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The Vendée Globe, A Gift That Keeps on Giving, Right Into January

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Thomas Ruyant
Thomas Ruyant

At the moment the deltas, the time differences, between the top ten boats is in hours. Recall that in the least two editions there were two runaway leaders. Francois Gabart was just three hours and 17 minutes ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h in 2013 when he won in 78 days and 02 hours but the gap back to Alex Thomson in third was another 2 days and 10 hours, Jean Pierre Dick, who sailed the last 1100 miles with no keel finished eight days after Gabart.

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In 2016-17 Alex Thomson was 16 hours behind Le Cléac’h at the finish line and Jérémie Beyou – slowed terribly through the final days by light winds – was third more than four days behind.
Passage times under Tasmania into the Pacific show the biggest gap in the top ten to be 17 hours between Thomas Ruyant and Jean Le Cam. But after that there was no delta greater than the 4 hrs and 53 minutes between Isabelle Joshcke and Giancarlo Pedote.

The high pressure which the leaders are sailing into in the South Pacific could compress the top ten even more. If Yannick Bestaven does not escape away first and the second group, the chasing posse, successful grab miles back by going north, some modelling shows the top eight compressed into around 100 miles on Boxing Day. This record entry edition is yet to break any speed records but it does seem the climb up the Atlantic will be fascinating and then there could be the closest grouped finish ever when the top ten finally reach Les Sables d’Olonne in the last week of January.

This morning it looks like Dalin and Ruyant will be forced to stay on the north easterly gybe rather than gybe back to stay on the line of the exclusion zone so that they don’t stray into the centre of the anticyclone. Likewise behind them Germany’s Boris Herrmann and Jean Le Cam are going north east to try and get round to the north of the anticyclone’s centre.

Further back there are different strategies at play as the trio Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) Romain Attanasio (Pure-Best Western) and Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X) all deal with an active low pressure in different ways. True to his previous attack Burton is looking to stay south, take the medicine of stronger winds and bigger seas but potentially pull back some of the miles he lost repairing, while Crémer is in conservative mode, holding back to miss the worst of the low.

 “It’s unpleasant to have to slow down like this, especially when you’re doing well, like I’ve been for the last few hours. But I don’t want to damage the boat ".

Armel Tripon (L'Occitane en Provence) was the fastest of the night, averaging 17.4 knots on the overnight rankings. He can accelerate more if he manages to stay in front of the low pressure front which comes from NNW 20 and so he should claw back even more miles on Crémer.

In 15th Alan Roura is also going fast. The young Swiss skipper has just finished with the AMSAR plateau of the exclusion zone and so he will be able to dive south now and widen his gape on Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline - Artisans Artipôle) who crossed Cape Leeuwin last night. The next cross this morning is Pip Hare (Medallia), Stéphane le Diraison (Time for Oceans) and Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean). All this small group had good winds sailing at averages of 15 knots overnight.

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