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Vendee Globe - Steady gains as leaders head for Amsterdam gate

by Vendee Globe on 10 Dec 2012
Banque Populaire Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendée Globe © http://www.vendeeglobe.org
In the Vendee Globe, making their course for the Amsterdam gate - some 800 miles ahead, the leaders are still experiencing small differences in the wind relative to their proximity to the high pressure system to their north which is still influencing them.

But in the heart of the Indian Ocean there are still just 127 miles between first placed Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) and fifth placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss).

The British skipper and third placed Jean-Pierre Dick have lost some small miles overnight through their course which is slightly more to the north, initially racing in less breeze.

After four weeks at sea the fleet is now very much in four groups, four races around the world.

Since returning to the lead of the Vendée Globe yesterday afternoon Armel Le Cléac’h gained steadily once he had positioned Banque Populaire to the south of his pursuers, sailing faster in more wind pressure. Le Cléac’h has averaged over 14kts, which was latterly being matched by young François Gabart on Macif. The leading duo now have a 67 miles gap back to third placed Dick and the top two are on steadily converging courses, suggesting that perhaps Le Cléac’h, 34 miles ahead of Macif, will struggle to shake off his youthful nemesis with quite the ease which was once predicted.

Bernard Stamm, six miles behind Dick’s Virbac-Paprec 3, is fast again this morning at just over 17kts, the Swiss skipper is making ready to challenge for the podium again, whilst Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss made some initial losses on his more northerly, rhumb line course. But he is fastest among the leaders, four knots quicker than Banque Populaire. Strategies are secondary for the moment as a direct drag race to Amsterdam develops.

Poised to pass the Crozet ice gate this morning, Gamesa’s Mike Golding has been on the outside, south of the course curve which has been profitable for the British skipper, but now he loses some minor miles as he crosses the bows of Jean Le Cam’s Synerciel this morning, consolidating to the gate which they should reach before gybing south-east again to pursue the leaders, still ahead of a beneficial low pressure trough which should allow the trio – Golding, Le Cam and Dominique Wavre – a fast, direct flight to Amsterdam.

Majorca’s Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) should get some respite this morning after a night of changeable, difficult winds. He now has the Crozet gate 500 miles ahead but he has Arnaud Boissières (Akena Verandas) in pursuit, racing faster on a more southerly course.

Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) in 12th place is approaching the Agulhas gate from the north and should pass it this morning, having made fresh bread in anticipation last night. And Alessandro di Benedetto (Team Plastique) has done well to position himself nicely for the passage of a stormy low pressure which will give him winds over 40kts, but the Franco-Italian skipper is already well to the south.

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