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Vendée Globe, Alex Thompson's Hugo Boss is the leader in day 1

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Alex Thompson solo sailor at the Vendée Globe
Alex Thompson solo sailor at the Vendée Globe

The Hugo Boss skipper has played out the agreed strategy, unleashing some impressive speeds during the early hours of the morning to lead the fleet past Cape Finisterre on the rugged NW corner of Spain around midday today. Twenty four hours after the race started yesterday at 1202hrs in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, Hugo Boss was in close company with pre-race favourite Armel Le Cléac'h on Banque Populaire VIII. The duo were racing less than half a mile apart during the middle of this afternoon, within sight of each other as the breeze started to ease slightly.

Thomson and Le Cléac'h head a leading group of which four of the top five IMOCAs are new foil-assisted IMOCAs. Only Vincent Riou on the classically configured, but highly optimised PRB has been able to stay the pace with the leaders. But the 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner sounded tired and slightly resigned when he spoke briefly to Vendée Globe Race HQ in Paris this morning. “It's used up a lot of my energy trying to keep up with those in front,” Riou admitted as he approached Cape Finisterre. By the afternoon ranking he was 13 miles behind Hugo Boss and slightly slower, but still slightly ahead of Edmond de Rothschild's Sébastien Josse.

The fierce pace through the first night and, more especially, the gusty variable winds caused by bubbles of cold air moving south, made it tough to hold a rhythm for any length of time. Jéremie Beyou, in seventh place this afternoon on Maître CoQ suffered when his rudder kicked up, his boat luffed violently and he broke a tooth when he hit his face on a winch.
Didac Costa, the unlucky Spanish skipper who had to turn round one hour after the start because he found a ballast pipe had dumped water into his boat, damaging his electrics, was still in Les Sables d'Olonne this afternoon. Typical of the Vendée Globe spirit of solidarity, Costa has had dozens of offers of help from other bigger, better resourced teams. But the support of the local fire station – Costa is on a two year sabbatical from the Barcelona fire service – has been heart-warming. “As soon as we got back to the harbour, we got several offers of help from other teams and were helped a lot by the local fire brigade. We visited them a few weeks ago and got to know them. We got help drying everything and they gave us coffee, somewhere to stay. It's not just technical help, but they have also helped cheer us up. I'm very moved by all this,” said Costa, whose electrics on the former Kingfisher were obliterated by a lightning strike in Barcelona only a few weeks ago and had only just been replaced during the pre-start period. They were looking to fit a new alternator and fully check all of his electrics. Costa's objective is to restart late Tuesday or early Wednesday depending partially on the weather conditions ahead at Cape Finisterre.
Seasickness is an occupational hazard through the first hours of big races for the Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi. He reported to his team that he was dealing this nausea and lack of energy as best he could but his mal de mer is not reflected in his performance with his Spirit of Yukoh, lying 17th. Spirit of Hungary's Nandor Fa spoke of his pleasure to be safely at sea but slightly disappointed not to have made better speeds through the first night of his third Vendée Globe. And Ireland's Enda O'Coineen highlighted the massive emotional chasm between leaving Sunday's huge crowds and Monday's sudden solitude, the first day of around three months alone. “The contrast - being alone - is extraordinary. It will take me a few days to adjust.”
The fleet leaders are expected to be slowed to around 7-9kts by the descending high pressure ridge tomorrow. But when they escape they should have fast tradewinds on the autoroute south.