Guillemot still leads, Caffari is highest placed Brit in seventh, and a third Frenchman turns back

It may have been a tough and physical first night for the 30 Vendee skippers ( read previous story ), but there is more to come as a vicious cold front is forecast to hit them this afternoon and this evening – a real test as they try to escape the Bay of Biscay.

While Marc Guillemot (Safran, pictured) has held his lead, his decision to tack to the south whilst the majority of the fleet head west gives him an edge, but reports show that there is now little difference between leaders’ boat speeds.

Mike Golding’s (Ecover) decision to follow Guillemot with two tacks last night seems to have paid off. The British skipper has made up ten places from last night’s rankings and is now lying 13th and sitting between Guillemot and the main pack. But it is Dee Caffari (Aviva) – sistership to Ecover – who is the top international skipper lying in seventh place just ahead of the defending Vendée Globe title holder Vincent Riou (PRB).

In the 1000 GMT rankings this morning, Safran was leading by 9.5 miles. Behind him were Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environment), and Loick Peyron (Gitana) – the two most southernly boats of the main group. Sam Davies (Roxy), who went with the pair, gained a couple of places. These three are now on a slightly more northerly heading, making their way towards the rest of the fleet. Golding confirmed in today’s live radio feed that he did not see any further benefit to the south.

Sam says she is looking to find a good rhythm now, and reported that she feels lucky not to have been seasick. An accident onboard has caused an oil container to split, turning Roxy’s floor into a skating rink. Sam is waiting for better weather to properly clean it up.

“The first night has been full-on, with too many sail changes and tacks,” explained Sam. “I tried to take advantage of a shift during the night, but tacking is SO hard and takes SO long with all this gear on board! Stacking is a nightmare, especially in 30 knots of wind and big seas! I think I lost more with my tacks than I gained from the shift!”

Mike Golding added: “It’s been pretty wet and wild. I’ve been busy – one of the mast cars failed, and trying to decide whether to tack on each and every shift – it’s very shifty. I’ve done one hitch and it seems to have worked out okay ? now we’re all just trucking west and it seems to be building again now. I think by about 3 o’clock this afternoon we’ll have some pretty wild conditions.”

Unfortunately, one of the pre-race favourites Michel Desjoyeaux (Fonica) – lying sixth this morning – has become the third skipper to turn back to shore to effect repairs. He was having problems with his electrics after a leak in the ballast system, which left the boat’s engine flooded.

Desjoyeaux said: “I had a small leak in the ballast system and underestimated its importance and the damage. This morning I started up the engine and after 40 minutes of charging, I could smell something burning. The engine was taking a swimming lesson and didn’t appreciate it. I have already done part of a round the world race with an engine which was extremely difficult to start, but if it wasn’t going to work at all……I took the decision to turn around. I hope to reach Les Sables d’Olonne by 2200 and that the sea, which is already high, will allow me to do that, so we can get to work on the repairs.”

Also down on the dock are Bernard Stamm’s shore team, who are currently working flat out to repair the broken bowsprit on Cheminées Poujoulat – they hope to return to the racecourse around 12 noon tomorrow.