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Vendée Globe: Le Cléac'h 1300 miles from Cape Horn

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Thomas Ruyant - Le Souffle du Nord
Thomas Ruyant - Le Souffle du Nord

Fa 60 miles from the Pacific, Le Cléac'h 1300 miles from Cape Horn

At 0500hrs UTC this morning French solo skipper Thomas Ruyant was less than eight miles from the shelter of New Zealand's south island coast having nursed his badly damaged IMOCA over two hundred miles, as the boat threatened to split in two at any moment. Meanwhile, favourable conditions, the chance to ride a low pressure system which catches them today, should allow the trio Jean Le Cam, Yann Eliès and Jean-Pierre Dick to earn miles back on the second and third placed duo, Jérémie Beyou and Paul Meilhat over the coming 24 hours or so.

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Vendee Globe competitor Ruyant was in contact with Race Direction throughout his day (European night), expressing his increasing concern as the forecast strong winds came in slightly earlier than expected. With winds over 40kts and building seas, Ruyant explained how the lifelines around the fractured hull were constantly going slack as the damaged bow section lifted and fell on the waves. Ruyant's team have a boat heading out to meet him from Bluff with a local expert, well known IMOCA and ocean racing yacht technician Stu McLachlan on board. For the time being, Thomas Ruyant has been coping extremely well with a very stressful situation and has been averaging nine knots.

On board the other damaged boat, Stéphane Le Diraison's Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt, there is equal disappointment, but the situation is not as worrying. They are on their way towards Melbourne under jury rig. Stéphane managed to sail 110 miles in 24 hours and has 740 left to go. At this pace, he may well be in port on around 27th December.

Britain's Alex Thomson is no longer losing miles to the race leader, Armel Le Cléac'h. the gap between the two has stabilised at around 500 miles with Hugo Boss on a more southerly route than Banque Populaire VIII, meaning Thomson has a shorter distance to sail. Latest simulations predict that they will now only be a day apart at the Horn with Armel passing on 23rd and Alex on 24th. They are both sailing at around 19 or 20 knots this morning. Armel Le Cléac'h has just passed another milestone having sailed two-thirds of the course for the Vendée Globe.

Jean-Pierre Dick has made the biggest gains during the night. In ideal conditions, where he can use his foils, the skipper of StMichel-Virbac sailed 460 miles over the past 24 hours and has gained a lead of 110 miles over Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and 140 miles over Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent). Jean-Pierre Dick has also regained ground from Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) who are still close to each other as they battle it out for third place. This morning Paul is in front with a lead of eight miles in this duel. It is going to be an interesting day for Jean-Pierre Dick, as Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou are likely to run into an area of light winds around midday, while he will continue to benefit from a strong NW'ly wind. “I am taking advantage of some exceptional conditions ahead of the front and am hoping that will last,” explained Jean-Pierre this morning.

As for the rest of the fleet, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) and Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) are quite isolated respectively 3400, 4100 and 4500 miles back from the leader. The Hungarian sailor, Nandor Fa is set to become the next skipper to enter the Pacific later this morning. Still in thirteenth place, Arnaud Boissières has to bring down his mainsail to change the top batten. Behind him a group of five boats are approaching the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, the SW tip of Australia with in order Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen-Team Ireland), Rich Wilson (Great American IV) and Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme). At the rear, the final four are currently heading towards the north. Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) is dealing with a transition zone, while Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean), Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) are trying to get away from a nasty low. “I don't want to find myself in winds averaging fifty knots and gusts up to 60,” confirmed Romain Attanasio. “I'll be going up to 38° S, with the worst of the weather down at 42°S. I'll gybe this evening.”

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