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Vendée Globe Day 7, Top Bossing

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Alex Thomson's IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss
Alex Thomson's IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss

Saturday, 12 November 2016, 22h 21 -  Alex Thomson has taken a 17 miles lead at the head of the Vendee Globe fleet making the bold decision to pass through the Cape Verde Islands. At 1700hrs UTC the British skipper of Hugo Boss made two successive gybes close to the south side of the island of Santo Antao and emerged with the race lead. At the same time Armel Le Cleac'h who took the lead from Thomson last Tuesday evening had to gybe to the west after getting to within 10 miles of the high land on its west coast.

Le Cleac'h then gybed back alongside rival Vincent Riou (PRB) - just two miles apart - and the French duo who train together at the Pole Finistere Course au Large centre are now duelling side y side behind Thomson. On the 2100hrs UTC position report this Saturday evening, nearly one week into the course, Thomson was polled faster over the four hours until the report but was slightly slower on the 30 minute speed gun.
Meantime Tanguy de Lamotte who reported a problem at the masthead of Initiatives Coeur has backed off to seven knots whilst he seeks a solution.

The magnificent seven, Le Cléac'h, Thomson, Riou, Lagraviere, Josse, Jéremie Beyou (Maitre CoQ), and rookie Paul Meilhat (SMA) are moving further clear of Yann Elies (Quéguiner-Leucemie Espoir) in eighth but Elies had found an extra gear on the former Safran and was making 21kts this afternoon.

The Doldrums, which the leaders are expected to reach tomorrow night, do not look too active, nor too wide. A narrow band around 30W exists which is reckoned to be only about 60 miles wide which may prove the optimum zone to transition to the Southern Hemisphere.
But the pace and intensity of the foiling boats, especially, is a tough environment for the skippers. Jéremie Beyou – no stranger to hardship – commented today:
“ Like a Solitaire du Figaro for the past week which is great, intense until we pass Cape Verde then cooler. It's been quick since start and we're bunched up, you really have to be on top of the trimming. 20-30 knots this morning – really powered up at times –between 19 and 30 knots so trimming is pretty hard. Unbearable racket – you can't live with it. If you don't put your headphones on, 20 minutes later you can't stand any more. I slammed off a wave and lost one set the other day. Vibrates through the whole boat. Goes right through your body.”

The race between a posse of very experienced international skippers, the hard core Super 60s, remains close and exciting, albeit a few miles behind the leaders. Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) and Rich Wilson (Great American 4) are lined up on the same latitude albeit 75 miles apart. Both have already completed one Vendee Globe apiece. But in that same match is Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) and Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie de Lit-Boulogne Bilancourt) on the Groupe Finot designed former Hugo Boss.
Le Diraison and Wilson had a pleasant e-mail exchange two nights ago when they passed close to one another, sailing with each other's nav lights clearly visible for a period.