Le Cléac'h and Josse close in on Thomson
Chasing pair Armel le Cléac'h and Seb Josse began making inroads into Vendee Globe frontrunner Alex Thomson's lead last night following the news that the British skipper's yacht Hugo Boss had suffered damage to its starboard foil.
With Thomson unable to benefit from the lift and speed generated by having the foil in the water, the gap between him and Le Cléac'h, the runner up in the previous two editions of the solo non stop round the world race, shrank from 125 nautical miles to just under 90, with Josse a further 15 miles back. The trio lead a pack of seven boats that were able to hook onto a fast-moving low pressure system, catapulting them towards the Southern Ocean.
Despite his setback, at the latest position update at 0400 UTC Thomson was traveling at 20.4 knots, half a knot quicker than Le Cléac'h and more than a knot above Josse, in around 30 knots of breeze from the north. In fact over the 24 hours that preceded the report his was the quickest boat in the fleet, with an average of 20.7 knots. If he can keep his foot on the gas, Thomson may well be able to fend off the attack from from Le Cléac'h's (Banque Populaire VIII) and Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) until he is able to tack onto starboard at the Cape of Good Hope and begin foiling once more.
But the big news this morning is that Vincent Riou (PRB) has accelerated and is now managing to keep up the pace. Just ahead of a cold front associated with a Brazilian low, the five frontrunners are tightly packed, but are extending their lead over Paul Meilhat (SMA) and particularly Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), who find themselves in different wind conditions – 25-30 knots from the north for the leaders and only around twenty for the chasing boats.
Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir) has been unable to follow the same route, because of a massive change in the position of the St.Helena high. He has been attempting to remain ahead of the cold front that is propelling the leaders at high speed, but is so far back that the wind and sea conditions are very different. He is going to have to turn his route eastwards
Towards the tail end of the fleet Dutchman Pieter Heerema's No Way Back and Swiss sailor Alan Roura on La Fabrique notched up major milestones in their races by crossing the Equator overnight. That leaves just three boats still to cross into the Southern Hemisphere – Kilcullen Voyager skippered by Irishman, Enda O'Coineen, Sebastien Destramau's TechnoFirst-face Ocean and One Planet One Ocean with Spain's Didac Costa at the helm.
Irish skipper Enda O Coineen is preparing to cross the Equator later today, but this is rather a special moment for him for another reason too, as there has been a birth in the family. He was proud to announce yesterday that he has a new grand-daughter. This news appears to have compensated for a disappointing day out on the water, as after thinking he was out of the clutches of the Doldrums, he found himself becalmed for several hours, before experiencing some very strong gusts that appeared out of nowhere.
Bertrand de Broc, forced to abandon his race yesterday due to structural damage caused by a collision off Portugal, remains anchored off Fernando de Noronha this morning. It is thought he will take his IMOCA 60 MACSF to Recife some 300 miles away on the north eastern corner of Brazil.
Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir):
"I'm racing against the front and have a tiny opening to get through. I hope that this route will work out for the next four or five days. I hope that the front passing around the high won't swallow me up. In any case, I can't keep up the pace set by the leaders. The gaps that have developed mean that we are no longer in the same weather system. I'm in my own race now, while attempting not to get too far behind the frontrunners, when they reach the Cape of Good Hope. But I think I'll be two days behind them. It's going to be complicated getting closer to them. I simply can't keep up that pace, but in my opinion, they won't be able to stay at those speeds for long either. We'll see what happens when the get to the Indian."
Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline):
It's been a tropical night with small squalls. I'm continuing my route south with some uncertainty off Cape Frio, as the forecasts are for light airs. For the moment I have between 15 and 25 knots of wind with some rain, but it's not that unpleasant. I'm around a hundred miles off the coast of Brazil, 130 miles from Recife. I passed a cargo vessel yesterday. The first I have seen since the start. There are six of us relatively close together, which is nice."
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