Vincent Riou fired a defiant broadside across the bows of the new foiling boats after finishing fifth this morning (Friday) in the inaugural 2016 New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode.
Faced with a an even more complicated Bay of Biscay than welcomed the first three boats home, Riou (PRB) was followed in four and a half hours later
by Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives Coeur, the ex-2006 PRB, that Riou took third place on in the 2008-09 Vendée Globe, after the dramatic rescue of Jean Le Cam in the Pacific.
For the 44-year-old Riou, winner of the 2004-05 Vendée Globe, and a perennial favourite, the real frustration was that he is not used to coming so far down the fleet. “Along with the Route du Rhum (in 2014) this is my second worst result in an IMOCA race, so I'm not going to jump for joy,” Riou said, “but it was a transat that was full of lessons and gave me a progress report on my programme. It’s satisfying because even if there was a small spanner in the works, overall, both man and machine are ready to face the oceans.”
Riou, dubbed “Vincent the Terrible” by Le Cam after his relentless performance when winning the Vendée Globe, remained bullish about his chances against the foiling boats, that occupied all three places on the podium in this race and have won the last three solo IMOCA transats.
“They (the leaders) had a great race,” Riou, who is in a non-foiling, previous generation boat, said. “I’m very sorry not to have been one of them. When I had to let go (because of technical problems) I was at the front, so I don’t have many regrets. I don’t know what sea conditions they had, but I don’t think they crossed that section of the North Atlantic very quickly, despite ideal conditions to cut loose. I don’t know why we didn’t see the foilers average 25 knots over 4 days there? We saw them going at 17 to 18 knots, Alex occasionally 20 knots, which is nothing extraordinary in those conditions. My only regret is not knowing why we saw those speeds there.”
Riou, the French skipper, crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne in fifth on Friday, June 10 at 08:38:53 (French time). He covered the course in 11 days 10 hrs 58 mins and 53 seconds. He finished 1 day 18 hours 01 minute and 01 second behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ) having sailed 3,690 miles at an average speed of 13,42 knots.
Riou had emerged at the front of the lead group that survived the early collisions on Monday, May 30, a day after the start. He led the race for exactly a day until Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) passed him. But remained near the front until four days in another collision and technical difficulties forced him to divert for a 12-hour pit-stop at the port of Horta on Faial in the Azores with his technical team to repair a leak and some power issues. He restarted in seventh and was quickly back in the hunt.
Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne in sixth at 13:18:39 (French time), 04h 39min 46s after Riou. De Lamotte covered the course in 11 days 15 hrs 38 mins and 39 seconds. He finished 1 day 22 hours 40 minutes and 47 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ). He sailed 3,791 miles – the furthest distance of the race so far - at an average speed of 13,56 knots.
De Lamotte had been in fifth place until Tuesday, June 7 in the night, when Riou caught and passed him as they approached the Bay of Biscay. De Lamotte had his own technical problems too and need all of the skills that saw him nicknamed Tangyver (after MacGyver – see what they did there?) as he finished tenth on the last Vendée Globe. “I had passed Paul (Meilhat) - I should have arrived yesterday -
when the boat crashed,” de Lamotte, who studied naval architecture in Southampton said. “There was a bit of DIY going on for 24 hours after I passed the Azores, I had a bad gybe after the autopilot got caught in a wave and broke four battens in the mainsail. I had to wait for the sea to calm down to start repairs, which is why we were very slow for 36 hours, and then the repair itself took 7 hours to make three battens out of four broken ones.
The last obstacle was the wind hole yesterday. I wanted to control the two boats behind me, it was a bit of a mistake, and Vincent gave a superb demonstration, I wasn’t going to out wrestle him...and he wasn’t going to finish behind his old boat.”
For the two behind de Lamotte, the fickle winds continue and Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) is not expected in until tonight at 22:00 (French time) with Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest - Matmut) following around two hours later. Both have been averaging under 5 knots for the last 24 hours.
“You can hold the helicopter delivery of the Code 0, I’ve got the A3 (asymmetric spinnaker) up and it’s working and I’ll probably be able to get away from Fabrice.” Shiraishi said in the morning.
In the battle of the three damaged boats, the race is far from over. Morgan Lagravière (Safran) has gybed north towards his rivals and still leads, but only by 30 miles from Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir) - down from 80 miles earlier today. Lagravière chose this afternoon to complete his three-hour penalty, imposed by the race jury for entering the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) whilst going back to Newport for repairs. Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel - Virbac) completed his penalty earlier today and, benefiting first from the coming south-westerly flow is now only 50 miles behind Eliès. It could be a tense finish early on Sunday morning.
In the battle of the back, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) and Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy) are still sailing in strong southerlies (over 20 knots) and continue to eat up miles. Yesterday morning they were over 300 miles behind Dick, now it is just over 100 miles. The wind is forecast to drop and swing west behind them as they get closer to Les Sables d'Olonne.