Having got to within ten miles of Armel Le Cléac’h, the Banque Populaire VIII skipper who has lead the Vendée Globe solo round the world race since Tuesday evening, Vincent Riou sounded resigned this afternoon that any recent gains will turn to losses as Le Cléach’s foil assisted boat moves into the stronger, trade wind drag racing conditions which are set to prevail almost to the Equator some 2000 miles down the track.
Riou’s PRB is configured with classic, straight daggerboards and the 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner has been quick – as well as smart - in the 10-12kts windspeeds through the Azores high. But he admitted he now expects the ‘foilers’ – such as Banque Populaire VIII, Safran (Morgan Lagraviere) and Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) – to be quicker in the fast trade winds descent south.
“In these conditions we can make the difference. In the coming days, it’s going to be for the others (the foilers – editor’s note). I think it’s going to be like in this round the world race. Sometimes for us, sometimes for them. I was surprised to see Banque Populaire ahead of me this morning by about ten miles. I thought it was going to be hard catching him after the lead he had,” Riou said today.
After passing Madeira this morning the leading group are under gennakers, accelerating steadily towards the latitude of the Canary Islands which are 145 miles south of Banque Populaire this afternoon. Le Cléac’h had already gained six miles on PRB since lunchtime.
Alex Thomson worked hard last night to use the shifting breezes as best he could on Hugo Boss, stepping successively west and south on the changing winds. Today in his video report he confirmed that the gybe he made to the east after Cape Finisterre was a ‘huge mistake and I have been beating myself up about it since.’ But now Thomson – in eighth at 65 miles behind the leader - is looking forward to getting into the stronger trade winds when Hugo Boss should be in its element. Already this afternoon he was tracked as quickest in the fleet. He reported: “The guys ahead have slightly different breeze, just following their track they had a little different breeze. It was quite patchy and I was quite happy to be in the south. I was happy. It can always be better. Now I am getting into the life on board routine, the work and sleep, it is never ending, I am starting to get into the swing of things. It is getting a bit warmer. I am looking forwards to the breeze building. It will be a drag race to the equator and so I am looking forwards to that and hopefully getting some miles back,”
Didac Costa crosses start line again
As of 1140hrs this Thursday, the Vendée Globe fleet was back to a full complement of 29 solo skippers on the race course. Catalan Didac Costa re-crossed the start line formed by the famous Nouche buoy on One Planet One Ocean. He had to return to Les Sables d’Olonne within an hour of Sunday’s start because of a flood inside his boat, which was formerly Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher. With all of the electrics repaired, a new, bigger alternator fitted and his engine stripped and rebuilt, Costa was desperate to get going again. “I'm happy to re-start again, very much looking forward to it and I hope everything goes well. On Sunday, when I was returning to Les Sables with water inside the boat, I had no idea if even I would be able to start again, because I did not know what kind of damage the boat had. Being able to re-start after four days, after so much work, makes me happy. I am happy but also prudent on the other hand. I hope there will be no problems and I can sail well. The first few hours I will not think too much about the competition but about sailing and about if everything is in place. More than thinking of the race I will think about the boat. Then, step-by-step, I will try to get on top of things. There is plenty of wind until tomorrow morning, and then it will drop.”