Jean Le Cam, leader of the Vendee Globe, is now only 36 miles ahead

Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) is now just 36 miles ahead of second-placed Vincent Riou (PRB). And Mike Golding (Ecover), third, has come back to within just 86.4 miles of the leader.

There is an east/west gap opening up between the leading duo with Jean Le Cam in search of something away from the direct course. The top trio are abeam of the Falkland Islands this morning, 3,300 miles from the equator. Further back in the fleet, Joé Seeten (Arcelor Dunkerque) and Nick Moloney (Skandia) are in line for a good blow. It will be interesting to see what exactly Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) is looking for, distancing himself from the direct course, bearing away 20 degrees more than Vincent Riou (PRB) for the past few hours. Jean is clearly investing in the east and doubtless has something up his sleeve, his Figaro experience (a French race where weather and tactics are the key to success) not to be sniffed out.

Virtually at the same latitude, Vincent Riou has come back to within 36 miles of pole position, 86 miles east of Cape Pembroke (Falkland Islands), while Jean is 176 miles East. There is a considerable difference in heading, and a slight difference in speed, Vincent following a north-easterly heading closer to the direct course, snatching back some precious miles in the ranking.

Jean may well be positioned in view of a big zone of erratic winds which is spreading out like a long runner bean under Uruguay in the next two days.

Mike Golding (Ecover) is being rather conservative, as he planned yesterday, maintaining a position right in between the two leaders, waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Sébastien Josse (VMI) should pass Cape Horn tonight. He is 280 miles from the legendary rock this morning having covering 330.9 miles in the past 24 hours, at a higher average pace than the rest of the fleet. He is staving off Dominique Wavre on Temenos today, who has been nibbling back 10 mile snatches in previous rankings.

Favouring a northerly course, Nick Moloney (Skandia) has got himself away from the reported icebergs but he is continuing to cop some serious gales. Nick hit 50 knots of wind yesterday and in the coming hours he is set for some more with a depression coming up towards him from his south-east. The depression is likely to be stationary for a while and then dropping back down again to deepen even more.

Joé Seeten (Arcelor Dunkerque) should also have a bit of pressure in his sails today. The winds are likely to touch 50 knots again before reaching 75 knots tomorrow afternoon. Nobody is in a position to suffer the full force of yet another Southern Ocean storm it would seem.

Benoît Parnaudeau (Max Havelaar/Best Western) has finally got in some northing. He is still at 55 degrees south, but must now think about crossing his first Pacific gateway which is 385 miles to his east/north-east.

Meanwhile, Patrice Carpentier (VM Matériaux) is still en route towards Christchurch (New Zealand). He has just rounded the southern tip of South Island and is 220 miles from Steep Head, a rocky headland just ahead of the town and yard where the retired Marc Thiercelin’s boat (ProForm) is moored.

The distance is fairly short except that Patrice is sailing without a boom at an average speed of 3.2 knots over the past 24 hours. A real ordeal for Patrice who will celebrate his birthday in four days’ time, possibly on the same date as he makes Christchurch.