While stricken Vendee Globe skipper Roland Jourdain heads for Hobart Jean Le Cam fights for leading position

The latest news from stricken Vendee Globe skipper Roland Joudain is that he hopes to reach Hobart by Tuesday.

Jourdain who discovered damaged to his keel on Friday morning while lying in third place see previous news story here has now officially retired from the race and rather than heading for Auckland he’s now decided to divert to the north-east to Hobart. Jourdain will meet his shore team in Hobart and fly back to Brest on 24 December to spend Christmas with his family.

Meanwhile back in the Southern Ocean life goes on. Race leader Vincent Riou (PRB) and Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) continue to push each other to limit while remaining in the northerly flow. Fighting for every inch of speed overnight has put Le Cam now just over two miles behind Riou, and together the pair have pulled away leaving the pursuing duo Sebastien Josse (VMI) and Mike Golding (Ecover) fighting to escape the effects of converging lows.

However, the forecast indicates that the situation could change soon with the leading duo having to battle with strong easterlies while the two behind (further to the north) benefiting from a north-westerly flow.

Chatting from the boat yesterday Golding said: “I predicted things would slow down and it has started to happen but I’m feeling happy about the situation right now.” Chatting about why he’s opted for a slightly northerly approach, Golding continued: “While I don’t usually like to break away from the line in a race I feel I needed to do something. I don’t see a future in going that way, that’s my feeling. We do have a bit of an issue, in that while the boats are moving fast now, I think some problems are coming up with potential headwinds or even calms. I’ve looked at it for a while and couldn’t see a way through, so thought I’d try something a bit different.”

According to the weather forecast the situation is looking extremely complex as the fleet enters the Pacific with a low unusually situated over New Zealand.

Further down the fleet, and intent on reaching the leading group, is Dominique Wavre (Temenos) who’s currently monopolizing on the fantastic north-westerly, beam reaching conditions. He’s making nearly 16kts on the same track as the leaders and is in a great position to make an impact.

Struggling with their various technical difficulties, Nick Moloney (Skandia) and Marc Thiercelin (Pro Form) continue to press on. It’s now five days since Moloney capsized and life onboard is still dominated by the big clean up. On deck and down below there are dozens of things to fix, kit to restack and dry, and still paper-maché everywhere. Nick is dividing his time between this and keeping the boat going fast…currently he is stuck further north than he would like, a result of his earlier caution in wanting to get further north of the depressions.

Chatting about life on board Moloney said: “There’s still a lot of water in the bow, which is really annoying me. There’s a leak in the Solent tack which I need to fix. But I feel better every time I progress on the cleanliness front. Deck is clean but work still to do. Got everything I have onboard at the back of the boat for downwind trim, but everything is heavy as its wet. Hard to move it around. You make a dry place, and water comes out of bags and makes it wet again.”

Marc Thiercelin (Pro Form) is concerned about the damage to the starboard D3, which helps keep his mast straight. Thiercelin said: “To start off with it wasn’t moving much, but now it’s moving more and more. I’m keeping an eye on my mast. It’s swinging around like a piece of spaghetti. I think the top shroud between the masthead and the top spreaders on the starboard side has worked loose.

“When the sea calms down, I’ll have to go up and look. It’s not my favourite occupation. I’ve got two halyards holding it steady on the front. As long as I’m sailing with one or two reefs, there’s no problem, although it does seem to be moving a lot. I’d be really annoyed if I dismasted in the Pacific. I’m going to have to repair it before then.”

Having diverted to Cape Town to replace his broken rudder two weeks ago Conrad Humphreys is back on form again having managed to overtake Karen Leibovici (Benefic). Chatting from the boat this morning Humphreys said: “It’s taken a while to get through because she was 450 away but I’ve done it and I’m now focusing on the next one. I’m glad not to be at the back of the fleet. I can now push the boat harder than I have over the last 10 days. I now have a bit more confidence now I know the rudder is okay, but I am taking it carefully. My aim of course is to finish. Everything I do is to make sure I finish this great race.

“I’ve currently got 28kts and I’m expecting the wind to shift from the north-west so I’m preparing for a gybe so I can head towards the Kerguelen Islands.”

Rankings as of Sunday, December 19, 2004 – 10h00 GMT (11:00 AM FR)

PRB Vincent Riou 54 16.88′ S 160 42.80′ 11470.0 0.0 Bonduelle Jean Le Cam 54 24.32′ S 160 33.32′ 11472.7 2.7 miles from leader

VMI Sébastien Josse 52 51.52′ S 152 48.28′ 11762.7 292.7 miles from leader

Ecover Mike Golding 50 52.52′ S 151 20.72′ 11865.2 395.2 miles from leader

Sill Véolia Roland Jourdain 46 47.32′ S 145 48.80′ 12180.5 710.4 miles from leader

Temenos Dominique Wavre 51 04.20′ S 126 50.46′ 12676.4 1206.3 miles from leader

Virbac-Paprec Jean-Pierre Dick 47 26.56′ S 113 58.60′ 13246.5 1776.4 miles from leader

Skandia Nick Moloney 43 01.88′ S 111 04.68′ 13484.2 2014.1 miles from leader

Pro-Form Marc Thiercelin 43 14.92′ S 105 41.32′ 13673.7 2203.6 miles from leader

VM Matériaux Patrice Carpentier 45 05.88′ S 94 55.68′ E 14000.9 2530.9 miles from leader

Arcelor Dunkerque Joé Seeten 47 12.60′ S 92 59.04′ E 14090.8 2620.8 miles from leader

Ocean Planet Bruce Schwab 42 34.56′ S 85 39.08′ E 14462.6 2992.5 miles from leader

Max Havelaar / Best Western Benoît Parnaudeau 46 30.00′ S 75 07.32′ E 14813.3 3343.3 miles from leader

ROXY Anne Liardet 46 22.96′ S 72 48.56′ E 14914.9 3444.9 miles from leader

AKENA Vérandas Raphaël Dinelli 45 40.68′ S 66 19.68′ E 15185.9 3715.9 miles from leader

Hellomoto Conrad Humphreys 44 44.28′ S 64 58.24′ E 15250.3 3780.3 miles from leader

Benefic Karen Leibovici 44 57.64′ S 64 45.36′ E 15262.6 3792.5 miles from leader