Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h has crossed the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere, signalling the start of the drag race through the north Atlantic towards the finish line.
Armel Le Cléac'h - Click image for a larger image
The French skipper of Banque Populaire VIII passed the zero degree line of latitude at 00:23 UTC Saturday.
Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss is just 127 nm behind Le Cléac'h, both were sailing at 7 to 10 knots late Saturday.
But the two leaders now have to cross the dreaded Doldrums, the area of low pressure just to the north of the Equator notorious for its light, fickle winds.
Le Cléac'h's lead could easily evaporate with one wrong move.
With the Doldrums extending north almost as high as the Cape Verde islands at present, this weekend could likely decide the winner of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe.
Le Cléac'h remains more than four days ahead of François Gabart's 2012-13 race record.
The probability is high that the winner will finish between January 16th and 18th.
LEADING POSITIONS at 22:00 hrs UTC Saturday:
1. Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire 3,017 nm - sailing at 10 knots
2. Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss - DTL 127 nm - sailing at 7 knots
3. Jeremie Beyou on Maitre Coq - DTL 811 nm - sailing at 14 knots
4. Jean-Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac - DTL 1,649 nm
5. Yann Elies on Quigunnier - DTL 1,653 nm
6. Jean Le Cam on Finistere Mer Vent - DTL 1,660 nm
7. Louis Burton on Bureau Vallee - DTL 2,796 nm
Fleet spread is now 9,257 nm back to Sebastien Destremau in 18th.
Eleven have now retired from the race.
Gerald New - Sailweb
7 January 2017 8:27 GMT