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Vendée Globe: Small Gains and Small Mercies

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Vendée Globe
Vendée Globe

As they race under Australia in NWly winds of 30kts the two leaders of the Vendee Globe share almost identical speeds, separated laterally by 84 miles. Alex Thomson has regained about 30 miles on pacemaker Armel Le Cleac'h since yesterday afternoon and is now 89 miles behind.

A little over 750 miles behind the two frontrunners and around 420 miles from the longitude of Australia's Cape Leeuwin, Sébastien Josse, in third place in the Vendee Globe, has had his toughest night of the solo round the world race so far, after his port foil was damaged yesterday.
Since the incident his main concern has been for himself, the boat and the damaged foil, altering his route to avoid the worst of the low-pressure system.
 
The solo skipper of Edmond de Rothschild is making slightly bettter eastwards progress this morning, the forecast predicts the strong winds are subsiding, Within 12 hours he should have a more manageable 20kts.
Josse gybed initially to secure his damaged foil mechanism and then last night sailed steadily south to avoid the worst of the low pressure systems violent winds and big seas. He approached to within 20 miles of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. Jacques Caraës, the Race Director, explained this morning, “Seb has had eight metre high waves. They are breaking. There were 40-knot winds and perhaps more in the gusts. It's bound to have been hard, but Seb has been doing well, and he managed not to enter the exclusion zone.”
 
The other skipper who had to endure a real battering in the Indian Ocean last night was rookie Paul Meilhat on SMA lying in fourth place. He reported that he had a broach across the waves at one point and took on water but he is back at good speeds this morning. Meilhat is less than 450 miles behind Edmond de Rothschild.
 
The so called Roaring Forties have been living up to their name for the Vendee Globe fleet as the succession of low pressure systems have brought challenging conditions, as well as presenting fast conditions to allow some skippers to make gains. In seventh place Jean-Pierre Dick is gradually getting back in the game and has been very fast. StMichel-Virbac sailed 488 miles in 24 hours, the best performance in the fleet. In so doing he regained fifty miles from Yann Eliès. Groupe Quéguiner is now only 190 miles ahead of him.
 
At the rear of the fleet Didac Costa and Sébastien Destremau are not down to the Forties yet but the duo are now on the same latitude and separated by just 33 miles. Both will be enjoying their own, quiet (or not so quiet in the case of Destremau!) satisfaction, this morning. The Catalan skipper has closed more than 600 miles to catch the very long tail of the Vendee Globe after restarting at 1140hrs on 10th November, five days after the main start. But Destremau is delighted to still be racing after spending the last four days struggling to find a reliable solution to starting his engine after the starter motor failed. The Techno First FaceOcean skipper has rigged a series of blocks and ropes to harness the power of his genoa to start the engine, a system pioneered by Michel Desjoyeaux to keep his hope of winning the 2000-1 race alive.
 
Rich Wilson, the skipper of Great American 4, has also enjoyed his own moment of personal triumph early this morning. At 0420hrs UTC Wilson crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope in 18th position. His elapsed time to there is 29 days 16 hrs 18 mins, 11hrs and 48 mins after Eric Bellion.
 
Romain Attanasio has 340 miles left to sail to get to the coast near Cape Town to attempt to carry out repairs to his rudders. The skipper of Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys is determined to do what it takes to stay in the race. The Japanese sailor, Kojiro Shiraishi, who retired after breaking his mast, has only 160 miles left to sail to reach South Africa.