Armel Le Cléac'h looks set to finish his first Vendée in second place with less than 260 miles to complete

The last Vendée Globe (2005) saw a winning margin of just six hours. This year Michel Desjoyeaux’s winning margin (see left) looks closer to six days. Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) is set to finish his first Vendée in second place tomorrow, with less than 260 miles to complete at the 08:00 GMT count this morning. He is heading directly at the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line.

In 25-30 knots of NNW’ly winds he is making between 12 and 14 knots and should be due to cross the finish line before breakfast Saturday morning. Le Cléac’h had a good penultimate night at sea and covered 115 miles between 19:00 and this morning’s 04:00 ranking.

In his wake, 550 miles to the SWW of the Azores the chess match between Safran and Roxy remains as engaging as ever, as Marc Guillemot rounds the NW corner of the anticyclone and has not yet really picked up any significant speed advantage over Sam Davies. Indeed Davies’ lead this morning is still 282 miles. The British skipper, sailing upwind in around 10 knots of NE’ly breeze put in a second tack at around midnight last night to return to a more northerly course. The pair are squared up 450 miles apart across the NW-SE axis of the high pressure and there is little to choose between their positions, although Guillemot is sailing downwind now and should see a slight speed increase.

Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar) is now a very respectable 143.7 miles behind Guillemot in terms of distance to finish, a figure exaggerated in reality by the roundabout route the French skipper is taking.

Thompson is continually having to throttle back in the bouncy seas, in upwind conditions to preserve his damaged keel rams for when he is in flatter more and at more suitable wind angles. He is quietly frustrated by ceding miles to the chasing Dee Caffari (Aviva) due to his inability to sail at anything close to 100%, but is confident he can apply more keel and open the gap again as soon as he his not upwind in such short, slamming, violent seas.

Dee Caffari has been quick this morning, fastest in the fleet making 12.8 knots, nearly two knots faster than Thompson.

Fellow Brit Steve White (Toe in the Water) is off Cabo Branco on the NE corner of Brasil, lining up for his Doldrums crossing – 200 miles due south of Fernando de Noronha making a steady 10-11 knots, 420 miles to the Equator.