Jean-Pierre Dick has just taken the lead in the Vendée Globe. He has been going down the middle in between the other two frontrunners. Alex Thomson is closer to shore, while Armel Le Cléac’h is further out to sea. The wind is weakening and boat speeds are falling. Many of the skippers are hoping to make the most of these conditions to narrow the gap.
There is a strategic battle going on off the coast of Portugal. Alex Thomson followed by Jean-Pierre Dick gybed twice to move eastwards, before turning back towards the SW. This means that this morning from east to west we can see a gap of around a hundred miles between Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, with the British sailor just 90 miles away from the coast. Meanwhile, St.Michel-Virbac has been following a trajectory in the middle and, in so doing, Jean-Pierre Dick has just become the new leader in this eighth Vendée Globe. This position is far from secure, as the three frontrunners are within two and a half miles of each other at 0800hrs UTC in terms of distance to the finish. Behind them, their closest rival is still Vincent Riou (PRB, 4th some 23 miles back).
Jean-Pierre Dick and Alex Thomson had the idea of sliding down in a vein of wind off Lisbon in order to avoid the calms associated with the ridge of high pressure, which is gradually descending with the fleet. However this ridge stretching from the Azores to Cape Finisterre earlier today has engulfed the fleet earlier than expected and it would appear now that everyone is going to be affected by these lighter conditions. We need to remember though that between the forecasts and the reality out on the water, there are many uncertainties. As they are further from the centre of this ridge of high pressure, Jean-Pierre Dick and particularly Alex Thomson are still in with a small chance of getting that little bit ahead of the lighter winds and if they do manage that, could extend their lead over those further out to sea. However, that is now but a tiny hope.
The others will be hoping this will not be the case. With winds easing off (10 to 15 knots at the moment on calmer seas) there is also the possibility of getting some rest after a tiring start to the race. Those that are further back will be hoping to narrow the gap as the ridge moves southwards. The advantage the foilers had yesterday is likely to disappear and these latest conditions should favour the boats with traditional daggerboards. We can therefore imagine that the fleet will come together. Those in the second half (from 16th place back) hope too to regain some lost ground, as Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) explained this morning after seeing his routing looked more positive than for the frontrunners. Fabrice said that he still had 15 knots of wind, while Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), 100 miles further south only had ten, although the latter was pleased to be up there close to the foilers, like Jérémie Beyou’s Maître CoQ and Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild. It’s going to be an interesting day for everyone with speeds likely to be up and down throughout the fleet.
Bruno Ménard / M&M
Enda O Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland) – IRL: “Here I am, 2nd day at sea contemplating the world and reflecting at the wonderful send-off from Les Sables. It was magic. Suddenly I have been transformed from pre-race frenzy, including chatting with Prince Albert of Monaco about his late mum, (Princess Grace) and my own Princess daughter Aisling dancing a jig on my boat deck for Albert. Now it’s total isolation here in the dark and busy shipping lanes off Cape Finisterre. It was like somebody waved the same magic wand and my spell is to be here, huddled over a navigation table, like the cockpit of a spacecraft on a vessel I am destined to spend the next 100 days…. Its been a grand idea, a brilliant event and getting to the start line an achievement in itself, but now I don’t know. What in hell’s name have I done? Nor do I have any idea as to what lies ahead. What in the name of humanity have I let myself in for…..mind you, and though the first night at sea was cold and miserable, at least its starting to warm up as we move south. Let’s see.”
Kito de Pavant (Bastide – Otio): “We’ve got clear skies and there are fewer squalls, even if the wind is still very unstable. I’m settling into the race, finding my feet. I’m remaining cautious. Maybe too cautious with my sail choices. It’s going to get tactical as we approach a ridge of high pressure, which will slow us down. It’s not as cold as on the first night. I managed to get some sleep, which I needed.”