The effects of the Roaring Forties have started to take their toll on the Vendee Globe fleet. Three boats are currently limping towards South Africa

While the leading two boats in the Vendee Globe, Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) and Vincent Riou (PRB), continue to out-pace the rest of the fleet from the effects of the huge low circling around the south west of the Kerguelen Islands, Roland Jourdain (Sill et Veolia), Sebastien Josse (VMI) and Mike Golding (Ecover) are currently suffering in the transition zone of a new weather system developing south of Africa. This means the chasing pack of Jean Pierre Dick (Virbac), Nick Moloney (Skandia) Dominique Wavre (Temenos) and Marc Thiercelin could benefit and make significant gains in the next 24 hours.

Elsewhere in the fleet gear failure is starting to take its toll as they head further south. The first significant disaster happened to Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss on Thursday afternoon when the deck surrounding the gooseneck support collapsed leaving a gaping hole in the deck a risk of loosing the mast see previous news story here. In winds reaching 75kts Thomson struggled to secure the boom and make the boat as watertight as possible but the latest news from Alex shows that his problems have escalated. The bilge pumps have been blocked by shreds of carbonfibre and have finally given up leaving Thomson the unenviable task of pumping out manually as he makes his way north towards Cape Town in strong headwinds and rough, icy seas.

Thomson’s British teammate Conrad Humphreys is also in trouble having hit a UFO and smashed his starboard rudder. He is also now heading towards Cape Town to calmer waters where it’ll be easier for him to assess the situation and decide what to do.

The accident happened yesterday afternoon while doing 15kts in 35kts of wind, on port tack. Humphreys takes up the story: “I was at the Nav Station and the boat suddenly jerked to a stop. I immediately ran on deck in order to prevent the boat from crash gibing. I then proceeded to drop the mainsail fully and check the keel first. It was then I found that the bottom metre of the starboard rudder had been smashed, part of which is the protective crash or false tip, but I’m unsure how much of the rudder itself has been damaged.

“I can see the skin trailing behind in the water but some of the rudder is still there as it is still steering the boat. It could have been anything in the water that hit, I didn’t see. There’s no leak of water in the back of the boat so that’s good news.

“Right now [yesterday evening] I’m sailing on port tack heading 050 towards the direction of Cape Town with no mainsail and just the trinquette at 8 knots boat speed. It’s a really lumpy sea and I have to get into calmer waters to assess this damage now as well as the rig. I have a full spare rudder on board but will wait until I can see how much of this one has been damaged to work out what I need to do.”

Chatting live from the boat this morning Humphreys added: “I’m now sailing on starboard gybe towards Cape Town. I hope to be there within 28-30 hours. However, the wind is forecast to drop, so we shall see. My aim is to find a harbour with shelter from the wind and waves. I have three options: Cape Town, Simonstown or Hout Bay. The most likely is Simonstown. Here I hope to replace the broken blade with the spare; I don’t think this has ever been attempted singlehandedly before, so it’s going to be tough. My love affair with the race however makes me feel quite strong and I feel I have every chance that I can repair it. It’s a real mental battle but I have not choice because I’m going to try and carry on.”

News has just reached the yachting world office (1045) that Herve Laurent, the skipper of UUDS has been forced to retire from the race. Although we are unsure exactly what happened it seems that, like Humpreys, he has severe rudder problems and is now heading towards Cape Town. Unlike Humphreys however, he’s decided to quit.

Tailenders, Raphael Dinelli aboard Akena Verandas and Norbert Sedlacek on Brother have both spent the last 24 hours carrying out repairs. Dinelli reported a broken baby stay on Friday night but by quick thinking and a lot of hard work yesterday, Dinelli is almost back on track again. He’s replaced the steel rod with a rope babystay and this morning he says although he’s tired, he’s pleased with the job so far. “All I need to do now, once I’ve had a rest, is to climb the mast and fix it up there.”

Sedlacek, now 2,400 miles behind the leader in last position said he suffered his worst night since the beginning of the race on Friday night. Everything was flooded inside. His big problem now however, is a torn genoa. Apparently there’s a two-metre strip stuck to the top of the stay which is banging against the mast and creating enormous vibrations throughout the boat. Norbert has decided that he will have to climb up the mast as soon as the weather allows him.

Rankings at 04h00 GMT (05:00 AM FR)

Bonduelle Jean Le Cam 48 52.60′ S 44 18.00′ E 0.0

PRB Vincent Riou 46 53.80′ S 44 52.44′ E 37.5 miles to leader

Sill Veolia Roland Jourdain 44 21.40′ S 34 14.76′ E 506.9 miles to leader

VMI Sébastien Josse 43 40.16′ S 30 09.12′ E 676.7 miles to leader

Ecover Mike Golding 45 19.08′ S 25 50.16′ E 774.5 miles to leader

Virbac-Paprec Jean-Pierre Dick 41 07.04′ S 14 59.64′ E 1311.1 miles to leader

Skandia Nick Moloney 38 36.44′ S 17 00.60′ E 1338.9 miles to leader

Temenos Dominique Wavre 39 33.40′ S 15 01.92′ E 1365.1 miles to leader

Pro-Form Marc Thiercelin 36 58.64′ S 17 39.12′ E 1371.9 miles to leader

Arcelor Dunkerque Joé Seeten 35 49.60′ S 14 45.92′ E 1529.0 miles to leader

Hellomoto Conrad Humphreys 34 29.28′ S 12 03.84′ E 1678.4 miles to leader

UUDS Hervé Laurent 35 09.80′ S 10 45.60′ E 1700.6 miles to leader

VM Materiaux Patrice Carpentier 36 42.12′ S 7 59.46′ E 1703.1 miles to leader

Ocean Planet Bruce Schwab 36 06.76′ S 9 09.48′ E 1714.5 miles to leader

Hugo Boss Alex Thomson 36 01.44′ S 5 50.16′ E 1836.7 miles to leader

ROXY Anne Liardet 38 09.28′ S 0 56.96′ W 1993.1 miles to leader

Max Havelaar / Best Western Benoît Parnaudeau 34 19.60′ S 1 21.24′ E 2068.6 miles to leader

AKENA Verandas Raphaël Dinelli 35 18.88′ S 0 30.48′ W 2094.7 miles to leader

Benefic Karen Leibovici 35 02.76′ S 0 15.76′ W 2100.6 miles to leader

Brother Norbert Sedlacek 33 04.20′ S 6 33.20′ W 2399.5 miles to leader