In the Vendee Globe, South of the front three boats, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) triumphantly rounded Cape Horn early this morning at 0238 GMT in a 25 knot wind, making 17.5 knots. This is the first solo passage for the 38 year old British skipper and the culmination of twelve years hard work for him and his team. It demonstrates another superb performance on board Hugo Boss, the Farr 2007, which has never ceased, since the beginning of the race, to hold onto the rooster tails of the latest generation IMOCA Open 60.
According to the computers at the race HQ at Montparnasse Station, Paris, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) skirted passed a large iceberg, which was theoretically in his path, south of Diego Ramirez Islands. The courageous skipper, held his course without incident, demonstrating why he has gripped firmly onto fourth place overall, always ready to play his hand and try his luck.
Meanwhile, at the front of the fleet the leading skippers are tearing their hair out trying to avoid the pitfalls of the South Atlantic. Whilst at the rear, the sailors give it their all with their feet to the floor in tough conditions.
François Gabart (Macif) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) continue to jostle for position as their paths cross overnight. François Gabart (Macif) has elected for a more southerly option whereas Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) prefers the north. At around 230 miles east of the Falklands, the two leaders have clearly decided to forge ahead in their plan to avoid a large high pressure, which will hinder their course in the next few days.
Supported by a good southwesterly breeze of around 25 knots, the rebellious Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), is going for it. He is heading north-northeast in the hope of passing along the ridge of the high pressure. François Gabart (Macif) instead has progressed further east, in the hope he will gain an advantage. Time will tell who will gain or lose while negotiating the tricky Atlantic passage homeward bound. It may feel like the skippers are on the home strait but as Gabart said in a press release yesterday, 'Once we pass Cape Horn, everyone feels as we approach the final sprint. But this is not the case, the rise of the Atlantic lasts about a month, during which anything can happen, such as adverse weather patterns at the head of the race. Already, Armel and I are forced to make a detour, not on the direct route, while behind us, Jean-Pierre Dick and Alex Thomson routes are a little more direct.'
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3), meanwhile, has not made the same choice as the front two. Rather than cutting through the Strait of Le Maire, the skipper of Virbac Paprec 3 has sailed from Horn Island to Staten Island and this morning sits 360 miles in the wake of the two leaders.
Behind Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), there is still a substantial difference of 1300 miles between the chasers and the front four with Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) leading the charge. The Synerciel skipper is 200 miles from the last gate and is likely to be praying that his followers don’t catch him.
A depression from the south begins to touch the club of five led by Mike Golding (Gamesa). This depression is expected to generate icy cold, southerly winds of around 30 knots driving the boats on a direct route to the final gate on the route, and at last Cape Horn.
Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) is just over 75 miles behind Golding and Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) is tracking Dominique 120 miles off his transom.
The chase does not stop there: Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) as expected, is nibbling miles from Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas). Stamm is once again the fastest man in the fleet this morning. Behind Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) is enjoying a well-established north wind. South of New Zealand, with 315 miles to the next gate, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) continues on his merry way in 20 knots of wind.