Jean Le Cam snatches lead from Vincent Riou

Saturday was a big day for Jean Le Cam on Bonduelle, he managed to snatch the Vendee Globe lead from Vincent Riou sailing PRB. It was during the passage through the Cape Verde islands where his tactical decision to take a route further to east and then loop back to a more westerly track paid off leaving the previous consistent Riou smarting in his wake. Le Cam now leads by 30 miles.

Like Riou, Mike Golding on Ecover had a mare of a weekend losing his previous third position to sixth. Golding decision to head west to line himself up for a beneficial entry in to the doldrums backfired leaving himself floundering in light, fickle winds through the western part of the island. News from the boat this morning however, gives a clear indication that he’s on the move again recording 13.5kts – two or three knots faster than the leading three boats.

Battling with spinnaker problems over the last 24-hour has left Golding’s British team mate Conrad Humphreys exhausted and emotional. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so alone.” He said this morning. According to Humphreys he was sailing at 15kts yesterday morning when he decided to hoist the 350sq m spinnaker to the top of the 90ft mast. Fatigued, he says he missed some of the vital warning signs and failed to notice the jammer holding the spinnaker halyard was not shut. Consequently he lost the sail over the side. Fortunately he was quick enough to save the sail and managed to stuff it down the hatch before pulling out a new one. Sounds simple enough but things were about to get a lot worse. Humphreys takes up the story:

“Without stopping to even consider a quick breather, I re-hoisted the second spinnaker and got ready to un-sock it, checking this time that the jammer was closed? The sail opened and as I ran back to the helm, it billowed out in front of the forestay. I was to slow to head up on course and could only watch as the sail started winding itself around the forestay like a wine glass. I altered course to try and clear it, but my manoeuvring only made the situation worse. The spinnaker was wrapped around the forestay…

“I was too tired to think and could not face another climb up the mast to clear it, so I dropped the halyard and desperately hoped the sail would untangle itself from the rigging on its own. This proved partially correct, and as the sail fell into the water, I focused on clearing the wraps around the forestay. The head of the sail filled with water and started dragging like a giant sea anchor before ripping in half. The sail was being destroyed and I could only grab a knife and begin hacking it away from the rigging but as the sail sunk below the boat it wrapped itself around the keel. For three hours I tried to manouevre the boat backwards, forwards, sideways whichever ways trying to clear the sail from the keel.

“I dropped the mainsail, and started considering how and when I might be able to go over the side with a knife to clear it. The wind was due to drop later that evening. I sat motionless in the cockpit floor, sweat pouring from my body racking my tired mind for a solution. I re-hoisted the mainsail, and began again circling trying to unwind the sail. Then without warning, the boat suddenly became free. The sail had given up its grip and decided to sink below the waves. We were free. I pointed Hellomoto back on course and slumped on the cockpit floor too exhausted and emotional to think or care about what sail to put up next…”

Quitely ‘getting on with it’ up front, despite having been up the mast a total of three times since the start to sort out spinnaker halyard problems is young Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss. Thomson who’s played the tactics down the middle of the course fairly conservatively so far, is now (over the last four hours) in a creditable third position but does need to climb the mast once more tonight to check the halyard and sheave and to carry out any necessary repairs.

Marc Thiercelin’s (Pro-Form) who was, a few days ago, concerned about the performance of his boat has, over the last 24 hours, been clocking up some respectable speeds covering 322 miles at an average of 13.4kts. He’s currently lying in 11th place 30 miles ahead of Humphreys.

Interestingly Australian Nick Moloney has taken a similar route to Jean Le Cam over to the east and has worked hard to gain his current seventh position. Chatting from the boat on Saturday night Moloney said: “I’ve been busting my gut to get back in touch with the guys in the front. Another big transition of course at the Doldrums, if I can stay in contact I’ll be a happy man.”

Meanwhile over to the west currently sailing at 10.7kts nearly 600 miles behind the leader Karen Leibovici on Benefic has taken the opportunity to carry out spot of spring cleaning and engine mechanics. She’s also been enjoying fine French cuisine. Commenting on her interesting weekend she said: “On Sunday I took the time to give the boat and the girl a scrub down: first shower, then a fois gras tasting given to me by the restaurant ‘l´Entre Côte’ in Les Sables d’Olonne. After this fine introduction, I cleaned down the engine compartment where my diesel pump is continuing to play up. I´m beginning to get a taste for mechanics. When I run the engine, the temperature in the boat very quickly rises to 30°, or more. As a result I make the most of the cooler evening temperatures to charge the batteries.”

Positions at 1000 GMT

1 Bonduelle Jean Le Cam 11 31.36′ N, 24 32.16′ W

2 PRB Vincent Riou 12 02.16′ N, 24 41.64′ W, 30.5 miles from leader

3 Hugo Boss Alex Thomson 12 41.20′ N, 25 03.32′ W, 69.3 miles from leader

4 VMI Sebastien Josse 12 46.76′ N, 24 26.52′ W, 70.5 miles from leader

5 Sill and Veolia Roland The Jordan 13 03.44′ N, 24 44.08′ W, 91.7 miles from leader

6 Ecover Mike Golding 14 07.72′ N, 25 52.08′ W, 152.8 miles from leader

7 Skandia Nick Moloney 13 59.24′ N, 22 05.44′ W, 164.9 miles from leader

8 VM Materials Patrice Carpentier 14 27.06′ N, 22 22.98′ W, 172.9 miles from leader

9 Virbac-Paprec Jean-Pierre Dick 14 49.56′ N, 23 57.92′ W, 199.8 miles from leader

10 Temenos Domenic Wavre 14 52.80′ N, 24 59.60′ W, 200.9 miles from leader

11 Pro-Form Marc Thiercelin 15 09.48′ N, 23 27.48′ W, 222.2 miles from leader

12 Hellomoto Conrad Humphreys 15 31.52′ N, 22 13.84′ W, 253.9 miles from leader

13 UUDS Herve Laurent 16 29.48′ N, 25 13.24′ W, 297.7 miles from leader

14 Arcelor Dunkirk Joé Seeten 16 31.76′ N, 25 42.36′ W, 300.7 miles from leader

15 Planet Ocean Bruce Schwab 16 35.00′ N, 22 31.80′ W, 313.8 miles from leader

16 AKENA Verandas Raphael Dinelli 19 50.56′ N 23 03.12′ W 504.1 miles from leader

17 ROXY Anne Liardet 19 44.84′ N, 21 01.96′ W, 515.7 miles from leader

18 Max Havelaar/Best Western Benoit Parnaudeau 20 41.16′ N, 23 56.20′ W, 550.8 miles from leader

19 Benefic Karen Leibovici 21 20.20 ‘ N 23 47.60’ W 590.2 miles from leader

20 Brother Norbert Sedlacek 24 39.24′ N 18 46.96′ W 830.8 miles from leader