After a fast passage across the Bay of Biscay, the Vendée Globe leading group are passing the Portuguese coast at good speed
The leading five or six boats have made a good jump on the fleet behind them having been consistently in stronger breeze. Behind, at Cape Finisterre, a high pressure ridge has already slowed the later runners.
Leader of the Vendée Globe since Saturday evening François Gabart on Macif has seen his lead fall very slightly during Sunday night. He might be feeling the effect of sustaining the very high pace he set from the start line and having had slightly less wind on the track he’s taken, 30 miles further offshore from the Portuguese coast.
The young skipper’s margin has shrunk to 7.5 miles ahead of the fierce duel between Vincent Riou (PRB) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire). The top trio have more than 14 miles to fourth placed Bernard Stamm.
“The wind is dying from the north and the first will certainly escape. Thirty miles this morning will be 60 tomorrow and 100 the next day.” Cautioned Kito de Pavant, the French skipper on ninth placed Groupe Bel making 14kts this morning compared with the leaders 16-17kts.
And those towards the back are already struggling with less wind. Zbigniew Gutkowski, the Polish skipper in 17th place on Energa is already being forced out to the west making just 7 kts this morning.
British skipper Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has held his sixth position overnight but gave up some miles to fifth placed Jean-Pierre Dick when he chose to reposition himself to the west.
Sam Davies is just one of those in the lower third of the fleet now making less than 10 kts in the lighter winds: “It is great to no longer have the menacing dark monster squall clouds that we had last night as that was pretty stressful to deal with each 35 knot squall. The sea state is calming down now too!”
After enduring one of the most compelling races in 2008/9 – standing by the injured Yann Eliès, repeatedly climbing his mast to try and fix a damaged mast track which meant he sailed much of the course with two reefs in his mainsail and then sailing the last 1000 miles to finish in third place into Les Sables d’Olonne with no keel – after it snapped off – Marc Guillemot might have considered he had earned the right to better luck this time.
But the Safran skipper became the first to be forced out of this Vendée Globe when his titanium fin keel snapped off less than six hours into this race. Inspection back in the start port revealed that just 30cms of the keel stub remained. Guillemot reported hearing two bangs in quick succession before his IMOCA Open 60 heeled alarmingly.
“I don’t know if we hit something or not. We are trying to know what happened. We will tell you what we discover. We won’t hide anything.” Guillemot told a press conference in Les Sables d’Olonne.
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