Mike keeps options open in 'iceberg alley', and Conrad is still on the chase

Mike Golding’s gradual, patient erosion of the lead established in the Atlantic by Jean Le Cam and Vincent Riou is paying off – for now – as he begins to explore different routeing options within the same weather system as them. Today, Golding was 213 miles from Le Cam’s Bonduelle, in 1st place, and 60 miles from 2nd placed Riou in PRB.

He has also shaken off Sebastien Josse on VMI, who has fallen over 200 miles behind Golding after a collision with a growler broke his bowsprit and forced him to proceed at a more cautious pace.

Golding is clearly fixing his sights on the pair ahead. An old hand at this game of strategy, though, Golding was canny enough today merely to say that he was keeping his options open.

“The routeing is pointing me further south than I’m going,” he explained in today’s phone-in. “I’m just watching what everyone else is doing, seeing if anyone starts to get greedy and sail more down the Great Circle rather than the rhumb line.”

Part of his rationale is to avoid ice. All in all, he thinks it makes sense not to commit to a southerly route. “I think there is a tendency from all of us not to mess around the ice [to the south] any more than we need to. Plus the route ahead is a little bit confusing. It is not clear what is going to happen. So until it becomes clearer I don’t want to commit myself too much from one side of the course.”

His caution is well-placed according to the Vendée Globe race forecaster, Dominique Vittet. He anticipates that as Ecover crosses a transition zone between one low pressure and another one newly forming to the south-east, Golding may lose the miles he has gained on Le Cam – it just depends how soon and how strongly the French sailor picks up south-westerlies from the new low.

At the rear of the fleet, Britain’s Conrad Humphreys has also been doing a great job of quietly devouring the miles between his Hellomoto and the rearguard of the fleet. Humphreys currently lies in 14th place (out of a remaining 16 boats), but he is likely to pick off Anne Liardet (Roxy) in the next few days as he has been speeding along at an average of 15-16 knots.

There are some big winds for him, but his report yesterday was confident:

“We should see gusts of up to 60 knots by the end of the day. I am so relieved to have passed the waypoint as now I am free to crack off the sheets if need be. The front started coming through and I hoisted the storm jib to head up as I was 20 miles from the waypoint and didn’t want to get caught on the wrong side of it. Luckily the wind freed and now has shifted back to the NW so the waypoint is due south of me now.

“I hope I can stay on the leading edge of this system and keep my foot down sailing at around 18 knots boat speed on average so that this could carry us all the way to Tasmania in about three days time. “My aim is to overtake Roxy. It’ll be hard work and stressful to keep ahead of the system, I’ll only sleep in 20 minute cat naps now when I can but it will be difficult. It’s already 25 – 30 knots now and building quickly and I’ll just give it my best to put the pressure on the next boats.”