Vendee Globe - Leaders consistently returning top speeds

Jean Pierre Dick, Virbac Paprec 3 - 2012 Vendee Globe
In the Vendee Globe, as they roll seamlessly into their 30th day at sea racing, miles tumbling quickly hour by hour on the heels of strong 25-30 kts NW’ly winds, the leaders are consistently returning top speeds but also still proving how closely matched the top of the fleet is.

Holder of two 24 hours speed records Jean-Pierre Dick has been the quickest through the night, averaging 22.6kts and making 30 miles up on leader, whilst François Gabart remains the thorn in Armel Le Cléa’c’h side, constantly harrying, chasing, hunting down the leader.

Gabart, on fire at 23kts instantaneous speed, reduced his own margin to first by nine miles during last night and is just 23.1 miles behind Le Cléac’h. Somewhat remarkably the 24 hrs runs for Dick and Gabart differ by just one tenth of a nautical mile at 482.4 and 482.3 miles respectively.

Now separated from the leading duo by over 65 miles, Dick, Bernard Stamm and Alex Thomson jostle for position. Thomson has taken a slightly more northerly route, looking to partially protect himself medium term, from a high pressure which will develop from the south , but Dick – who has accumulated more Southern Ocean miles than any of his rivals over recent years – has been consistently the quickest. The British skipper who was third last night has lost 42 miles to Virbac-Paprec 3 and is dropped to fifth again this morning.

With just over 460 miles to the Amsterdam gate the leaders should reach the course’s third safety gate tomorrow morning.

Mike Golding has staved off yesterday’s attack from Jean Le Cam, again opening a little daylight on his French rival, but the trio Golding, Le Cam and Dominique Wavre might expect the easy miles they have been offered these last few days to be halted by a small ridge of high pressure which they will have to negotiate today.

Prudence has been foremost in the mind of 13th placed Alessandro di Benedetto through the night. Now down at 45deg south and in an area of known ice, the Team Plastique skipper slowed right down to less than five knots with his mainsail down during the darkness hours, carefully monitoring his radar.

Still under the influence of the high pressure extending from the tip of the African continent, Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Eco Powered is heading north to set up early for the west end of the Crozet gate, quicker than his nearest competitor Arnaud Boissières who is more than 300 miles behind again. So too Bertrand de Broc and Tanguy De Lamotte, 11th and 12th are making single figure speeds.

Vendee Globe website