Vendee Globe - Leaders reach Australia's West gate

Armel Le Cléac’h is the first sailor to reach Australia’s West gate in the Vendee Globe Race 2012-2013
© Armel Le Cléac’h / BPCE
In the Vendee Globe, Armel Le Cléac’h passed the Australia West gate last night at around 1944hrs UTC on its most westerly mark 21 minutes ahead of François Gabart, who was 18 miles to the east, but it is Gabart who has made the overnight gain as the fleet heads under Australia. At 21 miles between Gabart’s Macif and Banque Populaire of Le Cléac’h the gap is negligible, but the top two are always gaining miles on the fleet.

Over the last 24 hours their speed differential with the 11 skippers in pursuit has been of the order of three to six knots, on average. As Gabart and Le Cléac’h count down the 360 miles to Cape Leeuwin, the second great cape, and beyond to the Australia East gate which is about 1450 miles ahead of them, there is now 220 miles between Jean-Pierre Dick in third and second placed Le Cléac’h. The Virbac-Paprec skipper was less than 100 miles behind yesterday morning, and that gap is still opening.

The deltas to the runway duo make sombre reading. Bernard Stamm has lost 225 miles, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss 162. Over 72 hours Mike Golding and Dominique Wavre have lost close to 700 miles. But, equally, to put it in a perspective Golding is now 1390 miles behind the leaders, the distance between Les Sables d’Olonne and Gibraltar, so understanding they are racing in entirely different weather systems, a different race almost, is perhaps not so hard.

Jean Le Cam, sixth on SynerCiel, Mike Golding seventh on Gamesa and Dominique Wavre eighth on Mirabaud continue in the transition zone from the low pressure trough but otherwise most competitors have decent breeze today. In particular Javier Sanso has a good NW’ly flow of 25-35kts which will continue to allow him to catch miles on the trio ahead. The Spanish skipper from Palma, Mallorca has made 240 miles on Wavre since yesterday afternoon and is now 330 miles behind Mirabaud.

The South Indian Ocean is a lonely, featureless wasteland with few islands. Jean Le Cam skirted close to the volcanic St Paul Island which was discovered in 1559 by Evert Gysaerths but it was not until 1696 that the Dutch navigator Willem de Vlaming landed there. Dominique Wavre should also pass close today to this tiny French outpost.

Whilst the two leaders passed the Australia West gate this morning, Bertrand de Broc on Votre Nom Autour du Monde avec EDM projects should pass the Crozet gate today some 300 miles ahead of Tanguy De Lamotte.

Vendee Globe website