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Vendée Globe: Dealer's choice, Antipodean duel in stormy low

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Vendée Globe: into the washing machine
Vendée Globe: into the washing machine

Dealer's choice: Antipodean duel in stormy low

 

Gusty, squally winds averaging 40kts, big, confused seas compounded by an awkward wind angle are all contributing to the worst period yet for the two leaders of the Vendee Globe as they deal with a nasty, messy low pressure system. Both Armel Le Cleac'h and Alex Thomson have throttled back to preserve their boats and equipment as best they can but even so speeds are still averaging between 18 and 20 kts.

Separated by 130 miles this morning Thomson is marginally faster than Le Cleac'h who has reduced speed to around 16kts as he enters the most complex spell, closer to the centre of the depression. According to the current GRIB files he will need to endure another 16 or so hours of torment before the winds ease and back more to the west. The twosome should pass under New Zealand tonight and get into better, more productive breezes to enjoy some respite and a more usual Pacific. In the meantime they will hardly even account for the small gains which will be made by the duo chasing 1130 miles to the west, behind them.

Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) are still ahead of a front associated with a less violent low pressure system. Beyou passed Cape Leeuwin at 17h47 UTC last night, after 32d 05h 45mins of racing. They are accelerating in a decent NW'ly air stream of around thirty knots and starting to head down along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, while Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) are now in a transition with moderate westerlies as they wait for the arrival of another low, which has just left Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent).

Further back, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) has extended his lead over the pack and that is set to continue in the coming hours, as the front sweeping across the Crozet Islands will pass the group comprising Le Diraison, Fa, Colman, Boissières and Amedeo. These five skippers will be passing the highest point of the exclusion zone and therefore will be able to head further south towards the Kerguelens some 700 miles ahead of them. For the four boats chasing them, winds remain very light before a deep low moves in early this weekend. Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) is still sheltering off the Cape of Good Hope carrying out repairs on his two rudders, while the Catalan sailor, Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean) is approaching the Indian Ocean, which he should enter late today. One hundred and eighty miles away, Sébastien Destremau must be contemplating a very lonely Indian Ocean as the Spanish sailor - already a successful racing circumnvavigator - moves progressively away from him.