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T Clewring - Cruising

Vendée Globe – Hugo Boss fastest in fleet overnight

by Matthew Pryor on 17 Jan 2013
Hugo Boss - 2012-13 Vendee Globe Alex Thomson http://www.alexthomsonracing.com
Vendée Globe 2012-13 skipper Alex Thomson, onboard Hugo Boss, was the fastest in the fleet overnight averaging 17 knots to keep his hopes of a place on the podium alive. He has been the fastest over the last 24 hours and as he leaves the coast of Brazil has power to add over the next 24 in easterly tradewinds as those in front of him struggle.

The doldrums has not shuffled the pack but has changed the hands of the skippers, as the MGV (MACIF Grande Vitesse) has been has been slowed for one of the first times in the race. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) lost 18 miles overnight, but is only 80 behind after his great comeback. Francois Gabart (MACIF) averaged 9.9 knots overnight and Le Cléac’h 7.6. Both were making 10.1 knots in the last hour before the ranking and should leave the doldrums shortly. But the road ahead is unclear and not easy as they will eventually be heading into a NNE wind.

Thomson is 723 miles behind Gabart, which on paper is too big a deficit with less than 3,000 miles to the finish. But he has won back 155 miles in the last 24 hours. It can happen quickly; he lost 540 miles in three days from the morning of January 11 to January 14 and his westerly passage through the doldrums may yet mean he can bank the miles he will win back. It is true that Gabart and Le Cléac’h escape far quicker than they are caught – which tends to be a process of attrition – but hope has returned for Thomson.

Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) is 287 miles ahead of Thomson in third place and was still averaging 14.9 knots overnight and closing on the front two. He is 436 miles behind Gabart and following the route of the front two. He will cross the equator this afternoon and then see what the doldrums will deal him.

The vagaries of the doldrums must look sweet to the middle five, who have stuck in South Atlantic high-pressure hole all week. They continue to twist and turn and it a measure of how bad things have been the system bringing north wind into their faces will seem like a blessed release. Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) in fifth is already in it and making 15.3 knots but his VMG is only 6 knots because he has turned even further west and is just 140 southeast of Rio – and heading directly that way, the pull of Carnival is strong for a free spirit like Le Cam. He is even further west than the road taken by Thomson four days before. Le Cam is a master at finding wind where others cannot but even he may be boxing himself in.

By contrast Mike Golding (Gamesa), out to the west, was averaging 11.1 knots in the last hour with a VMG of 8 knots. It is a similar story for the three behind. Zoom the picture back and the image of five boats and their tracks over the last week is that of an exploded firework or sun-starved flowers seeking the light. Their twisting and turning has not finished yet.

The picture could not be more different behind as Bertrand De Broc (Votre nom autour du monde avec EDM Projets) and Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives cœur) have the wind at their backs, enjoying the generous 25 knot southwesterlies that swept up round Cape Horn after them.

The same is true for the last man in the Pacific. Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) is currently 240 miles from Cape Horn. In about 18 hours, he will leave the Pacific join the Atlantic express. Vendee Globe website

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