Vincent Riou (PRB) has this afternoon taken the lead again in the Vendée Globe

Vincent Riou (PRB) has this afternoon taken the lead again in the Vendée Globe. The lead duo are now around 160 miles from the French archipelago of Kerguelen Islands and the arrival of the next depression has forced Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) now in second, to sail more miles, heading up from the south, to pass north of the island group.

The two leaders – now 442 miles ahead of the next boat (Roland Jourdain -Sill) – are trying to avoid getting too close to the centre of one of a series of three depressions. The situation is complicated by their approach towards the Kerguelen plateau where the seabed shallows dramatically.

The last 24 hours have seen Mike Golding on Ecover pull back 140 miles on the leaders, clocking the biggest distance of the fleet in that period of 379 miles. And having just passed the 50th parallel, Ecover is now the southern-most boat in the fleet.

“It’s been a pretty good last 24 hours,” commented Mike Golding this morning. “But I scared myself stupid last night, I’m afraid. The breeze has been bad but the sea state has been really up, with quite short seas.”

Despite the wild conditions, Golding felt compelled to put Ecover through a gybe while he still had daylight. “I gybed just before dark last night. The wind was just about there, it was a 50/50 call so I decided to gybe and it went OK. Then I continued to run with the Solent and two reefs in the mainsail. It got pretty breezy and I thought, ‘This is a bit stressful!’ I thought that was enough for one day so I wound the Solent up.” The Solent is one of the most powerful sails on the Open 60, and the added power means added speed but also increased danger.

Putting the Solent to bed for the night proved a wise decision. “The breeze then picked up to 45 knots but more importantly the sea state built up. But there was little you could do about it because the boat was absolutely bombing along. I thought reefing might actually make things worse, because the boat was occasionally being skewed around on the waves, and she was doing full-on nose plants into the backs of waves. Reefing might have helped the nose plants but it wouldn’t have helped the rounding up when the boat skews up. So I thought I’d leave the reef alone.”

Having just passed the 50th parallel, Ecover is now the southern-most boat. It will be interesting to see if he sticks to that route or takes the northerly option round the Kerguelen Islands

Rankings as of Tuesday, December 7, 2004 – 15h00 GMT (04:00 PM FR)

1 PRB Vincent Riou 46 29.76′ S 65 26.36′ E

2 Bonduelle Jean Le Cam 48 24.56′ S 64 37.04′ E 1.7 miles from leader

3 Sill Véolia Roland Jourdain 48 28.48′ S 52 57.60′ E 442.3 miles from leader

4 VMI Sébastien Josse 48 45.48′ S 48 38.80′ E 598.2 miles from leader

5 Ecover Mike Golding 50 19.76′ S 46 34.80′ E 640.5 miles from leader

6 Temenos Dominique Wavre 46 51.84′ S 30 56.16′ E 1292.4 miles from leader

7 Virbac-Paprec Jean-Pierre Dick 45 50.00′ S 31 19.56′ E 1314.7 miles from leader

8 Skandia Nick Moloney 43 08.76′ S 29 53.44′ E 1452.0 miles from leader

9 Pro-Form Marc Thiercelin 38 35.12′ S 31 12.32′ E 1557.5 miles from leader

10 Arcelor Dunkerque Joé Seeten 39 26.92′ S 29 48.04′ E 1580.7 miles from leader

11 Ocean Planet Bruce Schwab 41 01.36′ S 18 56.76′ E 1917.9 miles from leader

12 VM Matériaux Patrice Carpentier 39 47.88′ S 19 18.36′ E 1933.9 miles from leader

13 ROXY Anne Liardet 42 08.20′ S 10 00.68′ E 2202.5 miles from leader

14 Hellomoto Conrad Humphreys 34 11.28′ S 18 25.92′ E 2206.6 miles from leader

15 Max Havelaar / Best Western Benoît Parnaudeau 40 46.00′ S 8 40.68′ E 2300.3 miles from leader

16 Hugo Boss Alex Thomson 35 16.16′ S 11 33.96′ E 2410.9 miles from leader

17 Benefic Karen Leibovici 39 27.44′ S 4 55.28′ E 2483.4 miles from leader

18 AKENA Vérandas Raphaël Dinelli 37 41.68′ S 4 48.84′ E 2547.1 miles from leader

19 Brother Norbert Sedlacek 35 42.64′ S 2 49.04′ E 2707.4 miles from leader

RTD UUDS Hervé Laurent 01:00 AM