Armel Le Cleac’h is out on his own now at the front of the Vendee Globe pack, 170 miles north of Madeira. Paul Meilhat on SMA has made a good gain from his classical investment in the west as the leaders pass the latitude of Gibraltar.
The Jackal, Armel Le Cleac’h, is accelerating away meantime, quicker this morning. But the passage to Madeira may be marked by periods of lighter airs 10-15kts. They should pass Madeira tonight before the winds build to 15-20kts.
Alex Thomson’s strategy to the east has crumpled slightly as he drops to seventh, 38 miles behind leader Banque Populaire VIII.
That the non-foiling IMOCAs would stage something of a comeback was a prediction made yesterday by Yann Eliès. The advance of Paul Meilhat (SMA) on the former MACIF up to third place overnight, and with the likes of Jean Le Cam catching to within 30 miles of Hugo Boss, the gentler breezes caused by the Azores high pressure system have evened the match. For the meantime. The leading group have the high pressure directly west of them, centred over the Azores.
Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) has gained a place to 16th and was racing close – only two miles away – from Louis Burton (Bureau Vallee).
Today Didac Costa would face 35-40kts winds were he to try and leave Les Sables d’Olonne. Tomorrow looks better with 20-25kts W to NW winds.
Everyone is converging towards Madeira, but no one seems to know which side of the islands to go. These volcanic mountains can disturb the wind considerably in direction and strength. If the wind veers to the north before midday, the leaders will be able to get around the outside, but if the variable wind remains westerly, it may be more interesting to sail down between Madeira and the Canaries.
In any case, these islands are looking like a crossroads before the important gybe to take them down to the Equator. For the moment, this means that the sailors are converging towards one point before they scatter again as the wind veers towards the NE to turn into the trade winds blowing below the Azores high…
Enda O Coineen Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland (IRL): Now off the coast of Portugal. I cannot imagine what Robin Knox Johnston was like after almost 310 days at sea when he completed the first Golden Globe solo in 1968. I would not admit it at first, but I was seasick, in a heap, cold and miserable the first night and really struggled. However I have learned to manage it – “emotional intelligence” they call it – and am now happily completely over it. We made up for it with some glorious sailing down the coast of Portugal today.
Wind speed is 17.8 knots and we’re doing 13.6 knots almost fully upwind on target to clear the TSS Zone off Lisbon, 60 miles south. My big worry is collision, I have four ships on the AIS within five miles but it’s the rogue unmarked vessels and odd fishing boats that scare me. Most of the rest of the fleet have opted to go further west out to sea – and they are a bit faster. My hope is to make as much direct southing first and within another 250 miles to pick up the first North Easterly Trade winds before the others and catch up a little – not much to lose at this point, so worth a try!”
Paul Meilhat (SMA): “There are still a lot of squalls with fairly variable winds. But the conditions aren’t that unpleasant, even if we have to manoeuvre a lot. We can’t get more than ten minutes sleep at a time. We’re still in a 15-knot NW’ly breeze, but that will be easing off, as we pass through the ridge of high pressure late this morning. We’re grouped together. I’m alongside Sébastien Josse heading towards Madeira.
At one point the wind backed to the SW and we were upwind alongside Vincent Riou and Jérémie Beyou. The problem for now is deciding which side of the island to take, because the wind is very disturbed near the islands. So far, it’s been very fast and it hasn’t yet sunk in that we’re in a round the world race. It’s a more like the Solitaire du Figaro. We’ll be passing Madeira under spinnaker just after lunchtime.”
Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du lit-Boulogne Billancourt): “I’m back in the game after two tricky days going from the euphoria of the pontoon to being alone out here. I made a few mistakes in the Bay of Biscay… During the night, the wind appeared from the west after a short period of upwind sailing. I decided to stay close to the coast of Portugal, as the seas are calmer. Now, I’m heading a bit further west to get around the high: the wind will be veering to the NE and I don’t know yet how I’ll get around Madeira to avoid the wind shadow.”
by Vendee Globe