Alex Thomson Racing
After losing ground yesterday, Alex Thomson is now doing better than just putting up some resistance. The skipper of Hugo Boss has managed to maintain his lead of 85 miles over his two nearest rivals, Armel Le Cléac’h and Sébastien Josse. They are expected to pass the Cape of Good Hope in four days, shattering the reference time for the voyage down the North and South Atlantic.
In the middle of the South Atlantic, the seven leaders are still clocking up high speeds in ideal conditions, which resemble the sort of weather required for round the world records. A week ago, there was the possibility of boats making their getaway from the pack and huge gaps developing and that is exactly what is happening with groups in very different weather systems from each other. And it is the frontrunners, who continue to benefit from this situation.
It is something of a surprise to see this morning that Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is maintaining his lead in spite of damage to his foil. It is true he is at a wider angle than the chasing boats, but although sailing on the port tack, where he is in theory handicapped, as the foil is broken creating extra drag instead of lift, the British sailor has managed to stem the losses that we saw this weekend, when the nearest rivals regained around fifty miles from him. Alex has clearly not accepted this as a done deal and is fighting to keep his leadership. He has stabilised the situation and asserted that it is far from over.
We can see too that Armel Le Cléac’h luffed during the night coming around further to the left. It looks like he is trying to cover PRB and Safran and get towards the route taken by Sébastien Josse. All seven out in front are clocking up speeds that are spectacular for monohulls, averaging around twenty knots. Speeds are in fact slightly higher for Morgan Lagravière, Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou (21 to 23 knots). It is the latter who covered the greatest distance over the last 24 hours: 499 miles. The seas are getting heavier for them now, but conditions remain favourable and that is set to continue until they get to the tip of South Africa. They are currently sailing in a powerful 25-knot northerly flow, generated by the compression between an area of low pressure to their south and the high to their north. In around four days from now they will be at the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope, where the reference time is likely to be shattered.
Further back in the fleet, it is time to grin and bear it. Sailing in between the leaders and the pack, Yann Eliès – 8th 700 miles back from the leader – is no longer in the same weather system. He is managing to keep up average speeds above sixteen knots and might avoid the worst by finding his way through, albeit further north than the leaders. But he is likely to be two days behind them, when he enters the Indian Ocean. The toll is going to be even higher for boats back behind ninth placed Jean Le Cam. At the latitude of Brazil, they have only half as much wind as the frontrunners and are only just making ten knots… or in other words half of the speed achieved by the leaders. However, we are seeing some interesting battles between these boats, as we enter the third week of racing with the leaders shortly to enter the Southern Ocean. The pack and the third group will struggle to take advantage of any low pressure areas developing to make their way eastwards across the South Atlantic. There are several areas of light winds to contend with, as Fabrice Amedeo told us this morning.