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Vendee Globe - Small gains as leaders head for Australia West gate

by Vendee Globe on 12 Dec 2012
Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe © Alexis Courcoux / Macif
Current Vendée Globe leader Francois Gabart on Macif banked a small, but significant gain overnight against his main rival Armel Le Cléac’h as the leading five continue to open a significant distance on the second group of boats.

Some 700 miles from the Australia West gate, leader Gabart, who is on his first solo circumnavigation, had time to reflect that the round the world skippers’ passage is around the world clock as well as around the globe.

Now the European night is becoming their daylight hours. With Macif averaging just under 15kts for the passage so far they might hardly struggled with jet lag but day by day, they advance to the opposite ‘end’ of the clock as well as the other side of the world.

Skippers vary in their approach to the seamless but relatively slow passage across the time zones.

Some run their ship’s clock to UTC and maintain their routine accordingly, whilst most are free spirits who set their agenda by the sunrise and sunset. If the sun is coming up and it feels like breakfast time, reach for the muesli or the porridge.

'Yesterday when you go to be here in the Indian ocean the sun is just rising. My word of the night is the word of the morning and soon it will be the word of the evening,' opened Gabart on his night message, written during his ‘morning’.

The young rookie clearly has something special in his breakfast cereal as he has opened his lead to 18 miles on Le Cléac’h who has adjusted his track very slightly to be on the windward side of his younger rival’s course.

Whilst Jean-Pierre Dick maintains a steady third place at 81 miles behind Gabart’s Macif and Bernard Stamm fourth at 140 miles behind on Cheminées Poujoulat, Alex Thomson’s very easterly course sees him returned to fifth place. The British skipper has been making between 19 and 20 knots of boat speed on a course which sees him skirting the edge of the high pressure zone to his north, but which – meantime – is not gaining him as many miles towards the next gate as Stamm.

Speeds have only been modest for the second group, that is Mike Golding, Jean Le Cam and Dominique Wavre, making between 10 and 12 knots now with their deficit to the leader grown to more than 800 miles. But each of these hard core skippers, the most experienced in the fleet, know that on an around the world race like this, 100 miles is but small change when you are racing in entirely different weather systems.

Equally all three of these skippers did not make it all the way around the course in 2008-9 and will probably take what comes their way at the moment in anticipation of racing successfully to the finish line.

And still there are the simple pleasures of the adventure. Tanguy De Lamotte on Initiatives Coeur has added the small shrimps which have fallen on the deck to his daily diet and Alessandro di Benedetto, the tenacious Italian skipper in 13th place should pass the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope this morning, fulfilling his first ice gate obligation last night. Vendee Globe website
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