The top trio are each trying to plot their best route down the South Atlantic to catch a fast moving low pressure system and the strong, favourable winds which would catapult them eastwards into the Southern Ocean. While the weather situation for them is very enticing right now, offering a fast slide down the face of a cold front, at the bottom of the ride there is a potentially lethal transition zone which might evolve into a period of very light winds.
Should today’s weather modelling work out as predicted, according to the Vendée Globe’s weather expert Christian Dumard, the three leaders would gain such an advantage that they might be as much as two days ahead of fourth place and the chasing group by the time they pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope.
Asked on this afternoon’s LIVE show Thomson said, “I am trying to find my way to the Southern Ocean, I am not really being affected by what they are doing. I am clear what we have to do over the next couple of days, I am positioned well so I don’t feel too much pressure. I don’t feel under pressure.”
He responded to suppositions that life in the tropics, living and working inside his boat all the time as opposed to on deck, might be hotter and more tiring, “In terms of the heat I would say it is cooler in here than it is outside. Much the same as the others I am probably drinking four litres of electrolyte a day. It was a struggle to stay hydrated but over the last day or so it is becoming better. I am trying to sleep as much as possible, I am still in debt for sure, so wherever I feel the urge, whenever I can I get my head down and get to sleep. Eating is a constant process for me. I am constantly going to the cupboard and grabbing a snack or a meal.”
Asked about the small miles Thomson has lost in recent days, the naval architect from VPLP who co-designed HUGO BOSS with significant input from Alex Thomson Racing’s own design team, Quentin Lucet suggested, “I think Alex has been sleeping a bit more recently and just not feel the need to push too hard for the moment. Maybe he is more in a controlling aspect on his followers. And maybe in terms of design there might be some slight performance differences due to the real wind they have just now. For now we have no alarm saying Alex has any issues. Probably he just does not see a real need to be accelerating just now.”
Double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux on the French show confirmed that he is a big fan of Thomson’s option to the west, 115 miles closer to the Brazilian shore than Ruyant.
“For sure the changes near the lead are due to a combination of the packages the various leaders have. Foils, sails and hull shape. Also there is a difference to what we see here on land as per the forecasts and what the sailor might actually get on the ocean. I think the further West you go the better the angle you will have to then come back and catch up. And so for me the two behind Alex really need to put their foot down to try and catch him now because the passage towards the Cape of Good Hope is going to give Alex quite a lead. If you look at the projected routing it is now that they need to make the most ground up because after the lead will extend a lot.”
Indeed as the angles have opened to broader reaching ones HUGO BOSS has been quicker than Apivia and LinkedOut; Thomson averaging more than 23 kts. Once again there are some anomalies on the official rankings because the positions are taken from a moving, rather than fixed waypoint. The late afternoon rankings maybe show Ruyant as leader but Thomson continues to be about 40 miles further south.
The breakaway trio are now more than 160 miles clear of fourth placed Jean Le Cam, who has the fast moving Saint Malo skipper Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée approaching in his wake. Burton is racing the IMOCA 60 which holds the current 74 days 3 hours solo round the world record and moved up to fifth today holding definite designs on fourth.
The comeback kids
Also coming back fast after their own particular technical problems since the start are Sébastien Simon on ARKÉA-Paprec who, in tenth, is chasing Briton Sam Davies hard at 27 miles behind. The 2018 La Solitaire champion, one of four skippers in the race who live in Les Sables d’Olonne, has been consistently fast over the last couple of days since he had to climb the mast of his Juan K design.
Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi is back in the race with an operational mainsail on DMH MORI. Four days of repairs to a tear at the top of his sail and batten repairs are completed, even if the Asian skipper must sail with one reef from now on. He was sailing directly west this afternoon away from the Cape Verde islands which might have provided additional refuge had he needed it.
Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest Amedeo) has nearly completed his comeback after a three day pitstop back in Les Sables d’Olonne to repair a hairline crack at the top if his mast.