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Le Cléac'h's Small Dividend

Blessed by a rich-get-richer scenario, leading out of a high pressure ridge and its lighter airs, Armel Le Cléac'h has restored his lead to over 130 miles ahead of his British adversary Alex Thomson. Speeds are mostly quite even now between the two and the weather predictions still show small progressive gains to the French skipper who will, in time, ease into stronger, more lifted breezes.

But the duo have about 700 miles of upwind sailing now. This morning Le Cléac'h has around 17kts of NNE'ly wind and Thomson around 15kts. Both should tack at nearly the same time, Le Cléach only 100 miles or so east of Rio.

Rich Wilson / Great American IV - # Vendee Globe

The leaders are now well up their South Atlantic ascent and hence into warmer weather but the back markers are still fighting their way towards the entry to the Pacific. The duo of Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean) in 16th and Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) in 17th are now less than 70 miles apart with 170 miles to make to the Pacific. The Spanish skipper Costa was slowed yesterday to continue with his self-steering mechanism repairs, all the time conceding miles to the advancing Attanasio. To their north, as the annual Sydney-Hobart classic racers enjoy the fruits of their successes in Hobart, it seems like both Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) and Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) may both route through the Bass Strait. Destremau said most recently that he would likely stop in New Zealand but for the meantime both are keeping out of the low pressure train and Destremau is clearly leaving his pit-stop options open.

Enda O'Coineen's pit-stop at Stewart Island is not going as well as hoped. The Irish skipper of Kilcullen Voyager has made two aborted attempts to get his anchor down in Pegasus Bay but has returned to the open water to the south of the island. The beds of thick seaweed and strong NE'ly winds are making it hard for him to get a secure hold.

Rich Wilson (Great American IV) has sailed to the north east to avoid the worst of an active low pressure system but will still likely encounter 30-40kts winds tomorrow, while Eric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme) leads a quartet of skippers towards Point Nemo, where Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) and Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) are passing right now. The Hungarian skipper transgressed momentarily yesterday, dropping south of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone for a short period. But it still cost Fa a couple of wasted hours to retrace his wake and make good his error according to the race rules. Colman is making miles back on his former Barcelona World Race co-skipper despite the loss of his Solent jib.

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) continues to enjoy his own 'to order' conditions, with a small 'private' low pressure system giving him good reaching conditions as he progresses towards his first Cape Horn which is now less than 1,000 miles ahead of him.

Jean-Pierre Dick (St-Michel Virbac) has had his share of frustrating times, not least in the east of the Pacific when he was stopped in light winds for 24 hours, but now he has his recompense. He has been able to cut miles sailing to the west of the Falklands and now has a fast moving low pressure system giving him more than 30kts of SW'ly winds, which will slingshot him northwards, gaining fast miles on the chasing duo of Jean Le Cam and Yann Eliès in fifth and sixth. And in third place, Jérémie Beyou, is momentarily in a holding pattern, stuck in an anticyclone, which he will escape from later today.


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Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent): "The visibility improved just as I rounded Cape Horn, which was just 2-3 miles away. You never make landfall there in the same way but it's always a passage that heralds the end of one thing and the beginning of the next… Right now we are completely becalmed in the Atlantic: a very radical change since there is no wind, no chop, no waves and no clouds! It feels as if the lows have been very strong this year, especially in the Indian Ocean, since there have been a lot of boats that have slowed up to let the southern storms roll through. Yann (Éliès) even stopped twice to avoid some very deep lows… The disturbances have been very violent as we've had up to 70 knots! Bernard (Stamm) and I had something similar during the Barcelona World Race, with a sort of hurricane forming over Reunion Island that dropped down to the Roaring Forties. On the other hand, the Pacific has been pretty cool, but we did have to drop down to 58°30: boy was it cold! The boat's making good headway: it's a solid boat as we can see from the fact that I've been in contact with Yann Éliès for quite some time! We're going to climb up towards Brazil with a first and then a second low. However, we will have some upwind conditions at some point: that will make life calmer, but we should make the climb up to Cabo Frio fairly quickly. The boat's in great shape.

Personally I've never eaten any freeze-dried food: this evening will be like Christmas with calves' sweetbreads and mashed potato. And I also have some salted Le Gall butter! We nearly forgot it at the start as it was in the fridge…"


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Video of Dragonsbane, a globe-trotting 43-foot Sceptre, at the 35th Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten, March 2015.
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