Mike Sanderson and team aboard the Dutch VOR yacht ABN AMRO 1 are nearly 80 miles ahead after six days at sea

ABN AMRO 1 is flying. “The guys have got the boat just ‘on fire’. We are seeing speeds of up to 25 knots in just 17 knots of wind,” wrote an elated skipper, Mike Sanderson late last night. It’s payback time for this team as their pre-race plan begins to show dividends and Brasil 1 (Torben Grael), their nearest rival is now 78 miles behind them, losing out 15 nm in the last six hours. The second Dutch boat, ABN AMRO 2 (Sebastien Josse), now averaging the slowest speed of the leading three, finds herself 86 nm behind her team mates, while Ericsson (Neal McDonald) is only managing to average 15.1 knots and now brings up the rear of the leading four, 93 nm adrift.

Sunergy and Friends are now sailing in a completely different wind pattern with the breeze at less than 10 knots, leaving them 868 nm behind ABN AMRO 1 following their pitstop in Madeira to repair the boat.

With the boat speeds nearly matching, and, in the case of ABN AMRO 1, exceeding, the wind speeds over the last 24 hours, the leading pack of four is quickly making its way through the trade winds. Conditions yesterday were as good as they get, with flat seas, sun, and wind speeds in the high teens. Still, no one is sitting back and enjoying the ride, as decisions made now will have a big impact on the next few days.

Over the last 24 hours we have seen the east/west split of the fleet narrow dramatically as the boats all struggle to choose the best lane to cross the doldrums – the light wind zone which lies between the current positions of the boats and the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha. The northern edge of the doldrums is still sitting at about 7 deg North (between 26W-31W, the yachts longitude), so speeds will decrease once the boats arrive at the doldrums in the next day or so.