French sailor Armel Le Cléac’h has one hand on the Vendée Globe trophy this morning as he bears down on the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France. At the latest position update Le Cléac’h, skipper of Banque Populaire VIII, was 146 nautical miles from finishing the solo round the world race with a lead of 87nm over second-placed Alex Thomson. If Le Cléac’h wins the race, which began from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6, it will banish the ghosts of the past two editions in which he has to settle for the runner’s-up spot both times.
The 39-year-old from Brittany is tipped to cross the finish line between 1300 and 1900 UTC after 74 days at sea. If he does he will smash fellow countryman Francois Gabart’s 2012-13 race record of 78 days, two hours and 16 minutes. At the 0400 UTC position update Le Cléac’h was making 12 knots towards the line, with Thomson doing 10.9 knots on Hugo Boss. Barring a major breakage onboard Banque Populaire VIII there is little hope of Thomson being able to catch Le Cléac’h at this stage of the race.
After sailing close to the Scilly Islands off the west of Cornwall in SW Britain, Le Cléac’h tacked onto port and pointed his bows towards Les Sables at around 1700 UTC last night. Thomson followed an hour later after and the pair began their passage along the coast of Brittany in chilly easterly winds. At yesterday’s 1400 UTC position update Thomson was within 33nm of Le Cléac’h but by 0400 UTC today that gap had almost tripled. Once Le Cléac’h is inside 100nm of the finish the race tracker will update hourly, and live streaming will begin 30 minutes prior to the finish. Thomson is expected to cross the finish line some four hours after Le Cléac’h.
Louis Burton became the seventh skipper to re-enter the northern hemisphere, crossing the Equator at 1444 UTC yesterday. Bureau Vallée skipper Burton took 14 days, seven hours and 54 minutes to reach the Equator after passing Cape Horn. Meanwhile the quartet of Fabrice Amedeo, Arnaud Boissières, Alan Roura and Rich Wilson were today relishing in the more temperate conditions offered up by the South Atlantic. “I’m out of the fifties and have moved into an area of high pressure,” Newrest Matmut skipper Amedeo told Vendée Globe HQ this morning. “Temperatures are easier to bear, so I’m very pleased.” Roura, skipper of La Fabrique, added: “I even left a door open last night to sleep. I only have on one layer of undergarments and a fleece. Compared to Cape Horn, there’s a huge difference and it’s great finding some warmth.” Didac Costa in 15th and Romain Attanasio in 16th were this morning within 500nm of Cape Horn, and are likely to pass the milestone on the southern tip of the South American continent on Saturday.
Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut):
“I’m 350 miles north of the Falklands. A low passed over during the night and the wind got up to above forty knots… This should be the final Southern low in this voyage. Now I am in a high and I shall be heading towards the NE and Cape Frio. That is until Sunday, as after that next week is looking complicated before I get the trade winds late in the week.”
Alan Roura (La Fabrique):
“I have had a lot of calms since the Le Maire Strait, but have had some wind for the last couple of hours – 15 knots close reaching. I’m moving in the right direction on manageable seas. Conditions are pretty cool. There’s quite a bit of wind and it is powerful for the boat. It is getting warmer day by day and the sea is quite cool, so I’m happy to be in the Atlantic again. The boat is like the others. She has been around the world before. And we have had 74 or 75 days at sea, so she’s tired as I am, but I’m really happy with her. We had difficult conditions in the south, but now it’s better for both of us and we are going well together. ”