It is recovery time in more ways than one for Kito De Pavant and Seb Audigane on Groupe Bel. Not only is the Mediterranean bred skipper on the verge of making a steady comeback among the peloton who are pursuing the runaway Barcelona World Race leader Virbac-Paprec 3, but it was revealed today that the ebullient De Pavant has been nursing two cracked ribs for the last two weeks and only now is he getting back to full working capacity.
De Pavant’s team reported today that their skipper had a fall while stacking equipment emerging from the Doldrums. “It was one evening. We were stacking (moving) the ton of equipment in the boat. It was hot and wet and I slipped in the sail locker. I fell on my back and it was very painful.”He recalled.
So incapacitating and painful was the injury that he revealed today that it was considered whether he should get off and swap with substitute Yannick Bestaven.
The relatively benign conditions in the south Atlantic, slowed by the Saint Helena anticyclone, has in fact been something of a blessing for De Pavant who, though forced to pass on a lot of the heavy work on deck on to his towering co-skipper, the Breton Audigane, is now able to work the ‘pumps’, the main pedestal winch. “ To have my two cracked ribs has been physically hard. It stopped me from working and helping Seb. The last two or three days it has improved a lot and now I can turn the handles. So Seb has had a lot of work on the deck. I was quite anxious that I would have to stop but for me it’s in the past now.”
Groupe Bel lies in fourth place, De Pavant also confirming today that they have erred more on the side of caution since the retirement yesterday of Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart due to their broken mast. Such a period of prudence is understandable on the part of De Pavant who was one of the first to have to retire on only the second night of from his Vendée Globe in 2008 with a broken mast, and also more recently having had to retire from his solo Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale in November with a mechanical failure.
Whilst Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron were the first to pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope at 0135hrs this morning, over a day quicker than Dick did when he lead the first edition with Damian Foxall at the same point in December 2007, the reference points to compare with the previous edition will be clouded by the fact that course is inherently different, a trajectory imposed by the greater number of successive ice gates in the Atlantic and South Indian Ocean.
Veteran Dominique Wavre, visibly delighted today to be surfing into the Roaring Forties, finally unshackled from manacles of the Saint Helena high which has been especially testing for him and partner Michèle Paret on Mirabaud. But, he noted, this will be all new for him after his dozen or so spells in the big south. The ice gates, he considers to be something close to a ‘necessary evil’:
“Usually we pass down to the south of the Kerguelen Islands and so this time we will pass well to the north. I never passed this way and so this time it will be rather different and so I don’t think my experience in the south will be very useful on this course.”Wavre considers that the passage across the Indian Ocean will be stop start – accelerator, brakes, accelerator, brakes as the fleet will be unable to ride the low pressures and will end up slowed in high pressure and transition zones.
Indeed leaders Virbac-Paprec 3 have so far done an excellent job of preparing for the inevitable, fighting hard for every mile to stave off the slow Sunday and Monday which are expected for them. Though they lost around 40 miles to the main pack of four boats which is pursuing them, Dick and Peyron’s lead is a seemingly comprehensive 587 miles this afternoon over MAPFRE, with third placed Estrella Damm making a southerly move on their rivals and profiting, quickest of this group this afternoon.
Standings at 1400hrs UTC Wednesday 27 January 27, 2011
1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at18 151 miles from finish
2 MAPFRE at 588 miles from leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 728 miles
4 GROUPE BEL at 770 miles
5 RENAULT Z.E at 866 miles
6 MIRABAUD at 1040 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at 1130 miles
8 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 1295 miles
9 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 1 461 miles
10 WE ARE WATER at 1698 miles
11 HUGO BOSS at 1730 miles
12 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 1809 miles
Dominique Wavre (SUI), Mirabaud: “We have a nice westerly swell now, we are under spinnaker and the boat is surfing, the sky is a bit overcast but the solar panels function well all the same. We will soon return into the Indian Ocean. Usually we pass down to the south of the Kerguelen Islands and so this time we will pass well to the north. I never passed this way and so this time it will be rather different and so I don’t think my experience in the south will be very useful on this course.
So unfortunately we are not free on our course and we will be a toy for the weather because we will become more passive in terms of our possible courses, but if we can avoid icebergs then it is good, even if it appears to be a bad thing.
Kito de Pavant (FRA), Groupe Bel: My cracked ribs happened before the Doldrums. And I wondered whether I would have to stop and be replaced by Yannick Bestaven but we chose to wait and see how things went. And from now on it is much better.
To have my two cracked ribs has been physically hard. It stopped me from working and helping Seb. The last two or three days it has improved a lot and now I can turn the handles. So Seb has had a lot of work on the deck. I was quite anxious that I would have to stop but for me it’s in the past now.
We 20-25 knots and a bit less sail than we might, because of what happened to Mich and François, it shook us a little. But our number 1 priority of Audigane and De Pavant is sail fast but sail safe.
I am glad to be in the Forties. The weather is not too cold, conditions are not too difficult. It is going well, we have a lot of confidence in the boat and the crew. Thus we will see what happens in the Pacific but we have a long way to go. The greyness is a little unpleasant because I am Mediterranean, I am not that keen on that. And we have a little heating inside that ensures we don’t get too cold.”
Ryan Breymaier (USA) Neutrogena: »We got the kite up, 30-40 miles before Gough Island and then gybed a couple of times to go around that mark and get further south. We got quite close to the island and made the final gybe for the night and have had the big kite and the full main since in up to 28 or 29 knots of breeze, so we have been pushing along because of it. The breeze has backed down to about 20 now, but we had a pretty big night with nice waves to surf down and that has really helped.
We wanted to see it, we did a little touristing. I don’t think either of us had ever seen one of these tiny little islands that you always see on the chart and we decided that to hell with it we were just going to get close and see what it looks like. At the end of the day it looks like all the other islands, a volcanic island, quite tall surrounded by clouds with high cliffs. We actually made a little mistake when we got into the wind shadow of the island for a few seconds.
We sail pretty conservatively in terms of how we make manouvers and so we have not had any problems with rig or sails or anything like that.
It is a shame for Mich and Francois. It surprises me that the rig broke on that boat. If there is one boat which is going to have a big mechanical like that for me it was not those guys. »
Wouter Verbraak (NED) Hugo Boss: »Over the last couple of days we have had this fight with this high pressure system which has been testing us all the time. So at the moment we have still got a little bit of light winds, but there is quite a bit low pressure system moving in from the west, so we are just preparing everything so that we can be fast and safe.
Both Andy and myself hate losing and especially when there is nothing much you can do about it. So it has been a frustrating time but we have been keeping our perspective on this race which is a marathon and a lot can happen between now and when we get back to Barcelona. We will probably start to head west soon but will be properly into the Southern Ocean weather, and tonight it will be time to dig out the hats and gloves, because it is not going to get any warmer.
We are happy with what we have done. The boat is not quick in the light winds, and a lot is governed by your distance to the leader and unfortunately we were on the wrong side of that divide. »
So we had a problem with the top batten on the main and had to put our sailmakers’ hats on which is quite a new experience for myself. We had to take the main down and used a bunch of sikaflex, and so we had black everywhere, or ourselves and the sail, but we are pretty confident the repair will be good and strong and carry us to the finish without stopping
For us it is actually very good, the more ice gates there are the better for us. It means that the boats will have to stay north with more chance of getting stuck in a high pressure system, so for us it is good.
Over the next 24 hours then we will be dealing with our first low pressure, first we make sure that the main repair is as strong as we think it is. We are first going to have the focus on being safe and then fast.