The leading three IMOCAs - Safran, Groupe Bel and Mike Golding Yacht Racing - have a substantial cushion, but the weather forecast is none too stable

The leading trio, two French leaders and Britain’s third placed Mike Golding who is racing with Spain’s Javier Sanso on Mike Golding Yacht Racing, will tomorrow be first to hit a wall of lighter, more unsettled breezes and compression – as the chasing pack catches miles back on them. This weather pattern is predicted to continue for the next couple of days.

The margin between third and fourth, to double-Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, is now 270 miles with less than 2000 miles to go.

Desjoyeaux, who has squeezed close to 100 miles ahead of Veolia Environnement since passing them, re-asserted today that there was no acceptance on his part that the race was a foregone conclusion, and clearly his legendary fighting spirit is undimmed. If there is one skipper out there who is as happy battling the mathematical odds as he is his opponents, it is him.

The gap between first and second has been prised open again by the leaders Safran, standing at 52.5 miles back to Groupe Bel, whilst Golding and Sanso had sneaked back under the 100 miles from the lead line early this morning, but their gains have been nullified over the day, as the third placed boat has 125 miles to catch up. Golding reported that he has had some success in repairing the electronic wind instrumentation which is helping their attack slightly, but he noted that he considers there will be several tactical opportunities through the final few days of this passage.

Down the fleet the sentiments are the same. The attack goes on, from first to last the conditions may be pleasurable but the rhythm is intense. Sam Davies, the British Vendée Globe skipper on Artemis, remarks that spirits between her and her French co-skipper remain generally high, despite them having a big deficit to make up:

“It’s hard because you’ve got to keep concentrating as well so you have to find a balance between not being suicidal because you’re last so you do have to find the light side of things, and also at the same time keep concentrating, because it’s never over till the fat lady sings, and there’s a long way to go,” explained Davies.

Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson’s alliance on Aviva seems to be reaping rewards as they hold the upper hand over their nearest rivals, the Spanish crew on W-Hotel. From being just a couple of miles ahead yesterday Aviva had moved 13 miles clear this evening, and they have gone from a deficit of about 60 miles on fifth placed Veolia Environnement to an increasingly tenable 23 miles.

Comments from onboard:

Marc Guillemot, (FRA) Safran: “We’re continuing to keep a close eye on our rivals, but we decided a few days ago, where we intend to get through the Antilles. In fact, it won’t be Thursday, but more likely Friday, as the trade winds have eased off. It will be the trade wind and its strength that will decide. Charles has been working extremely hard preparing the navigation. It has paid off, as our route has been very smooth, which shows how well he has judged it.”

François Gabart (FRA), Groupe Bel:
“It’s going well, big sun with a slightly lighter wind and so we are a bit slower. It lets us rest a bit. It’s a shame that we have lost some ground to on Safran, but I am still telling myself some of the great things we have been through and see. I would rather be here than in France in winter! Kito is resting and I’m on the helm because the wind does not stop shifting round.”

Brian Thompson  Aviva:
“We are driving the whole time, like an hour on and an hour off. So it’s more like single-handing really in the sense of sleeping for only an hour at a time, which is quite good because you can do a sail change or things like that as you change over, and we are sharing all the other duties on board and just sorting out some of the equipment on board.
We have spent the last day catching up with a lot of the jobs list. So it was a long day fixing the boat. We are getting on top if it now. Our generator is still down, but otherwise we are on fire.”

“There is some light air coming up tomorrow for everyone, and then we get into the trade winds proper from about 20 deg north, then it is regular about picking the right gybes through the Caribbean where there might more wind in the south, but that could change, but we do have this dead air to the north of us.”

Michel Desjoyeaux (FRA), Foncia: “We are always on the attack. Just because the weather is beautiful and sunny it does not mean we have slackened off. There are always waves over the deck and we still get soaked from time to time. But we don’t stay on deck too much because there are not that many maneuvers to be carried out. Jeremie had a beautiful starry night which is better than for mine, I got wind and rain. I am feeling sorry for myself.”

“We’ll try and listen to the French match a bit. Jérémie can listen when he is driving a bit, and I will try and listen on line. As far as the work goes it is 50:50. I do bit more of the weather, and Jeremie looks at it too. We are always pushing to go fast. I did not look at the crossing of the West Indies arc, but I will try to see friends in St Francois off Gaudeloupe. There is good acceleration in the Saints channel.”

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