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Vendee Globe IMOCA 60 performance and speed

Posted on 1st January 2021

Most Vendee Globe followers will be familiar with the virtual bungie cord that ‘connects’ yachts as they race around the globe. Spread out and experiencing different weather systems, however carefully we log data it can be difficult on a day by day, even a week by week basis to draw conclusions as so much divides the boats; longitude, latitude, breakages/sail damage and not least the physical and mental condition of the skippers. This week has been an interesting one in the Southern Ocean, which for this race so far has been unusually benign.


For sure we have seen some big changes in the 7-day period. Stand out performances were Charlie Dalin taking the lead on Christmas Day, Jean Le Cam in 3rd on Boxing Day just 300 miles behind the leader (with a time compensation for the rescue of Kevin Escoffier worth @ 200 miles) and Maxim Sorel, also on his first Vendee reaching 5th mid-week. Numbers alone however don’t tell a story without careful interpretation/watching the weather. The largest delta in speeds between any two boats (16.6 kts) in a 24-hour period tells us that the fleet is stretched out across different weather systems. However, in a week or ten days of comparison there are some indicators of what’s going on.


Amongst this lead group the stand out sailor for me as the boats approach Cape Horn is Damien Seguin, sailing a 2008 boat, which for the last twelve years showed absolutely zero form in the hands of other skippers. There is still two thirds of the race to go and the climb up the Atlantic presents a complete new set of conditions, a third start. We have always maintained since Kingfisher days that if you’re within a day’s reach of the top three at Cape Horn, it’s game on. Never before have we had so many boats so close together at this stage of the race. As Sequin says: “People have been saying that the foilers are going to accelerate, and it might well be on this climb up the Atlantic. We’ll see. In any case, at Cape Horn it won’t be over. We know that this particular ascent has often been full of surprises.” We know that to be true.


As a footnote: I can’t help but notice the majority of the skippers in my list are from Class 40 and there are four non-foiling, cost effective boats that are more than ten years old in the group. Food for thought perhaps for those without big budgets entering and needing to finish The Ocean Race and Vendee Globe 2024. Talk at the start of these races, particularly in the yachting press is always about outright speed and at the finish in LSD amongst the sailors and teams it’s about choices taken, mistakes made and breakages/down time.

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