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Vendee Globe - Battle intensifies in the Pacific

by Matthew Pryor / Vendee Globe on 20 Dec 2012
Armel le C’leach, Banque Populaire, Vendee Globe 2012 © Vincent Curutchet / BPCE
In the Vendee Globe, much like two boxers standing toe-to-toe and swinging from the hip, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) and Francois Gabart (Macif) are trading blows with every ranking. Le Cléac’h landed one overnight – their day in the southern hemisphere - as they approached the Auckland Islands. Le Cléac’h is 2.5 miles ahead and just two miles northeast of Gabart.

Both skippers have held the lead for just 15 hours before being unseated in the longer stretch of nine hours between ranking.

Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire), was slightly faster at the 0400hrs (UTC) ranking (averaging 19.3 knots to Gabart’s 17.8 knots over the last hour).

With both pushing each other like this and combined with a mixture of their skill, superior boat speed, the chances of the fleet catching them diminish.

They have a northerly wind of 30 knots, which will gradually turn northwest this morning. If the sea is relatively easy for the moment, with a four-metre swell rolling in the direction of the wind, the next few hours could be more uncomfortable as the waves will rise sharply as they approach the Campbell Plateau, where the sea bed shelves back, sometimes sharply from 5000 to less than 200 metres in places. Watch those nosedives you two.

After his successful trip up the mast, Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3), was back up to speed and became the third boat into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, after crossing the 146°55' E longitude south of Tasmania.

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), will follow him on today. Thomson extended his lead from 14 miles to 39 overnight, but both have slowed this morning and are losing miles to the leaders. Thomson was making 14 knots in the last hour and Stamm just 11.7.

After a slow 24 hours where it looked like he might be nursing a secret problem, Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel), in sixth, was back up to speed overnight, averaging 15 knots and stemming the flow of Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered). Nevertheless the four boats with Mike Golding (Gamesa) and Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) in seventh and eighth now have only just over 300 miles between them.

Sansó, in ninth, was 518 miles behind 48 hours ago and, but had closed the gap to 297 miles by Wednesday night. This morning it was 310 miles. Wavre, the most, the most northerly of the boats as the well as the oldest skipper in the race at 57, averaged the highest speeds in the fleet overnight – 19 knots.

Spare a thought for Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) - 600 miles from the Amsterdam gate and 4,197.4 miles behind the leader - whose unfathomable patience may be tested today as he is caught in an anticyclone while the other 12 all have strong wind. But it should pass in 24 hours. Vendee Globe website

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