Michel Desjoyeaux still leads at New Zealand gate while Dee Caffari is fastest

The low-pressure system, which gave headwinds for the Vendee Globe leaders up to the New Zealand security gate, has shuffled the mileages again but the order remains fixed.

Since transiting the gate last night leader Michel Desjoyeaux has gone east then north gaining significantly on Roland Jourdain who looked to be a threat yesterday evening. Jourdain has carried on north and is slightly closer to the next gate, 570 miles off. Dee Caffari (Aviva) has been quickest in the fleet, covering 389 miles over the last 24 hours, the biggest distance in the fleet, and remains quickest this morning.

In spite of the northerly winds, Michel Desjoyeaux reached the New Zealand Gate and then immediately headed eastwards extending his lead over Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement), who opted instead to continue north-eastwards now rather than face headwinds to pass the Western Pacific Gate. Once the front goes over, SW’ly winds are forecast and should offer more favourable conditions for him than for the leader.

Passing the Gate was not a very gratifying experience for Sébastien Josse (BT) or Jean Le Cam (VM Matériaux), who both lost ground over the leading duo, but also saw the pair behind them narrow the gap.

Vincent Riou (PRB) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air)did not have to endure the upwind sailing that the pacemakers to go through over Christmas.

Desjoyeaux crossed the New Zealand gate last night at around 2000hrs GMT and almost immediately hitched to the east again, before changing to a more north-easterly course at around 0400hrs, just as the standings are published, whilst Jourdain is now well over 100 miles north of the latitude of the gate.

Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2) has been making good speeds and is now about 500 miles SW from the New Zealand gate, whilst eighth placed Sam Davies, GBR, (Roxy) has had a steady night posting good average speeds in the 12-14 knots range. Marc Guillemot (Safran) in ninth turned north at around midnight and is heading to Auckland Island – 250 miles off the south of South Island NZ, – to try and affect a repair to his mast track. He has about 250 miles to sail north to the small archipelago.

However, it is Dee Caffari who has made the most of the more favourable conditions. Averaging 18 knots in the past few hours, making her the fastest on the water, she continues this trend after overtaking Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar) last night, and really seems to have the measure of the conditions.

And those in the lower third of the field have been suffering still in very gusty winds and a difficult sea-state.

Jonny Malbon, (Artemis 2):

“The conditions have been horrendous for Christmas, with the worst sea state I have ever seen. The wind was 25 to 55 in the gusts again yesterday and I have really been struggling to keep the boat and myself in one piece. Don’t know how to sail fast in these conditions – and that’s all I want to do, sail fast for home, and try catch up with the guys in front. Have to say that I am having a really hard time at the moment, as I’m sure the others are too. Just want to make some good progress towards home. It wasn’t a great Christmas, but I know that I will make up for it big time when I get home. Hopefully it can only get better!”

Derek Hatfield, (Spirit of Canada):

“Christmas aboard was a day of fighting with Autopilots, leaking ballast tanks and broken battens trying to jump out of the mainsail. The wind has been at 42kts all last night and today, showing no signs of letting up. The mainsail is looking pretty sad with the top portion of it unsupported, not holding it’s shape at all and I cannot do anything about it until the wind drops off hopefully there will be less wind in about 12-16hrs further to the south.”

Raphael Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital) reported early this morning:

“This morning I climbed the mast and managed to refit the port lazy jack. To deal with the starboard side, I climbed to within a metre of the second spreaders, but failed, as it was too difficult and too risky. 30-35 knot winds, heavy seas, but the boat was pushing forward in these high winds. The boom and mainsail battens were damaged, the wind generator is broken and a large section of the solar panels on the coach roof are damaged. I’m finding it more and more difficult producing the energy I require. The boom and badly furled sail on the deck are blocking some of the other solar panels.”

0400 GMT Rankings, 26 December:

1. Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) at 10315.1 miles to the finish
2. Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) at 119.8 miles
3. Jean Le Cam (VM Matériaux) at 169 miles
4. Seb Josse (BT) at 169.3 miles
5. Vincent Riou (PRB) at 367.7 miles

Selected International
8. Sam Davies, GBR, (ROXY) at 1516.9 miles
10. Dee Caffari, GBR, (AVIVA) at 1979.2 miles
11. Brian Thompson, GBR, (Bahrain Team Pindar) at 2015.8 miles
13. Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water) at 2733.8 miles
14. Johnny Malbon, GBR, (Artemis) at 3293.9 miles
15. Rich Wilson, USA, (Great American III) at 3371.7 miles
16. Derek Hatfield, CAN, (Algimouss Spirit of Canada) at 3498.9 miles
18. Norbert Sedlacek, AUT, (Nauticsport.Kapsch) 4352.9 miles