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Vendée Globe: Le Cléac'h on the 'go slow' as Thomson closes in

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Vendee Globe
Vendee Globe

British sailor Alex Thomson was this morning within 70 miles of arch rival Armel Le Cléac'h following a miserable 24 hours in the Doldrums for the Vendée Globe leader.


Frenchman Le Cléac'h has managed to coax his IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire VIII to a pitiful average speed of just four knots over the last day as he wallows in painfully light winds around 250 miles north of the Equator. Thomson, on the other hand, has racked up an average speed of nine knots in the same time – far from fast given the pair's sleigh ride through the Southern Ocean but crucially more than twice as quick as Le Cléac'h. At the 0400 UTC ranking Thomson's Hugo Boss was just 67 miles adrift of Banque Populaire, although the Frenchman had a four-knot speed advantage over the 30 minutes prior to the position report. In the past 48 hours Le Cléac'h has lost more than 100 miles to Thomson, largely due to the widening of the Doldrums. It is likely that the leading duo will exit the Doldrums today, but their route north is less than clear thanks to a big depression building to the west of the Canaries. With an ETA in Les Sables d'Olonne tentatively pencilled in for January 17, a thrilling finish is on the cards for this eighth edition of the Vendée Globe.

Meanwhile third-placed Jérémie Beyou continued his assault on the leaders overnight - this morning his Maître CoQ was just 567 miles behind Le Cléac'h and around 200 miles from the Equator. Jean-Pierre Dick consolidated his fourth place overnight by adding another 50 miles on Jean Le Cam and Yann Eliès. Hungarian sailor Nandor Fa was this morning less than 20 miles from Cape Horn. It will be the 63-year-old's fifth rounding of the iconic landmark on the southern tip of South America. Eric Bellion and Conrad Colman are some 800 miles behind Fa. Commeunseulhomme skipper Bellion notched up the most impressive performance of the fleet in the last 24 hours, sailing 367 miles.

American sailor Rich Wilson pulled back 100 miles on the trio of Alan Roura, Fabrice Amedeo and Arnaud Boissières just in front of him, while 1,200 miles further down the track Didac Costa and Romain Attanasio continue their battle in 15th and 16th split by just 70 miles. Pieter Heerema in 17th is now 8,000 miles adrift of the leaders while Sébastien Destremau in 18th is a further 1,000 miles back as he dips into the Southern Ocean.

Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline): “It's been a funny sort of Sunday. Already sailing out at sea is strange, but at 54°S in light airs is very odd. The sails are flapping and the brain cells are working overtime, helped by doses of tea and coffee. It requires patience. What is motivating is that we are in a race and I have a new friend close to me, my guardian angel, Fabrice and there‘s also Alan and Rich. What makes me laugh, it that Fabrice's boat and Rich's finished just ahead of me four years ago. It's starting to rain or rather it's sleet, so maybe that is a sign that things are changing. We'll have to wait and see.”

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