Vendee Globe - Leaders head for East Australia Gate

Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe - 2012 Vendee Globe
In the Vendee Globe, after enjoying the best last 24 hours in the fleet at the 0400hrs (0500hrs French time) ranking, but slowing after the end of his complicated relationship with Claudia, fourth-placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) dived south on Monday morning. It was almost simultaneous gybing with Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) 45 miles behind on the same track.

Until then the two had been pointing at Melbourne at the moment rather than Cape Horn. Since passing through the Amsterdam gate on December 11, Thomson has followed this northerly course, joined by Stamm two days later. They were 350 miles south of Australia on the latitude of the Bass Strait on an increasingly busy shipping zone. If they continued on their way they would be able to join the Sydney-Hobart Race, which starts on December 26.

Claudia blown Thomson out overnight, (after he had covered 425.3 miles in 24 hours at the 0400 ranking), but he will be relieved to know that the old cyclone (that’s not a euphemism) dropped Stamm first. Thomson’s average speeds were down to under 16 knots overnight, whilst Stamm, 50 miles behind on the same northerly track, was averaging under 13 knots. They were both making around 10 knots as they decided to gybe. They may have a slow Monday before the low-pressure system and big winds coming upon behind them from the west arrives tomorrow.

The leading duo Francois Gabart (Macif) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) were even closer this morning – just 18.3 miles and catching at the 0800hrs UTC ranking) - after making their tactical gybe north last night to pass through the East Australia gate. Their route, in what looks like being 17-20 knot westerly breeze, will take them to the eastern end of it.

Third-placed Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) has benefitted the most from their gybe after having the best 24-hour run – 406.5 miles - by the 0800hrs ranking. Dick has won back 70 miles from leaders overnight, but their speeds were above his at the last ranking and he too will have to make the gybe north to the East Australia gate at some point.

Mike Golding (Gamesa), in seventh-place, has not suffered too much in miles after his drama yesterday, keeping pace with the chasing pack, around him.

As a taste of the different conditions being faced by the fleet, as the leaders layer their thermals, are showered by sleet and in Le Cléac’h’s case work out what to do with frozen olive oil, elsewhere they are still enjoying 15 degrees.

'It is still a comfortable 15 ° in the boat,' Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) wrote in his early morning message, enjoying an easing off of the wind too. 'Travel on board became easier again today. I can finally let go of the handles and stop moving like a mountaineer inside the boat. I had some dawn music of course! The shuffle mixes are amazing! Bruce Springsteen, Mozart, Grand Corps Malade, Patty Smith...'

Vendee Globe website