Vendee Globe

Day 83: One Way to Eat an Elephant

Conrad Colman could hardly contain his delight today as his Foresight Natural Energy crossed the southbound course which the Vendée Globe's ‘crazy kiwi' skipper took on 20th November when he was in 17th place in the solo round the world race. Making good speeds towards the finish, with just over 3,600 miles to sail to the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne, Colman has checked off another milestone.

"How to ‘eat an elephant', that was the metaphor my mother used to use when I was at school and when I was intimidated about my homework. That was what she used to say, ‘take it bite by bite' and the Vendée Globe is a big beast, and I have been breaking it up and eating it bit by bit." - Grinned Colman on Vendée LIVE! today belying his preferences as the race's sole vegetarian skipper.

Conrad Colman / Foresight Natural Energy - # Vendee Globe

"I have just cut my outbound track a few minutes ago. I am officially a three times round the world sailor and that is quite special."

"The wind has strengthened and is now above the range of the Code Zero. I am guessing here because my wind instruments have stopped working again. But I am delighted. I have made really, really good progress, especially this past night. I have knocked off Salvador, knocked off Recife. The milestones are falling. I started out this race by talking about ‘chunking big challenges'. With the circumnavigation now complete, then there is just a Transat to go."

Colman is even more passionate now about his no-emissions technology which should see him become the first skipper to finish the race using only renewable energies. His Foresight Natural energy uses an electric motor which generates his power via a propeller. When the boat is moving the prop opens about one third and turns generating electric power which is stored in nine batteries. Colman has solar panels on his mainsail on the coach roof. He has a Watt & Sea hydro generator as back up. Fully charged he has a range of five to seven days depending on how hard the autopilot has to work. As his electric motor is also motive power for the IMOCA a data logger monitors his electronic input and output as the equivalent of an engine ‘seal'.

Colman spoke to 2004-5 skipper Conrad Humphreys who was failed by his engine and generator systems during his race on Hellomoto. The Plymouth based skipper and adventurer has become a strong advocate for sustainable energies. Colman told him:

"I have a large amount of energy that is stored in the battery pack and a battery pack which is about six times the size of the other guys, and so I have an incredible autonomy. I don't need to think about charging for days on end. That was a revelation for me. To go days on end without charging takes a huge mental load off me which I did not really realize I was carrying. With a conventional system you are thinking of charging one or two times a day, thinking hour by hour when you need to charge, when to start the engine how long to charge for. And the other thing is that as long as the boat is moving I have almost unlimited power. I am energy positive. I don't need to think about it. I can create as much energy as I want. I don't need to think about rationing. Overall the system is super reliable. I have a big bronze propeller which very very strong and is situated behind the keel. It is very protected and there is only one moving part in the electric motor. There are hundreds in a diesel engine. So it is fundamentally more reliable. I have had no problems at all. I am looking forwards to getting home and sharing with the sailing community the ins and outs of the system."

Humphreys asked about the downsides?

Colman replied:
" I can speak frankly. You do need to think a little bit tactically about when you charge. You store a lot of energy, but you need to think about getting through calms. Down by Rio I was beating my head against a wall in the calms there and so you do need to think about the good times to charge are in terms of your routing, entering into the slow parts with sufficient solar panel charging. So you do need to look at it and decide when the good times to charge are and what the balance is.

I would struggle to charge only with the solar panels I have permanently installed, but I have auxiliary panels I can unroll and use. So I could also be 100 per cent reliant on solar panels if I needed to be.”

He concluded:
"Ocean Racing, and especially solo ocean racing, is the only mechanical sport that can truly set out to claim to be clean. You will never have F1 beating its chest about its footprint on the earth. So that was my first motivation. And my second motivation is that I truly believe it is more reliable and that is a story which is borne out by your experience (to Conrad Humphries) when you had two diesel engines break down on your Vendée Globe. They can be taken out by dirty diesel, fuel filters or any number of systems that can render them useless, and so in terms of reliability - which is absolutely king in non stop racing around the world, electric generation with these kind hydrogenerators are the most sure and reliable system that exists."

Sunday at Cape Horn

Sébastien Destremau had 230 miles still to sail on his TechnoFirst FaceOcean to reach Cape Horn and so should be there during Sunday afternoon. After gusts to 40kts the winds should ease for him today to a more amenable 25kts for the first passage of Cape Horn for the skipper who only decided he wanted to take on the Vendée Globe on the eve of the 2012-13 race start when he was working for a TV station. In ninth place Eric Bellion – 250 miles ahead of Colman- should cross the Equator this evening. Louis Burton in seventh place is due in Les Sables d'Olonne in the middle of next week.


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