Michel Desjoyeaux fails to get held up by high-pressure, but winds in excess of 55 knots forecast

One uncertainty that remained in this final stretch was how long Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) would get held up in the ridge of high pressure extending from the Azores high down to the Canaries?

In the end – not last long. In spite of being slowed to below 8 knots, the Farr designed Foncia managed to get across as the winds veered from the south-east to south-west. Now the leader only has to head for the Bay of Biscay at 45° with less than 1900 miles left to sail.

Desjoyeaux will have to negotiate his way past the Azores and that may not be so simple after all with a low-pressure area over the islands on Thursday. Winds are expected to be in excess of 55 knots to the south of the islands. Although the seas will build, these winds could offer Michel with the fastest conditions yet seen in the race. It will depend on the swell, waves and wind, but on paper he can look forward to sailing more than 400 miles in 24 hours, although at this point the leader is likely to be averse to any risk-taking.

To finish, he will need to avoid the worst of the storm brewing off Cape Finisterre before entering the Bay of Biscay, where conditions may well be much lighter.

After slowing between about 17:30 GMT and 21:00 last night (25 Janueary), pushing slowly but surely through the worst of the ridge, Foncia had a consistent night pushing averages around 14 knots this morning. Meanwhile his distant rival Roland Jourdain has been pushing hard still in the best of the trade winds making over 16 knots for much of the time, but making no real impression on the 497 miles lead of Foncia.

Armel le Cléac’h is well into the established 15 knots trade winds and is benefiting from consistent conditions, progressively accelerating as the hours tick by, making 13 knots this morning at 04:00.

Sam Davies (Roxy) still continues to profit from her offshore position against Marc Guillemot (Safran), and has been quicker for much of the night than the fourth placed skipper. Davies has made 100 miles back on Safran since Saturday night, in determined ‘kick-ass’ mode aboard the pink Finot-Conq design. Her gains should continue as her French rival is forced to move east relative to the coastline of Brazil’s NE corner, and is 76 miles behind Guillemot this morning. She has made about 3 miles overnight on sixth placed Brian Thompson.

Thompson and Dee Caffari look to have now escaped the slowest corner of the high-pressure ridge, with Bahrain Team Pindar making 11.5 knots this morning. Caffari spent some of yesterday’s light winds interlude making a better repair to her mainsail. Lost miles at the time should be returned by a sail, which is now closer to 100% of its designed efficiency.

Steve White is now level with the River Plate estuary, some 700 miles offshore and still 900 miles south of Rio but the British skipper makes consistent progress at 8-9 knots in the lighter winds.

Rich Wilson (Great American III) was less than 70 miles from Cape Horn this morning enjoying relatively smooth conditions (for the area) in 20-25 knot winds. He should reach the landmark around 13:00. Raphael Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vitale) was 20 miles from the final ice gate this morning at 06:00 with Norbert Sedlacek, AUT, (Nauticsport Kapsch) 60 miles behind him.