With the leaders in the Doldrums, the chasing pack has clawed back some miles

The slow down for the leading duo in the Doldrums has allowed the chasing pack to gain some morale boosting miles. Of course they are aware that they are due for a similar experience as the winds drop for them, and that the top two IMOCA Open 60’s – Virbac-Paprec 3 and Foncia – will emerge into stronger easterly breeze in a few hours.

But in the mean time the gains are to the boats in pursuit. Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart) have cut their deficit to French rivals Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron to less than 40 miles. Virbac-Paprec had 240 miles to the equator this morning. They have now lead since the 3 January, save for the rankings on 12 January when they hitched west.

Using quickscat satellite imagery the two leaders are picking their way down the best path through the zone of lighter winds, but both of them stopped and started in sequence twice last night. First to nearly halt was Virbac-Paprec 3, then Foncia slowed and the same thing happened again a few hours later.

Both are moving nicely this morning at just over 10 knots and seem to expect an increase in wind pressure in the next few hours.

The fleet does have the advantage at this time of year of the SE’ly trades coming more from the East, which means that they can sail a little higher, making more southing if that his the strategy they choose.

Or they can sail lower and faster and target being one of the first to pick up the low pressure systems after they are generated off Brasil’s Cabo Frio (literally the cold cape) where they build and spin off to become the Southern Ocean low pressure systems which are the east going freight trains that the fleet will hitch a ride on.

Foncia are planning their technical stop at Recife and they have some 800 miles to cover to get there. Virbac-Paprec are some 180 miles NE of the Fernando de Noronha, the little archipelago of 21 islands 220 miles off the Brasilian coast.

In third and fourth are the two Spanish boats Estrella Damm and Mapfre. The two IMOCA Open 60’s remain very evenly matched, with only 51 miles separating them.

Kito de Pavant and Sébastien Audigane on Groupe Bel have a favourable position some 50 miles further to the west than the line taken by Mirabaud in fifth, giving them more breeze to ensure that they are the quickest this morning.

Renault ZE Sailing Team have the upper hand in the duel with the GAES girls, though Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella are further west.

Central Lechera Asturiana in tenth are exactly half way between the Cape Verde Islands and Africa and have robust 25 knots trade winds this morning, but look like they will need to get west soon.

Hugo Boss this morning is up to 11th and is just a matter of a few miles off the island of Sao Nicolo in the Cape Verde islands, while to their west FMC are looking to pass just to the east of Sao Vincente. It is there that Jean Le Cam and Bruno Garcia have been since around 2000hrs UTC last night on Président which lost its mast on Sunday evening.

To track the fleet and see their positions, CLICK HERE.