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Vendée Globe morning report: Game on, Thomson gains another 100 miles

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

The lead of Armel Le Cléac'h looks much more assailable after Alex Thomson has chipped another 100 miles from the Banque Populaire VIII's margin since yesterday afternoon. At 295 miles on the 0400hrs UTC position report, with Le Cléac'h up against a barrier of light to moderate airs, the British skipper still shows a speed advantage of seven knots. 

Thomson is passing to the east of the Falkland Island on the edge of a low pressure system which is travelling east, which is giving him 20-25kts of breeze. He will continue to benefit from this weather system for a few hours more. At the same time there is no immediate sign of an increase in breeze for Le Cléac'h. Meantime Jérémie Beyou had 110 miles to sail at 0400hrs UTC to make his first rounding of Cape Horn. Considering the technical problems that the French skipper has had over his last month of the race this is a huge achievement. Beyou has a lead of 800 miles over Jean-Pierre Dick. This is a decent cushion but as seen over the last 72 hours with the battle at the front of the Vendée Globe between Le Cléac'h/Thomson, it would appear that no lead is a guarantee in the South Atlantic.

In fourth, the same position he finished in in the 2012-13 race, Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) and the duo formed by Yann Eliès-Jean Le Cam are also relatively quick this morning. In the middle of the Pacific, Louis Burton is also going well along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone on his Bureau Vallée, in a moderate northerly air stream. Around 800 miles back from him, the Hungarian Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) is still in eighth place, but a little slower (12 knots), because of a small transition zone, which is affecting his westerly wind.

The progress of a storm to the south of New Zealand is being monitored closely. It is generating winds in excess of fifty knots with fears of gusts of sixty or even eighty. The system separates Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy, 9th) from the pack behind him. The New Zealander sailing at thirteen knots is just ahead of this deep low, seeking to stay as far ahead as possible to escape the worst of the weather. Colman has previously stated that he feels at ease in heavy weather and it looks like he is in for some, but he has adjusted his course back to the east rather than north, and clearly has his strategy prepared.

On the other side of the weather system, to the west, the group of six have been able to hoist more sail after slowing down together to let this big storm go by. That has enabled Fabrice Amedeo to get back in the game. The skipper of Newrest-Matmut has made up almost all his losses and is now in 14th position between the American, Rich Wilson (Great American IV) and the young Swiss sailor, Alan Roura (La Fabrique). However, Amedeo has had to sacrifice his gennaker, which was stuck at the top of his mast. He climbed up, but had no other choice but to cut it free. In this same group tackling the start of the Pacific behind the storm, Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme) has taken 10th place from Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline), while Irishman, Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland) is in twelfth position 5740 miles behind the leader.

A thousand miles further back, Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean, 16th) has sailed 304 miles in the last 24 hours, which is about average for the fleet. On the contrary, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) is still attempting to find a solution to his autopilot problems. The Dutchman only sailed 53 miles towards the finish in the past 24 hours. Heerema does not want to tackle the Pacific without solving these problems. That has helped Romain Attanasio, who has had two pieces of good news this morning. Firstly, he has reached the longitude of Cape Leeuwin at the SW tip of Australia – after 50 days and 14 hours, or 22 days after Armel le Cléac'h – and he has also taken 17th place from Pieter Heerema. The latter is now next to last only 113 miles ahead of Sébastien Destremau's TechnoFirst-faceOcean.

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