Armel Le Cléac'h quietly assumes second place as Roland Jourdain is forced to retire

Armel Le Cléac’h, or ‘The Jackal’ (Brit Air), did not so much pounce as quietly assume second place in the Vendée Globe – the race postion that Roland Jourdain had held for 48 days.

Le Cléach looks set to follow up on his second place in last year’s Artemis Transat by again proving that staying power and regular performance are his key strengths. Brit Air was passing east of the Azores this morning in a moderating NW’ly wind making the quickest speed of the fleet last night with a 15.3 knots average.

Britain’s Sam Davies (Roxy) has had the additional stress of working her way through the Transquadra Race fleet whose course from Madeira to Guadeloupe passes east to west. She appears not to have had to alter course although her nearest rival Marc Guillemot, some 250 miles to the west of her, had a bigger concentration of the mainly amateur racers to pick a track through.

Davies had her first VHF radio conversation since the start of the fleet with one of the competitors crossing just a-mile-and-a-half away from her.

The Transquadra fleet is 83 boats strong but uses a very similar tracking system to the Vendée Globe. The twosome’s diverging courses saw Davies still make gains, as her track keeps her closer to the rhumb line. While the long detour of Guillemot around the Azores High pressure system – he is more than 800 miles from its centre this morning – sees him sailing consistently 25 degrees lower and at least 1.5 knots quicker in the NE’ly trades conditions. Both Guillemot and Davies have managed to stretch miles away from Brian Thompson on Bahrain Team Pindar who is now 420 miles behind Davies.

Thompson – now up to fifth – is moving along at 12 knots in upwind conditions in a short, uncomfortable three metres sea in the well-established trade winds. The British skipper is unable to push Bahrain Team Pindar to the maximum in conditions which should be close to optimum for her design, sailing only with half cant on the swing keel, due to the loss of hydraulic fluid from a keel ram on the starboard side.

Dee Caffari (Aviva) is setting about the task of regaining some of her lost Doldrums miles, making steady progress at around 10-11 knots, while it is the turn of Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) to feel the slowdown in the ITCZ. He has maintained a steady 6-7 knots so far.

Steve White (Toe in the Water) has favourable tradewinds at last making a good 10-12 knots, whilst Rich Wilson’s track on Great American III is taking him east in light breeze.

“What a difference a day makes!” Wilson reported last night. “Crystal blue skies, sea down, wind down, drifting along first NE then tacked NW to get to new wind a bit earlier, had a shower in the cockpit, had a shave, washed hair (pretty shaggy, will have to cut it soon). I saw a small pod of whales cross our wake about 1/4 mile behind, one pretty big one, and an errant flying fish, heading south, all by himself. I shouted to him ‘wrong way! The warm water is this way!’ – but he paid me no mind.”

After passing Cape Horn yesterday Raphael Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vitale) is now some 450 miles ahead of 11th placed Norbert Sedlacek (Nauticsport-Kapsch). Sedlacek should pass out of the Pacific, round Cape Horn around midday Wednesday (4 February).