Vendee Globe - Full attack mode initiated!

Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe
In the Vendee Globe, it is full attack mode for all thirteen skippers this morning as each manages to maintain solid average speeds, all making good miles towards their next waypoint. For the leading duo, who spoke last night by VHF radio, the next ‘mark’ is Cape Horn which will be less than 1000 miles ahead today. Just two miles apart last night with Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) leading François Gabart (Macif), it is Gabart who has extended slightly, to be six miles ahead on the 0500hrs UTC ranking. In third place Jean-Pierre Dick has passed his final gate, Pacific East, and gained some miles on the two leaders last night. After his return to the race course two days ago Bernard Stamm is the second quickest in the fleet.

An exchange by VHF radio last night between leaders Gabart and Le Cléac’h when they were less than a couple of miles apart is another small insight into the enduring relationship between the top two Vendée Globe skippers. Now racing slanted hard to the SE, at 55 degrees south, they may have been virtually side-by-side for 20 days now, fighting toe to toe for every small metre gain here and there, constantly monitoring each other’s progress, but the brothers-in-arms also have huge respect for each other. There was a humorous warning yesterday evening when he was behind from Gabart to his rival in front to make sure one did not run into the other. But so too there will be a very definite sense of solidarity and shared safety as they approach Cape Horn together where ice is being reported within 50 miles of the cape.

Having had to retire from the last race with rudder damage, into New Zealand, Jean-Pierre Dick will be quietly satisfied to have checked off the final ice gate of the course, Pacific East, now and is also making excellent speed towards his sixth rounding of Cape Horn. JP is the quickest in the fleet this morning at 19kts and with a 431 miles 24-hour run has also covered the greatest distance. His margin to the leaders is 352 miles this morning but he continues on a more direct course while the top two plunge more south. In fourth Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is 581 miles behind Dick, 1.5 days at current speeds. Around 1000 miles astern Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) is preparing to make the Pacific West gate which is 160 miles in front of him.

The other duel which is playing out in the fleet is that between the ‘senior’ skippers Mike Golding (Gamesa) and Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud). Swiss skipper Wavre had closed to within seven miles of the Briton yesterday morning (in terms of distance to finish) but since their split on to opposite gybes for the early part of yesterday, it is Golding who is managing to re-establish the miles he lost, now restored to 30 miles ahead of Wavre this morning. Both are on port gybe in the same modest 15kts breeze. And behind them Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso has a better wind angle than them and is fighting back hard after his mainsail headboard car repair cost him miles.

Since rejoining the race course two days ago Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) has been progressively building speed on his powerful Juan Kouyoumdjian design and is making progress in his quest to catch Arnaud Boissières (Akena Verandas). The Swiss skipper made a spectacular comeback in the last race, albeit ill fated. After hitting a cargo ship on the first night in November 2008, Stamm restarted five days after the fleet had left Les Sables d’Olonne and was up to 12th place of the 30 starters when his race ended in the Kerguelen Islands when his boat ran aground whilst trying to anchor in a 45 knots gale. With a back catalogue of ill luck on this Vendée Globe, Stamm has fire in his belly and is 85 miles behind Boissières but nearly two knots faster.

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