Vincent Riou extends his lead over Roland Jourdain but Mike Golding, now in third, should be watched carefully

Just four days into the race and the 20-boat Vendee Globe fleet is flying down the African coast on the edge of the high pressure system which has been present since the start. Overnight the fleet has split either side of the island of Madeira with those at the front going far enough to the west to avoid the north-westerly wind shadow.

The next few days however, could be interesting. The winds will be generally light with those who head further west possibly finding themselves going into a head wind but benefiting from slightly more pressure as they slip from one trade wind system to the other.

Mike Golding who jumped from fifth position to third overnight is already starting to track west together with Sebastien Josse on VMI. Chatting this morning Golding said: “I wanted to be well clear of Madeira. It is always a problem and invariably it is on your track and there is a great temptation to cut it close and fall into the flat water behind it. I was trying to respect a cone shaped area on the back of the islands.” The wind shadow of Madeira, as with all the islands down the African coast such as the Canaries and Cape Verdes, can affect the winds up to 150-200 miles to leeward of them.

Overnight Vincent Riou (PRB) has more than doubled his lead over Roland Jourdain (Sill et Véolia) at nearly 30 miles ahead but has decided for the time being to go south.

Unlike Golding, Alex Thomson, on Hugo Boss was sucked in to a wind shadow. Whether Thomson’s decision to slow the boat to possibly carry out repairs was deliberate is not yet known but whatever it was his speed has not been affected dramatically – he’s now back up to 17.3kts.

Jean-Pierre Dick – one of the race favourites – on Virbac, spoke this morning the problems he’s encountered over the last 24 hours which has forced him to drop down the fleet to 11th: “I broke four mainsail battens in a couple of chinese gybes last night. Fortunately I’ve been able to repair most of them but there is one at the top of the sail which is going to be particularly tricky to fix. I’ve already spent three-four hours on it, a colossal effort. I’ve also got some problems with the gooseneck and will have to try and replace it in the shelter of a bay somewhere. I haven’t really felt in the match since the start. I’ve got 20-25 knots and was under small spinnaker this morning until the wind refused a bit. Now I’ve got the wind behind me trying to get round the islands. I can’t have too much sail area up otherwise the boat comes to a rapid halt as it gets stuck in the wave in front. I’m not on the attack today, I’m just gliding along.”

Despite trailing the fleet by nearly 500 miles Norbert Sedlacek (Brother) sounded fairly upbeat about the situation on the radio this morning. Chatting about the reason why he’s so far behind he said: “Everything’s fine, with Force 6-7 wind. I’m helming for about 8-9 hours a day, and at night too. There are big waves of 3-4 metres and squalls. I’m satisfied with my race now, though I don’t think I’ll catch the frontrunner. In reality this is an old boat and I simply don’t want to break anything now. I think if you do then that can only lead to big trouble in the Southern Ocean. Unlike some of the others I don’t have spare equipment so I can’t afford to break it. I’ll race after the Cape Horn.”

The leaders are expected to reach the Canaries by the end of the afternoon, with just 160 miles to the archipelago.

Positions at 1000

1 PRB Vincent Riou 30 05.88′ N 19 28.60′ W

2 Sill Véolia Roland Jourdain 30 36.88′ N 19 47.48′ W, 27.5 miles from the leader

3 Ecover Mike Golding 31 04.20′ N 19 44.24′ W, 54.9 miles from the leader

4 VMI Sébastien Josse 30 51.20′ N 17 27.12′ W, 67.3 miles from the leader

5 Hugo Boss Alex Thomson 31 19.36′ N 18 23.40′ W, 75.4 miles from the leader

6 Bonduelle Jean Le Cam 31 21.16′ N 18 45.80′ W, 81.1 miles from the leader

7 Temenos Dominique Wavre 30 55.04′ N 16 29.68′ W, 84.0 miles from the leader

8 Hellomoto Conrad Humphreys 31 35.08′ N15 02.20′ W, 144.6 miles from the leader

9 VM Matériaux Patrice Carpentier 32 12.00′ N 16 39.18′ W, 149.4 miles from the leader

10 Skandia Nick Moloney 32 19.08′ N 16 37.72′ W, 163.0 miles from the leader

11 Virbac-Paprec Jean-Pierre Dick 32 25.84′ N 16 36.44′ W, 169.8 miles from the leader

12 Pro-Form Marc Thiercelin 32 23.92′ N 15 14.56′ W, 187.7 miles from the leader

13 Arcelor Dunkerque Joé Seeten 33 18.08′ N 17 40.60′ W, 207.2 miles from the leader

14 Ocean Planet Bruce Schwab 32 49.72′ N 15 33.72′ W 207.5 miles from the leader

15 UUDS Hervé Laurent 33 24.60′ N 16 11.48′ W, 232.0 miles from the leader

16 ROXY Anne Liardet 35 16.60′ N 14 24.24′ W, 364.9 miles from the leader

17 AKENA Vérandas Raphaël Dinelli 35 27.36′ N 13 37.12′ W, 387.3 miles from the leader

18 Max Havelaar / Best Western Benoît Parnaudeau 36 17.00′ N 15 59.96′ W, 400.8 miles from the leader

19 Benefic Karen Leibovici 35 56.04′ N 14 27.28′ W, 401.7 miles from the leader

20 Brother Norbert Sedlacek 37 32.32′ N 15 15.96′ W, 482.7 miles from the leader