At 1 pm Paris time the Vendee Globe Ocean Race was off to a record breaking start. It was wet and grey. 5 boats were over early and one boat did not even cross the line before being holed by its own support boat.
Bertrand de Broc was trying to have his support boat help him make a sharp turn and instead an unanticipated wave caused the support boat to smash a fist sized hole in the side of the boat. He probably could have repaired it at sea but it is not worth the risk, when the option to go ashore is there and do it right. The eventual winner of the race in 2009, Michel Desjoyeaux, won after re-starting forty hours behind the fleet. de Broc will have to wait for the tide to be right to get out of the harbour. These boats draw almost 15 ft and the tides in Brittany are huge, so there is a limited window for leaving and entering the harbour.
5 boats over early is a bit of a surprise with such a long race ahead of them, but no one wants to look bad for the cameras and these are not easy boats to maneuver in tight spaces. A slight increase in wind velocity in the last 1-2 minutes could have made all the difference in calculating time an distance to the line.
Looks like the youngest sailor, Fracois Gabat is in the lead, but I think there is a problem with the way they are collecting positional data. There is actually a note about this on the Vendee site, which was not all that clear. The problem is that the positional data from each boat may not come in at exactly the same time and so the race positions are not actually the snapshot one might expect. I am not sure why this happens. I don't think positional information is based on the skippers actually sending their position as in some offesho"ping" the boats, promoting the onboard equipment to send a position back. I suspect that not every "ping" gets through and thus the different timing of positional data. If anyone knows the actual answer for why this is happening, would be great to hear from you.
The first big challenge for the teams will be when they set their spinnakers after rounding Cape Finistere and head south toward the equator. It is predicted to be windy and I suspect that the boats will still be close so skippers will be tired and forced to stay on deck more to watch out for each other and they will be in a shipping lane for a while.
The good news is that the forecast is favourable for getting to the Equator quickly and this means that one essential condition for a record time for the race is in place. Typically the wind will be light near the the equator so the faster you get there, the better because you will probably be parked up there for a while no matter what.
Watching the footage from France online, I was amazed at how one never tires of watching a beautiful boat slip through the water. Even in the lumpy, disorganized seas with lots of powerboat chop these boats are a beautiful thing to behold. They slip through the water so gracefully. They really are a marvel. The world would be a better place if we built more boats than bombs. And Scott this is not just directed at Americans although you guys do make lots of bombs - fortunately you also make lots of boats:)
Signing off until tomorrow.