Back on top of the Vandee Globe this Saturday afternoon is Armel Le Cléac’h. The Banque Populaire skipper has not only jumped back to the head of the leader board but looks set to extend significantly, most notably on the three skippers now giving chase.
Le Cléac’h is well into getaway mode, sailing directly east in a perfectly useful 15kts of NW’ly breeze, making some 15-16kts of boat speed. Adding to the advantage his own particular strategy has now given him, the high pressure zone which encircled the Crozet gate appears to have moved slightly south, further slowing down his pursuers.
The relative fortunes of the two remaining British skippers in the race are also on the rise. Alex Thomson reflected today on the ongoing intensity and the resulting enjoyment of simply being consistently ‘in the match’, challenging in the lead group for most of the race so far.
The Hugo Boss skipper has already gained significant kudos from French race fans for his performance to date, not least yesterday from France’s current Solitaire du Figaro champion Yann Eliès. Though he was up to within 55 miles of this morning’s leader François Gabart, Thomson is back investing to get south quicker, to break into the stronger breeze and so losing a few miles relative the group ahead who are pointed more to the east.
In sixth Mike Golding and his two ‘partners in crime’, Jean Le Cam and Dominique Wavre are now into a very beneficial weather system which, Golding, believes will keep on giving. Initially follwing on the the edge of the high pressure, the trio now have a low pressure trough which is moving east with them. The Gamesa skipper believes not only will it develop to give them a ride on stronger winds, but will allow them a slightly better trajectory than the leading boats for the next few days. In recent days Golding’s deficit has all but halved, now at 399 miles this afternoon.
Golding: "Basically we are on the back of the high pressure, and behind a front is building up with pressure on it. We are just riding, almost at the same speed as the front, which means that we should carry it all the way to the gate and beyond it as well and that front steadily gets more aggressive and moves east, so we should have a building breeze, 100-110 wind angle, for some considerable way and even when that passes, the other boats will be further south and we'll be more downwind, this is what I hope anyway, so the route won't be quite so straight forward for them.”
Vendee Globe - Top Ten Rankings Saturday 8 December 2012, 15:00 hrs (UK)
1. Banque Populaire, Armel Le Clac'h
2. Macif, François Gabart, 11 nm to the leader
3. Virbac Paprec 3, Jean-Pierre Dick 47 nm
4. Cheminées Poujoulat, Bernard Stamm 57 nm
5. HUGO BOSS, Alex Thomson, 85 nm
6. Gamesa, Mike Golding, 399 nm
8. SynerCiel, Jean Le Cam, 440 nm
7. Mirabaud, Dominique Wavre, 464 nm
9. Acciona 100% EcoPowered, Javier Sansó, 1175 nm
10. AKENA Vérandas, Arnaud Boissières, 1436 nm
8 December 2012 18:18 GMT