After their second night in solo mode, the fleet of 24 international skippers in the 4th edition of the Vendée Globe has spread out more. A 25 – 35 knot south-west wind has stabilised in the North and South of the course area. All boats are still on an upwind point of sail, tacking now and again. The tactical choices are evident : head further out West to turn directly South first, or to hug the Spanish coastline more in the South now.

Four boats are clearly taking the route further to the West : Dominique Wavre (, Thierry Dubois (Solidaires), Patrice Carpentier (VM Materiaux) and Joé Seeten (Nd Pas de Calais/Chocolats du Monde). They have advanced futher in longitude and yet have found themselves on the cargo route and must stay doubly vigilant.

The leading triumvirate are distinguishing themselves in the South near the Spanish coastline: Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations), Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) and Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear). When rounding the point of Cap Finisterre often strong south-westerly winds blow head on and so many skippers have chosen to elongate their route to the West and pass this notorious coastal point further offshore.

Other competitors have chosen a middle route between these two extremes and are holdingtheir positions well in comparison. Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) is at the head of this group of about 13 boats, with Josh Hall (EBP Gartmore) just behind.

Thierry Dubois (Solidaires), who has chosen to head north, hopes to be the first boat to cross the front and then benefit from the NW wind predicted. If this works out, the lengthy route taken to get further west will be soon reap its rewards. After the front has passed, the wind will shift from SW to NW, which will allow the boats to tack and accelerate on a broad reach southwards, while the others remain on their upwind leg waiting for the front to reach them.

We are still in a state of anticipation, and will all, including the skippers, have a better idea of which option paid quite soon. As soon as the fleet have rounded Cap Finisterre, the weather will bring small high pressure zones, with zero wind, which they will have to either cross or go round. This will demand long hours at the helm from the skippers to best negotiate the wind shifts.

The adventure is just beginning

Radio Chat Extracts

On the radio chat this morning, a lot of skippers remarked that they have not slept much since the start with the closeness of the fleet and varying conditions, but are still needing a little more time to work out their route and settle into solo mode. A number admit to have started gently into this endurance race, more for themselves than for the sake of the boats. It has become a question of getting in tune with their boat before putting themselves under progressively more pressure as the race continues.

Richard Tolkien (This Time Argos Soditic): I have a problem with my water-maker and so have been crawling under the cockpit to try and bleed the system and find out what is wrong. Adjusting to this rhythm at sea has been tiring, but I will sleep as much as I can, unlike the others. Now I am going at 9 knots in a south-westerly 18 knot wind, with a building sea. I shall keep a lot of sea room when heading South between the boat and Cap Finisterre.

Javier Sanso (Old Spice): “I got a fishing net caught under my boat after the start and miraculously didn’t have to dive to free it. Then one of the autopilots broke down, it was just a faulty connection which I fixed, and then the second…they are both 100 per cent functional now. I really don’t want to go anywhere near the Spanish coastline – strange as it may seem for a Spaniard – but I have so many bad memories even if it seems a good idea now. I have not been adjusting well physically, I’ve had little sleep, it is quite cold and I can’t wait to get 200m south! But I’m happy to see Dinelli three miles behind an