As the Vendée leaders scorch ahead on beam winds, Alex Thomson catches a little with some super-fast sailing

Yesterday was a great day for Akex Thomson, as he closed the gap on the leading pack by 50 miles, and by the 1900 poll, he had enjoyed the greatest distance in the last 24 hr period. At various points his boat speeds exceeded 25 knots.

But it was also a period of frustration, as the increased wind and boat speeds make every activity more difficult. By the time it came to gybe the boat, the breeze had got up to 45 knots. In preparation for the gybe, Alex had to shift all the gear from one side to another, get back on deck, move the ORC sail bag (which remains on deck), put in the 2nd reef in the mainsail, roll up the trinquette (aka staysail), set up the new runner, swing the keel and then finally gybe.

Once the boat was on its new course, the new runner needed to be fully wound on, the staysail unfurled again, and the 2nd reef in the mainsail had to be shaken out. The process took 90 minutes after which Alex found himself exhausted – especially as halfway through the process, a huge wave swamped the boat and knocked Alex to the cockpit floor.

But for a change, it was a reasonably uneventful night, and as he passed just 16 miles north of Tristan da Cunha, Alex spoke by VHF with the Governor of the Island, Mike Hentley, who, on behalf of the 300 race-following islanders, wished him well for his onward journey. The next 24 hours will be yet another period of considered decision-making for Thomson. “The next depression will be very interesting, as the weather models seem to change daily,” he said cautiously. “It’s extraordinarily difficult to predict what will happen and therefore where to position myself.”

As to which option Alex will take, only the next few hours will tell. He is currently sailing at 15 knots with one reef in the main, and the solent flying.