Gabart struggles in the doldrums

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) is just 61 miles behind the leader Francois Gabart (MACIF) but the gains may have finished for now as both struggle in the doldrums. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) was the fastest in the fleet overnight averaging 17 knots to keep his hopes of a place on the podium alive. He has been the fastest over the last 24 hours and as he leaves the coast of Brazil has power to add over the next 24 in easterly tradewinds as those in front of him struggle. Day 68 highlights

Thomson is 723 miles behind Gabart, which on paper is too big a deficit with less than 3,000 miles to the finish. But he has won back 155 miles in the last 24 hours. It can happen quickly; he lost 540 miles in three days from the morning of January 11 to January 14 and his westerly passage through the doldrums may yet mean he can bank the miles he will win back. It is true that Gabart and Le Cléac’h escape far quicker than they are caught – which tends to be a process of attrition – but hope has returned for Thomson

Le Cléac’h has averaged 10.6 knots over the last four hours (compared to Gabart’s 6.6), but was down to 6.3 knots over the last hour (compared to Gabart’s 7.4). But it seems likely that Le Cléac’h will be able to bank many of the 212 miles he has won back since Monday afternoon.

Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3), in third, has slowed too, albeit to but was still averaging 11.4 knots over the last four hours and 12.3 knots in the last hour. He is 486 miles behind the leader.

That is three reasons why Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) may be feeling even more optimistic, cautiously, about his chances of winning back some miles on the top three from the west. He was averaging 14.1 knots over the last four hours, 788 mile behind the leader.

Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Mike Golding (Gamesa) in fifth and sixth place, continue to struggle on the west and east sides of the course respectively. They are both headed by northerlies and the three strung out behind them have found two or three more knots of boat speed. But it remains unclear whose strategy will prove the better.

Eleventh-placed Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives cœur), flying in front of 20-22 south westerlies has been the fastest in the fleet, averaging 15.1 knots over the last four hours.