Vendée Globe: Battle for the Top Spot

Jean-Pierre Dick and Alex Thomson battle for the lead, while the light weather off southern Portugal gives the traditional boats a chance to strike.
Jean-Pierre Dick temporarily took the lead from Alex Thomson yesterday, but Hugo Boss once again leads the fleet by a small margin. Yvan Zedda/StMichel-Virbac

Earlier yesterday, Alex Thomson followed by Jean-Pierre Dick gybed twice to move eastwards, before turning back towards the SW. This morning, from east to west, a gap of around a hundred miles had opened between Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, with the British sailor just 90 miles away from the coast. Meanwhile, St.Michel-Virbac was following a trajectory in the middle and, in so doing, Jean-Pierre Dick had become the new leader in this eighth Vendée Globe.

Jean-Pierre Dick and Alex Thomson had the idea of sliding down in a vein of wind off Lisbon in order to avoid the calms associated with the ridge of high pressure, which is gradually descending with the fleet. However this ridge stretching from the Azores to Cape Finisterre earlier today has engulfed the fleet earlier than expected and it would appear now that everyone is going to be affected by these lighter conditions. As they are further from the centre of this ridge of high pressure, Jean-Pierre Dick and particularly Alex Thomson are still in with a small chance of getting that little bit ahead of the lighter winds and if they do manage that, could extend their lead over those further out to sea.

This morning, Alex Thomson regained the lead from Jean-Pierre Dick, but the margin remains tight at the top of the fleet. The frontrunners have hit the buffers with low speeds on the dials: 7.5 knots for Alex Thomson, 6.5 knots for Jean-Pierre Dick and 5.5 knots for Armel Le Cléac’h. These erratic conditions should enable the boats chasing after them to narrow the gap… temporarily at least. Sébastien Josse said that the wind was down to 8 knots and these conditions favoured Vincent Riou’s PRB, which is more at ease than the foilers in these light airs off Southern Portugal.


From the Fleet:

Enda O Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland) – IRL: “Here I am, 2nd day at sea contemplating the world and reflecting at the wonderful send-off from Les Sables. It was magic. Suddenly I have been transformed from pre-race frenzy, including chatting with Prince Albert of Monaco about his late mum, (Princess Grace) and my own Princess daughter Aisling dancing a jig on my boat deck for Albert. Now it’s total isolation here in the dark and busy shipping lanes off Cape Finisterre. It was like somebody waved the same magic wand and my spell is to be here, huddled over a navigation table, like the cockpit of a spacecraft on a vessel I am destined to spend the next 100 days…. Its been a grand idea, a brilliant event and getting to the start line an achievement in itself, but now I don’t know. What in hell’s name have I done? Nor do I have any idea as to what lies ahead. What in the name of humanity have I let myself in for…..mind you, and though the first night at sea was cold and miserable, at least its starting to warm up as we move south. Let’s see.”

Kito de Pavant (Bastide – Otio): “We’ve got clear skies and there are fewer squalls, even if the wind is still very unstable. I’m settling into the race, finding my feet. I’m remaining cautious. Maybe too cautious with my sail choices. It’s going to get tactical as we approach a ridge of high pressure, which will slow us down. It’s not as cold as on the first night. I managed to get some sleep, which I needed.”