The stronger winds at the front of a small weather system still favour the leaders
The advantage is still with the head of the Vendee Globe fleet, as the Southern Ocean seascape unfurls its usual flat, muted colours, and long swells.
Overnight the gaps between the race leaders have mostly increased. Racing in 20 knot average wind strengths Sébastien Josse (BT, pictured) has earned four miles for his efforts through the night, but Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2) has returned consistently fast speeds closing five miles on the leader, to sit less than two miles off second placed Generali (Yann Eliès).
Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty) has regained fourth place again from Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) who has not been able to match Peyron’s overnight pace and has dropped to 84.3 miles behind the leader. Behind them the breeze has been lighter which has made it possible for the leaders to continue their gains. In tenth and eleventh Marc Guillemot (Safran) and Michel Desjoyeaux (Fomncia) may have less than a mile between them in terms of distance to finish, but Guillemot has seen a further 15 miles taken off him by the leaders who are now more than 200 miles ahead.
But for British yachtsmen Sam Davies (Roxy) and Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar) the frustration at being trapped by lighter winds at the back of a small front has meant their their losses are more considerable – Thompson losing 40 miles overnight and Davies closer to 70.
Dee Caffari (Aviva) – who has her knee inflammation improved (see previously story here) – has lost about 20 miles. Bernard Stamm, SUI, (Cheminées Poujoulat) reported this morning that he has done his best to make a holding repair to damage to his bowsprit, which he had to replace after hitting a ship on the first night. The Swiss skipper suggested that the bobstay, which supports the carbon sprit, may have been slack and hence some compression damage had occurred to the lamination.
Stamm explained: ”I had hoped to take advantage of the calms in the Doldrums to get it fixed, but I had strong winds and thunderstorms, so it wasn’t very practical. Around St. Helena there aren’t any calms and working on the bowsprit, when you’re heading upwind isn’t easy, or even possible. A few days ago, one afternoon, I managed to tighten the bobstay and yesterday, with the spinnaker attached to the bow, I carried out repairs on the carbon. I was pleased to get that out of the way before 55°S. Keeping the fingers crossed that it will hold out.”
Last night the Race Directors informed the competitors of their decision to move the position of the Kerguelen Ice Gate.
After observation of the most recent pictures sent by CLS (the supplier of satellite information revealing the position of icebergs in the Indian and Pacific Ocean) the Directors agreed with Louis Mesnier of CLS, Sylvain Mondon of Météo France and Alain Gautier, the race safety consultant, to modify the position of Kerguelen Ice Gate.
The Gate was moved as follows: It will be positioned at 46°S between the longitudes of 25°E and 34°E, which means the gate has been shifted around 130 miles further north (or a distance of around 230 km) and 600 miles (or 1000 km) further west.
This is the situation that has arisen resulting from two phenomenon:
Firstly, the most recent observations have detected two icebergs -and therefore the risk of drifting ice – slightly to the south of the Great Circle route, the shortest way from one gate to another;
Secondly, the weather data shows that the quickest route between these two gates would involve gybing, as soon as the first gate was passed to pick up more favourable winds to the south.