Vendée Arctique – Les Sables d’Olonne: the race course is shortened, stopped at the Iceland gate

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The strong low pressure system in the North Atlantic near Iceland which is hitting the fleet still racing on the Vendée Arctique Les Sables d’Olonne has proven to be more dangerous than first forecast. The race direction has decided to make the Iceland Gate – to the east of Iceland – the finish line.

Three solo skippers had already crossed the gate this morning, Charlie Dalin (APIVIA), Jérémie Beyou (Charal) and Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut). At the time of writing Benjamin Ferré (Monnoyeur-Duo for a Job) was approaching what has become the finish line and was set to take fourth position. But the increasing threat from the low pressure precipitated the organisation’s decision this evening. A constant detailed analysis of all of the weather models and the weather phenomena in the area affecting the 20 solo skippers still racing, finally made the decision obvious, considering the need to allow the solo racers to remove themselves from the worst threat as soon as possible, either by taking shelter or sailing away from the worst of the winds.

Francis Le Goff, race director, explains the decisions of the race direction: “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.”

Le Goff adds, "We knew in advance about these rapid and brutal weather changes in this area, but here our worst fears are coming true in terms of the weather. But what everyone has experienced during the 1500 miles or so of this ascent towards Iceland – the difficulty of the sailing and navigation, the struggle to manage the boats, the resistance to these harsh elements – represent an impressive preparation for a Vendée Globe" .

Alain Leboeuf, President of SAEM Vendée and of the Department of Vendée points out that: “Reason tells us to follow the path of caution. It would not be reasonable to expose sailors to more danger without giving them the possibility of taking cover. It is the responsibility of a race organizer not to put these solo sailors in unnecessary danger. I have every confidence in the decisions made by race management. Ocean racing remains an adventure but you have to know how to prioritise”. 

Charlie Dalin (APIVIA), who arrived at the Iceland Gate at 02:23:20hrs HF. on Friday June 17 after 4 days, 9 hours, 23 minutes and 20 seconds, is therefore the first to finish. He was followed by Jérémie Beyou (Charal) who arrived at the Iceland gate at 06:04hrs HF, after 4 days, 13 hours and 4 minutes, 3 hours 43 minutes and 34 seconds after the first placed Dalin. Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) arrived at the Iceland gate at 09:33hrs, after 4 days, 16 hours and 33 minutes, 7 hours and 10 minutes after Dalin and was the third to have crossed the line

Ed note: HF = UTC +2hrs