sailed in very bad weather shortly before Cape Horn and Charlie Dalin couldn't follow, it was just one sentence in a video from board that made people sit up and take notice: "My 'Maître Coq' is extremely strong, I still ride with a full foil, "he said in a subordinate sentence. The much shorter attachments of his Open 60s, the old "Safran" by Morgan Lagravière from 2016, can apparently still be driven when the modern competition is already starting to catch up with them. That also explains the speed of Louis Burton's "Bureau Vallée 2" quite well, because it is a sister ship, the old "Banque Populaire" of the last Vendée winner Armel Le Cléac'h.
With this in mind, it will be all the more curious to see how things continue to Cape Horn, which "LinkedOut" and "Groupe Apicil" passed as the third and fourth boat last night. Because then they should come, the conditions for the foilers: not too high swell, stable winds in the trade winds and a lot of upwind. Boris Herrmann has already announced that his boat is still at 100 percent performance and that he will attack when he has the magical landmark behind him. With Dmit "Apivia" and LinkedOut "sailing two boats in front, which can no longer use the port foil, which is statistically more important on the way back, things can get really exciting again.