500 miles to Cape Horn for leader Le Cléac'h
The approach to Cape Horn looks to be relatively benign for the two leaders of the Vendée Globe now 560 miles apart. Leader Armel Le Cléac'h is now closer to the race course's most emblematic milestone than second placed Alex Thomson is to him.
A scary moment for Sébastien Destremau1
Horn sweet Horn
Armel Le Cléac'h - Banque populaire VIII
Rather than the blast of a fast moving low pressure carrying lots of wind, as might be expected, Thomson is upwind in 10kts of breeze towards the centre of a low, while Le Cléacíh is slightly quicker. Routing models have Banque Populaire VIII at the famous island tomorrow afternoon and Hugo Boss on Sunday afternoon, Christmas Day. Both should get the chance to pass relatively close to the Horn in daylight.
Since Paul Meilhat (SMA) started making his way north after damage to his keel ram, Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) has been alone in third place, sailing on the back of a small area of low pressure. The wind is variable in strength and direction but Jérémie is making good headway in spite of all the problems he has encountered during his third attempt at the Vendée Globe. He still has a comfortable lead over Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac): 469 miles separated them in the 0400 UTC rankings. Dick is dealing with a ridge of high presure this morning and it looks like he will have to wait until tomorrow morning to accelerate again. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) are sailing ahead of a low pressure system, but will be running into a high later today. The battle continues for fifth place with just 37 miles between them this morning with the advantage going to Eliès. ďItís nice sailing along with Jean. We have been together since the storm that we had to deal with off New Zealand. Sailing with someone else means doing battle, checking your speed and strategy. Itís also an advantage in terms of safety in these isolated waters.Ē
Conrad at the half-way mark, Happy Birthday Didac!
On the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is making the most of some fine conditions. He has passed New Zealand and entered the real Pacific with Cape Horn the next piece of land. Just over 500 miles behind Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary), Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) has passed the halfway point and is about to enter the Pacific and say hi to his homeland as he goes by. Further back, the group of five are catching Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline). This morning there were only 140 miles between Alan Roura (13th on La Fabrique) and Rich Wilson (17th on Great American IV). Eric Bellion is performing well on CommeUnSeulHomme, which was the fastest in the fleet over the past 24 hours, covering 410 miles. Eric has overtaken Rich Wilson and Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), and is getting closer to Enda OíCoineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland). Tomorrow these five will be facing the nasty low, which is currently affecting those at the rear: Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean), Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean). While they have avoided the worst of the weather by heading north, conditions remain very rough as they advance towards Cape Leeuwin. Didac Costa, who is celebrating his 36th birthday will be happy to be getting close to the second major cape. The Catalan sailor, who set off from Les Sables díOlonne four days after everyone else, is catching Pieter Heerema.
Jérémie Beyou (3rd on Maître CoQ): ďIím still sailing on the back of a low with variable winds going from 15-30 knots and huge shifts. I have 34 knots at the moment in fact. While on the charts I managed to get, they were talking about fifteen. My thoughts go out to Paul (Meilhat) who had been doing so well. When someone who has been close like that drops out, it hits you hard. I still have a few problems, which are ruining things for me. The boat isnít at 100%, but Iím doing what I can. Some of the others are suffering more. I am up with the frontrunners after all. Iím giving myself one goal at a time. The next is to get to Cape Horn without things getting worse on the boat.Ē
Yann Eliès (5th on Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir): ďI have been sailing in exceptional conditions for the past couple of days: not too much wind, sunshine, and a nice swell which is pushing me along. Itís really a pleasure in this first part of the Pacific. I managed to air out the boat, get some sunshine out on deck without having to wrap up and I was even in my bare feet. Conditions are expected to be light in the next 48 hours. Iíll take advantage of that to recharge my batteries, inspect the boat and do some odd jobs. After the incidents affecting Stéphane (Le Diraison), Thomas (Ruyant) and Paul (Meilhat), I know how lucky I am to have a boat in good shape at this point in the course. I think that with my shore team we made some wise choices. But I shouldnít cry victory too soon. I havenít yet done two-thirds of the race course.Ē