Vendee Globe - Hugo Boss makes gains

The rollercoaster ride south is on for the Vendée Globe leaders, as on the heels of strong breezes from the north, speeds for the pacemakers surged Wednesday afternoon. Leader François Gabart hit 20kts as he consolidated his margin at 56 nm over key adversary Armel Le Cléac’h. And the threat to Le Cléac’h’s second place is very real as hard driving Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm on the powerful Cheminées Poujoulat closed up. In the British challenge it is Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss who made the most of the new wind, now in sixth, 164 nm off leader Gabart. Mike Golding on Gamesa is ninth 20 nm back. Samantha Davies is 14th, 454 nm off the leader.

Alex Thomson was the quickest in the fleet last night. He was in pragmatic, preservation mode earlier in the day, working through the very bouncy, bumpy stuff but Hugo Boss is sliding along rapidly and is stealing miles back on Gamesa. Indeed Alex is just seven miles off Mike Golding’s seventh place and was going five knots quicker. By the looks of things the boats in the east, Golding, Le Cam and Boissières have four or five knots less wind pressure.

One mild frustration for Thomson is that his rival Jérémie Beyou cleared off today and is 12 miles ahead, but Hugo Boss is a knot quicker just now. Golding and Jean Le Cam, the most easterly of the leading group, look set for an interesting tussle of the next couple of days as they judge when to head west.

At the back of the fleet, Zbigniew Gutkowski explained his early course west by the fact that he has been having multiple electrical problems and his alarms were not working. It is hard enough to sleep at the best of time in a shipping lane, but without alarms the anxiety is too great.