Fleet divides in two between Atlantic and Pacific - six head for France and six contend with Cape Horn

Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar, pictured) rounded Cape Horn this morning at 03:15 GMT passing just two miles offshore from the legendary rock at the end of South America.

He reported later that he had seen some small islands not marked on his chart. Thompson should have had a spectacular view as the reward for the last few days of intense pressure in 50-60 knots winds, but he expects to be hit Friday by this tropical storm which has barreled across the Pacific and will affect Steve White today. It has been an ominous threat to the Pacific fleet since it hit Jean Pierre Dick off New Zealand. Thompson would like to do more work to his bow repair but needs to decide where and when that would be, but he notes that it requires calmer waters.

Thompson said the morning:

“It was great and really good to get past. I had the full amazing spectacle on the approach down the Chilean coast, I could see the mountains and the glacier, big clouds sitting over them and the dark squalls running across the seas. The sea is noticeably darker, almost black, over the continental shelf and with the white caps on the water it was quite spectacular. I went very close to the islands and found four islands, which were not supposed to be there. I could see the rock, really big, from about 28 miles out. I came in quite fast and then it got quite light. The change in the weather was very marked right at Cape Horn. I had, like, 10 knots and even 6 knots and I thought ‘oops a daisy I’ve got a bit close here’ but a I ghosted through and so cut the corner nicely.

“I had a good view of it, with the moon really high. It felt really good, but not as sweet as it should have done because I know we have this storm coming which looks like it will give us a bit of a kicking.”

Those still in the race are now equally divided in two between the Atlantic and Pacific. Six solo sailors are heading back up to Les Sables d’Olonne while six others still have the Horn to contend with. For Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) and Dee Caffari (Aviva), the Horn will be coming up later this evening (15 January). Caffari was 200 miles from the rock this morning and has been pushing hard, just 35 miles off the west Chilean coast. For them it will not represent the end of their suffering, as a violent storm is expected to hit them off Staten Island ( read previous story here ).

Further north, after being watched by some intrigued spectators on a fishing boat, cargo ship and a small passenger ship, Marc Guillemot (Safran) said farewell to the Falklands after some exhausting work up his mast. In spite of spending four hours in 30-knot biting winds, his determination does not seem to have been affected.

In the lead now for thirty days, Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) has gained around thirty miles over his nearest rival, as he expected, although Roland Jourdain has not had to carry out so many changes of tack to get across the ridge of high pressure. After a day struggling in light airs, Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) has finally reached the winds from the St. Helena high and should soon be feeling the tropical heat.

Steve White (Toe in the Water) continues to make good progress in lighter winds, the lull before he is hit by the tropical storm system later today. Rich Wilson (Great American III) has been making steady 9-10 knots towards the final ice gate, 650 miles away. And for the back markers there is now just three miles, in terms of distance to finish, between Norbert Sedlacek and Raphael Dinelli.