In the Vendee Globe, the advantage remains firmly with the leaders. Though they have had challenging conditions, negotiating a front this morning which saw their wind swing from the north west to south west, requiring a gybe, the top duo François Gabart and Armel Le Cléac’h remain locked in combat less than ten miles apart.
With 1000 miles to sail to the longitude of Cape Leeuwin on the SW corner of Australia speeds have slowed slightly for the leading pair as they close towards the Australia South gate. Le Cléac’h may have averaged around one knot slower than his rival over much of today, but the skipper who is known as The Jackal, for his ability to stay the distance and pick off victims, has proven again that he can sometimes outpace his younger rival.
Showing almost metronomical consistency Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 works prudently in their wake, just under 80 miles behind, but showing he has the stamina and speed in these conditions to match the leaders, but he has no tactical opportunity to make any significant inroads.
Behind this top group there seems to be the increasing likelihood of some of this race’s enduring relationships breaking up. British skippers Alex Thomson and Mike Golding both can see no alternative but to break away from their respective hunting packs.
After having to make time consuming repairs to his rudder on Monday, Thomson has now lost out on the ride south east on the low pressure system which has been so beneficial for the leaders. The Hugo Boss skipper has no choice but to head east, seeking to hook into a small, active low pressure system – formerly known as cyclone Claudia – which should offer him a fast pursuit of the leaders. The question of whether fourth placed Bernard Stamm will manage to hang on to the coat tails of the depression remains in the balance.
Mike Golding, some 700 miles behind Hugo Boss, is drawing on the same strategy as his compatriot, also looking to rendezvous with Claudia: 'Longer term the hope is that I obviously get a little bit of a pull along from the depression that is coming in, but it is going to be a matter of timing so we'll have to see how that works.'
But Golding’s choice, diverging away from Jean Le Cam, threatens to break up the trio which have been together since they converged at the Cape Verde Islands.
He outlined his morning: 'I already am 70 miles to the north of Jean but I can’t see any other way. I have really set myself a latitude to sail at the moment. The worst case scenario is I get a bit of a boost from it, but that is better than just waiting for what comes along. I guess it can be seen as a punchy call, but it is better for me than just lolloping along in the south.'
Golding, Le Cam and Dominque Wavre, the three 50-somethings, have found themselves in a meteorological no man’s land, in a developing trough with low pressure systems to their SE and SW and highs developing and ridging to their NW and SE. The resulting very unsettled weather and difficult seas have tested their respective stamina and frustration. Both Golding and Le Cam sounded weary and under slept when they spoke to Vendée Globe LIVE early this afternoon.
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Javier Sanso, the Spanish skipper of Acciona 100% Eco Powered confirmed today that he did in fact lost the sacrificial tip off his starboard rudder after an object passed under his boat three days ago. Only today when he gybed and lifted the rudder did he confirm his suspicions.
'The unit is designed with a sacrificial tip and so as long as it was built correctly it will have a sealed tip and it has sheared close to the stock. So he still has a fully functioning rudder. He will still be able to push the boat just as hard,' Designer Merf Owen clarified.
Taking his problems seemingly in his stride, Alessandro di Benedetto is expecting to pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope early this evening. He cured an autopilot malfunction which required him to sail on his back up temporarily and is looking forward to a champagne treat when he passes the great cape.
Mike Golding, GBR, Gamesa : 'It is frustrating for us obviously, I'd rather be in that group, making those miles, but unfortunately we are not. We fought hard off the back of the system, at some point of course that group can fall of the system and then a new system could potentially bring us forward again. So my philosophy is it is a long race, we have a long way to go and things can and do change. I have to sail my own race and concentrate on those boats around me, doing the best job I can, keeping the boat safe and make good miles down the course.
Alessandro Di Benedetto, ITA (Team Plastique): I’ll soon open a bottle of champagne because I’ll round the Cape of Good Hope and it feels great. I’ve just passed the aigiuilles gate and I’ll go south to get some more wind, that’s the only solution I have to get to the next gate. It means the temperature will go down again. Right now I’m in my swimsuit because the outside temperature is 25°.'
Jean Le Cam, FRA, SynerCiel: Mike Golding has been a little faster than me but I’m not really worried about that. We have a ridge right behind us and a trough just ahead. It has been tough with the ridge, but I’m doing OK. Mike is entering the trough. Poor Dominique will face difficult conditions, I feel sorry for him. We’re currently sailing at 10 knots while the leaders are at 20 knots and that is hard to take. This morning, I manoeuvred, I worked hard on my sails settings and tried to find how I could get out of this situation. But it’s really difficult, I’m looking forward to taking a nap, because I’ve had so much to do lately.
Tanguy de Lamotte, FRA, Initiatives-coeur: We have sunny weather, little white clouds and beautiful sea, it’s perfect! I need to get to sleep early every evening, but it’s hard when it’s not dark. So I wake up early too, and eventually I don’t sleep enough, hence the need for a nap in the afternoon. I usually sleep three times a night, for a total of 5-6 hours of sleep every day. The sun shows me the rhythm of the day, I don’t really look at the clock.'
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Vendee Globe website
by Vendee Globe - 6:10 PM Wed 12 Dec 2012 GMT
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2012 Vendee Globe
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