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Leader Charlie Dalin, is expected to cross the first great Cape

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The leaders of the Vendée Globe fleet are now in a strong south-westerly flow approaching the Cape of Good Hope. Leader Charlie Dalin, is expected to cross the first great Cape this afternoon. The weather for the pacemakers is much colder and this passage under South Africa promises to be quite tough with a breeze contrary to the Agulhas current which flows down the east side of the African continent, marking the western edge of the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean.

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For the leaders who are now mostly in the SW’ly air flow the temperatures are much colder, around 7 deg C, unstable winds 25kts gusting to 35kts on big, unruly seas which sluice over the deck, water temperature no more than 8 dec C. They are racing behind the front and dropping south-eastwards towards the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. After the first three weeks of racing this is a first cold, wet wake up call to the joys of the big south. The sun cannot break through the cloud cover and the first big southern storm is on its way, and of course the colder air is much more dense and so each gust feels much more powerful than the recorded windspeed.

Dalin has had to route more to the north, to 38 degrees, where the race leader will have to negotiate the gyres, the circulation of the Agulhas current which will cause big, crossed seas with the wind blowing against the current. Behind him the chasing pack of six, riding the wheel of second placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) who is a little slower at times because of his chopped port foil. That said in the big seas the foilers will not be drawing on all their power and righting moment right now and so Ruyant and Jean Le Cam on his trusty daggerboard Yes We Cam will scarcely be disadvantaged.

As the Saint Helena high pressure slips to the south east after his hydraulic oil problems of the weekend Alan Roura (La Fabrique) has been caught by it again and has a hard time off Tristan da Cunha. Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X) was down during the night passing the island of Gough and with Romain Attanasio (PURE-Best Western Hotels & Resorts) in her east Cremer will do well to dive quickly towards the south east so as not to be swallowed up by the high pressure and light winds again.

Stéphane Le Diraison (Time for Oceans) finally sees the end of his own light winds tunnel with a welcome northerly breeze after the calm he has suffered over recent days and he begins to slant more to the south east. Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artisans Artipôle) was the first to go south and look to bypass the high pressure cell at 35 ° North. In his wake now, the three amigos (Cousin-Costa-Hare) have a foiler on their hips in Armel Tripon (L'Occitane en Provence) who is now  certainly going faster in these more active conditions. Tripon will still find it difficult to follow the new big southern depression which is moving very quickly and will reach the leaders, and maybe force them to slow right down or climb out of its way in some three days time, between Cape Town and the Kerguelens.

At the back Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI Global One) is outpacing Sébastien Destremau (Merci) in the Brazilian trade winds which are quite easterly. These conditions also suit Jérémie Beyou (Charal) who can lengthen his stride off Recife and who should come back verystrongly in the coming days in ideal conditions to cut miles back on the leaders.

Kevin Escoffier (PRB) third this morning, 

"There is definitely quite a bit more sea now and this is just the start. I looked at the nav last night to find a route that takes into account a lot of different parameters: the state of the sea, the Agulhas current, not going too far to the north and take a bashing with the wind against the current , and also the wind. We have a first blow, but it is especially the second with the next frontal passage that really influences our routing decisions.

The weather files are not yet agreed on the passage of this new southern depression: you have to position yourself for the first but really well for the second one. You don’t want too much wind bit need to not lose too much distance on my competitors. With my group here we made the choice not to be too close to Good Hope and the waves and the current of the Agulhas. Charlie Dalin should avoid the second depression, but we, the chasing group, are going to  get it. The passage of the front on December 4th is likely to be quite big.  We will have our first gale with 35 knots and six meters of waves.  We already have four meters of waves with a fairly irregular wind that goes from 20 to 30 knots.

On the temperature side, it's still OK but I'm starting to layer up with fleeces. And the water has is cooler for sure. You really feel the difference from being in the Saint Helena high pressure system. But I still spend some time outside, trimming, I see some of my rivals are sailing higher so I need to change sails.”  

 

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