Can you drink melted icebergs
More icebergs than a new challenge
The Vendée Globe circumnavigation regatta will start on Sunday in Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Atlantic. Two Swiss are among the extended circle of favorites.
"Ice! The blow almost hit me - instead of a gray sky, I discovered something bluish there ... »
This is how Ellen Mac Arthur's report begins when she almost collided with an iceberg at the Vendée Globe eight years ago in the southern polar sea. «The adrenaline rush literally catapulted me through the hatch. Outside I saw the iceberg, which was already very melted, but still a good ten meters high, gliding past, it only missed my boat by a few meters. I was trembling all over, I felt sick. " The Briton finished second, was celebrated like a pop star in her home country, and her stories contributed to the myth of what is now the most famous circumnavigation of the world regatta.
46,000 km on the road alone
At that time Dominique Wavre experienced his first Vendée Globe, was fifth, 4 years later he was fourth. Now he wants to be at the very front with his new boat. Thirty competitors from seven nations, including his compatriot Bernard Stamm and two English women, sail for three months or more on their 18.28 m long high-tech yachts across the three oceans, the Atlantic, the Indian and the Pacific Ocean without external navigation assistance. The 46,000-kilometer route leads through the toughest and most deserted areas of the world's oceans.
Two days before the start, the ice also worries Geneva. The organizers have moved the so-called waypoint in the southern polar sea to the north again. The sailors have to pass eight virtual positions along the entire route, which is monitored by satellite.
The closer the competitors sail past Antarctica, the shorter the route. This increases the risk of an iceberg collision. “Compared to the race four years ago, this point has been set around 600 km further north. That's why I and others protested to the race committee. Because this further restricts the tactical options during the race. "
The new daredevils
Dominique Wavre (53) is part of the organizers' team council with Vincent Riou, the 2004/05 winner, Jean Le Cam, Roland Jourdain and Bernard Stamm from Vaud, who have all sailed around the world several times. Wavre also knows that ten skippers of the new generation of circumnavigators are at the start, more than ever before. Daredevil - «crazy dogs who want to eat everything», martial words that Wavre utters with a laugh.
And that increases the dangers. Eleven years ago, the Australian Navy, which had come from Perth, 3,300 km away, saved the British Tony Bullimore and the French Thierry Dubois from certain death in the ice-cold waters of the Antarctic. This bailout cost more than $ 2 million and then gave talks in the Australian Parliament. Therefore, the sailors at Cape Leeuwin on the Australian southwest coast have to pass one of these gates. "This is a political decision," says Wavre, "it is a detour, we have to sail longer in the Indian Ocean before we can get to the South Pacific." In part, however, he understands the concerns of the organizers. When he was sailing through the polar sea in the Barcelona Race a year ago, “I discovered icebergs that had drifted far north. I've drawn them on my map. " Wavre also thinks that global warming is causing more icebergs with the melting of the eternal ice. “There aren't many scientifically sound studies yet,” he emphasizes. «This area interests neither fishermen, nor the military, nor shipping companies. The circumnavigators made many observations. "
Half a million spectators in the harbor
This uncertainty, sailing in almost unknown regions, the ability to suffer and the stories of the sailors, also casts a spell over the people of the Atlantic. According to the organizers, over half a million spectators have visited the port of Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Atlantic coast since mid-October, where the boats of the circumnavigators can be seen. 1300 media people are accredited. "The landing stages are black with people during the day, it's such a hype that I'm happy when it starts on Sunday," grumbles Bernard Stamm, the second Swiss in the field. The 45-year-old tribe sails with a boat born in 2003, which the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Dick steered in sixth place in the last Vendée. "The boat has been radically rebuilt, almost everything has been changed except for the keel and of course the hull," says Stamm, two-time winner of the Round Alone circumnavigation with stops in between. "A race with stages is mentally tougher, one without a stop is more physically demanding," he says. In a regatta with stopovers, you are under stress even during the three weeks on land, “because you always have something to improve and repair. If you know you can repair on land, you risk more on the water. "
At the Vendée Globe, however, you have to endure three months, and when you are tired, gross mistakes accumulate, which can mean the end. And if the automatic control system fails, it's over anyway. The sailors steer only a third of the race themselves; they spend almost 80 percent of the time and, above all, the night in the cockpit. You only go on deck when changing sails or doing repairs to reduce the risk of injuries. Stamm also says: "The icebergs are one of the great dangers." He has known Wavre for years, they talk a lot about safety aspects, but hardly about technical issues. “Everyone has their secrets,” admits Stamm, who believes that the new generation of boats will break the record of 87 days. "The new boats have advantages especially when it comes to spacing (wind from the side), and the designers have made significant improvements in this regard."
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