The second edition of the Vendée Arctique has been stopped midway through the race as a 50 knot storm and cross seas were deemed too dangerous to continue
The second edition of the Vendée Arctique has been brought to a stop by race organisers halfway through the course as a dangerous low pressure system has been deemed too dangerous to let the solo sailors continue in the IMOCA 60 race.
Although the original plan was to restart the race after the weather system has passed, a strong low pressure system in the North Atlantic near Iceland has proven to be more dangerous than first forecast so race race organisers decided to make the Iceland Gate – to the east of Iceland – the finish line. The first three skippers have passed the Iceland Gate.
Francis Le Goff, race director, explained the decision: “The depression is over the area and some will have difficulty reaching the Iceland gate. But as the situation is no better once through this gate, we preferred to make it the finish line so that the solo sailors can immediately make sure they can get to safety.
“The winds are not only strong but unstable. And the local effects in the fjords will not make it easy for other boats to get in and moor. So closing the course is the best solution, making this the finish line and allowing the sailors to find the best solution for each of them, with the ongoing support of race direction and the expertise of their respective technical teams.
“The objective is that when the worst of the depression has passed – expected to be by Saturday afternoon – the skippers can head for Les Sables d’Olonne, which in itself will not be simple, since they will not be sheltered from new strong winds.”
The Vendée Arctique course runs from Les Sables d’Olonne, France and was due to round Iceland before the fleet head south again to the finish back in Les Sables d’Olonne, France. However, wind conditions have been unfavourable since the fleet set off, with a high pressure ridge in the early days of the race slowing the entire fleet significantly.
Then, when a significant low pressure appeared on the forecast, organisers made the decision to replace the rounding of Iceland with a point to the south of the country with the hopes the fleet might be able to head south before the worst of the weather made things too dangerous for the bulk of the fleet – which had already seen a significant amount of separation due to the early high pressure ridge.
But it recently became clear that even that change would not be enough to shelter the fleet from the worst of the low pressure system, so organisers took the decision to make the rounding point to the south of Iceland an effective finish.
The decision was taken because the deepening low pressure system which is passing across the course area Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th June, has winds forecast to gust up to 45-50 knots with dangerous cross seas.
Vendee Arctique winner
Charlie Dalin, who has once again in this race proved both his offshore tactical nous and the raw pace of his IMOCA60 Apivia, led through the Iceland gate at 02:23:20hrs HF (00:23:20 UTC) Friday 17 June 2022.
Jérémie Beyou on Charal was 2nd, 3 hours 43 minutes and 34 seconds after Dalin, while Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut took 3rd. Benjamin Ferré (Monnoyeur – Duo For A Job) was 4th and the first daggerboard (non-foiler) boat on the former Macif/SMA.
While 15 boats finished, the number of abandonments increased as conditions continued to deteriorate.
Among those finally conceding defeat to the conditions over the course of Friday and Saturday were Isabelle Joschke, Arnaud Boissières and Manu Cousin who abandoned. Both Boissières – a four-times Vendée Globe finisher – and Joschke were less than 50 miles from the finish line which was directly upwind into more than 40 knots of icy, northerly winds.
Speaking to Race HQ in Les Sables d’Olonne, 2016-17 Vendée Globe veteran Éric Bellion (COMME UN SEUL HOMME Powered by ALTAVIA) described the endurance conditions the fleet had been sailing in: “Often the boat was nearly at 90 degrees. It was extremely, extremely hard sailing. I thought about giving up several times. But I found the resources inside me to continue.”
Bellion also recounted how he came close to a collision with Sébastien Marsset (Cap Agir Ensemble) in 40 knots of wind. The VHF crackled on both sides and they struggled to hear each other to communicate to avoid one another. Marsset pulled up his helm and missed Bellion, but at the same time Marsset’s rudder kicked up and he lost control. “It was as if you were on a bike hurtling down an embankment trying to avoid a car,” a visibly relieved Sébastien Marsset recounted after finishing.
Pip Hare finished in 13th. Speaking to race organisers on her final approach to the finish she said: “As long as I get through the next 15 minutes, looks like I’m coming in in thirteenth, which I am so happy about.
“I really feel like I’m starting to get somewhere now. I said I wanted to be in touch with Giancarlo, with Isabelle, and I’m ahead of some big foil boats. The good guys with similar boats to me are still consistently ahead of me but at times I was challenging them so just as the race is ending here, we are where we are.”
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