French pair Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou were this morning blasting east through the Indian Ocean hunting down the leading trio in the Vendee Globe.
The duo, in fourth and fifth, have been practically side by side since the solo round the world race began from Les Sables d’Olonne, France, exactly three weeks ago.
Meilhat, skipper of SMA, passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on South Africa’s southern tip just before midnight UTC with Maître CoQ skipper Beyou less than an hour behind.
And with the frontrunners Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) all slowed in lighter winds, the chasing pair were today making the most of the chance to reel them in.
At the 0500 UTC rankings Meilhat was making more than 19 knots with Beyou just 12 miles behind him doing 15.5 in similar strength breeze.
By contrast at the head of the fleet Thomson and Le Cléac’h, split by only 10 miles, were facing lighter winds of 10 knots from the north, with Josse 362nm back in even less.
Meilhat and Beyou may be some 800nm behind the front two but if they can hang on to the east-moving depression for long enough they could be able to reduce that deficit significantly.
In fact, in the last 24 hours alone they have claimed back 200 miles on Thomson and Le Cléac’h.
Also making good speed this morning was Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir skipper Yann Eliès, who is due to pass the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean later today.
Back in good breeze after being dumped by a front yesterday, Jean Le Cam is now 200nm to the south west of Jean-Pierre Dick and Thomas Ruyant. That trio might not have as clear a run at the leaders as SMA and Maître CoQ but still they knocked 100nm off the gap overnight.
The same can’t be said for the large group of boats still snared in the St Helena High with little chance of escaping any time soon.
At 0500 UTC the leader of that group, 11th placed Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée was making eight knots while 300 miles back Eric Bellion in 20th was two knots quicker.
But speeds are due to plummet once more later today when they once again become stuck in the centre of the notorious anticyclone.
Meanwhile Vincent Riou arrived in Cape Town on PRB at around midnight, four days after he retired from racing with keel problems.
by Vendee Globe