The amalgamation of Southern Ocean depressions is set to really liven things up in the Vendee Globe fleet

While the leading bunch of five Vendee Globe boats enjoy a relatively quiet time as they head towards the southern tip of New Zealand, those behind are preparing themselves for what looks to be the ‘perfect storm’.

According to the latest forecast a low pressure system is building off Madagascar. This will descend south and join up with a system already in the north-west of the racetrack and create hurricane force winds.

The likes of Conrad Humphreys (Hellomoto), Karen Leibovici (Benefic), AKENA Vérandas (Raphaël Dinelli) and Roxy (Anne Liardet) are already taking the full brunt of this particular depression but Bruce Schwab (Ocean Planet), who is currently furthest north in the fleet, will take a beating over the next 24 hours. Commenting on the situation Schwab said: “My northerly excursion is looking like a bigger blunder every minute. In hindsight I should have gybed behind the ridge and taken our knocks in the hole, given what little wind and lousy heading we’ve had.

“Losing miles is one thing, getting slammed by a depression is another and that is what I had hoped to avoid the most. One of the reasons I have worked north is to try to be above a depression that has been showing on the weather models. Unfortunately, the depression now looks more like a long trough extending far north with no chance of going over the top. The trough will actually intensify in a couple of days from now, and it is right where we are headed. I was up almost all night looking at ways to avoid it, but I am coming up empty.”

Schwab is not the only one in for a rough time. Joe Seeten (Arcelor Dunkerque) and Patrice Carpentier (VM Materiaux), just to the north-east of the Kerguelen Islands, are in for the biggest battering. They are currently experiencing a lull (in between the two depressions) but in the early hours of Saturday morning when the two systems meet they could find themselves in the eye of the monster storm.

Because the system is forecast to track south-east, Nick Moloney (Skandia) and Marc Theircelin (Pro-Form) who are further north-east, could escape the worst. Chatting from the boat this morning while still recovering from yesterday’s epic adventure see previous news story here. Moloney commented: “I am looking forward to getting under Australia, for some reason I will feel more comfortable.”

Since the storm Moloney has been assessing the damage to the boat and trying to put the pieces back together again. He continued: “Getting better every time I fix something, every time something gets back online it makes me feel good. I’ve been quite hard on myself to get the boat going again. Now there are no huge waves, but it’s still choppy [a relative term!]. Big Southern Ocean swell, big rollers sometimes breaking, but no energy in them. We’ve been hit by a few waves, but nothing like I’ve seen before of course. Very overcast, quite mild in fact. I want to keep pressing?

“I can’t believe that there is nothing wrong with the mast after what happened, but from here it seems it ok. Everything has been wet. Got the heaters working and its starting to dry out down below. I’m only just finding everything. I’m finding items in places that I can’t work out how they got there.”

At the front of the fleet things couldn’t be much closer with Vincent Riou (PRB) having a relatively slim 43-mile lead over Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle). Chatting this morning Riou shared his concerns: “I think we’re heading towards a new start. There’s a ridge of high pressure and everybody’s coming back with it. We’re still moving but they’re ‘less stuck’.

“We’re a few knots slower than them. I’m not that happy but it’s part of the game. We have less air so we have to work harder because we don’t have a 400-mile leeway anymore. The forecast changes everyday so we can’t really make any long-term strategy until we pass New Zealand.

“For now we’ll be match racing with the five boats close together. With the fog we’ve only got 200m of visibility and there’s a swell coming in from behind. There isn’t much wind so you couldn’t say it was fun. I feel I’m better positioned for the next gateway than Jean but I’ll have to be on it all the time and work hard. No time to think about loneliness!”