Vendée Globe - Banque Populaire retakes lead

BANQUE POPULAIRE - VENDEE GLOBE 2012/2013
© Armel Le Cléac'h / Banque Populaire
Vendée Globe skipper Armel the Jackal has taken the lead with 37 days, 20 hours, 70 miles to the longitude of Hobart. They call him The Jackal because of his relentless hunting exploits in French sailing races and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) is showing why in this Vendée Globe. After eating away at the lead Francois Gabart (Macif) took from him on December 11, Le Cléac’h had the final bite as they crossed the East Australia gate.

It may seem illogical or that it does not matter with more than half the globe still to sail, but try telling that to either man. They have been almost match-racing each other around the world and they and their teams will care a lot.

For Le Cléac’h, the senior of the duo by six years and in his second Vendée after finishing second in the last edition in 2008-09, it is about reasserting his authority.

The pattern of their approaches so far continued at this gate with Gabart ceding the lead as he took a longer, more northerly route. The two had indentical speeds – 17.3 knots - through the northern hemisphere night but their day but Gabart will have to sail more miles now as they turn south of New Zealand (800 miles east) and into the Pacific. At the 0400hrs ranking Gabart had sailed 14,248.56 miles compared to Le Cléac’h’s 13,868.16 miles. Nearly always Le Cléac’h has looked for the more direct route. Gabart is banking on picking up the forecast wind shift from west to north first. So, expect more match-racing today.

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) lost ground on the leaders but was making the best speed in the fleet – 20.4 knots in the last hour as he continues his match race with Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) on the longitude of Hobart.

Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel), in sixth, has been dealing with rough conditions and 40-knot southwesterlies. But he may be glad of it when he looks behind and sees that a small area of ??high pressure may block the road for Mike Golding (Gamesa) as he approaches the West Australia gate.

'The thing is just now is that it looks like Jean Le Cam will be able to hold on to the system for two or three more skeds (rankings), I have just run his routing and that’s how it looks,' Golding wrote. 'That is frustrating but I can’t do anything about it. I am under full main and Code 3, but at some point I hope there’ll be a payback.

'Last night was pretty full on at times. I had the boat up to 30kts on the surfs at one stage but the only trouble is you end up slamming into waves and that’s not good for the boat.

'But it is starting to feel pretty frustrating because we just never seem to have got going for any length of time. The weather behind is pretty slack. We will just have to look forward to the Pacific.'

It could be a moment for Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud), 190 miles behind and Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered), 350 miles behind to make significant gains.

Tanguy ‘Smoke on the Water’ de Lamotte has perhaps the toughest 24 hours ahead with shifting winds between 35 and 50 knots and a huge sea and up to nine metre waves forecast. If the Indian Ocean looked mild last week, de Lamotte will remember his first visit to it more keenly now as he goes into survival mode rather than racing.

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3), on his own in third, is 250 miles south west of the East Australia gate and in similar position to where the two leaders gybed north yesterday.

Vendee Globe website