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27 December 2012, 09:17 am
Go Direct - Ten Miles Separate Top Two In Vendee Globe
Banque Populaire
Christmas Eve aboard Banque Populaire

Vendee Globe
Les Sables, France

As they unfold their strategy for dealing with a serious zone of light, disturbed winds the two Vendée Globe leaders Armel Le Cléac'h and François Gabart have just 10 miles between them
As they make steady progress to the final safety gate of the course, a little more than 500 miles ahead, it is their two pursuers, Jean-Pierre Dick and Alex Thomson who are now accelerating, already shortening their respective deficits. And in Dunedin, NZL Bernard Stamm has not yet managed to finish his repairs but was forced to move anchorages during last night (daytime NZL) to find a more sheltered haven.

To date it would appear that it is not Bernard Stamm's lack of skills or materials which have prevented him completing repairs to his hydrogenerators but rather the weather which has chased him from one spot to another. So it would appear again that the Swiss skipper was required to move again. Stronger NE'ly winds and a building swell have required Stamm to move eight miles from his anchorage at Murdering Beach to now stop off Allan's Beach on Wharekakthu Island. He has been the subject of considerable local interest, steadfastly refusing all offers of food, drink and any kind of help at all that would break the strict Vendée Globe race rules.

Stamm has been interviewed by 3News and The Otago Daily Times reported their encounter with the round the world racer:
"When asked if he had had a shower since his departure, he shook his head and pointed to the sea before making scrubbing motions. He often dreamed of having a cold beer. He said: ''A beer would be nice now, but it would taste better at the end.''
Being at sea alone was lonely at times, but he was grateful he could communicate via his laptop with his wife and two children. However, the damaged hydro-generator meant he has had to cut back on the amount of communication with his family. He was looking forward to finishing the repairs so he could make contact with them more often. He hoped to be back on the high seas some time today, he said."

Slow down
So far the two leaders have managed to resisted their expected slow down, but the light winds are widely forecasted for the complicated transition zone ahead of them. Of the two it is Le Cléac'h who was faster by nearly one knot over the 'night' period between the 2000hrs and 0500hrs rankings. The duo have still made just over 400 miles each for their 24 hours up to 0500hrs, 100 miles more than Virbac-Paprec 3 but the tables are expected to be turned. Indeed Dick and Thomson, are already three knots or more quicker this morning. The leading pair have chosen the southern option which is more direct but the quiet zone will be at its worst for them today between noon and midnight. Their pain should not last too long as a new low pressure should press them on their way tomorrow with NW'ly winds of more than 30kts.

Approaching the Pacific West Gate today Jean-Pierre Dick's fortunes continue to yo-yo. After a loss of nearly 200 miles over the last 36 hours Dick will seize every opportunity presented by the 25-30kts of NW'ly winds which he has, placed nicely on the edge of the new depression which will catch up to the leaders later tomorrow. Dick has already been making close to 20kts this morning and so too Alex Thomson has had Hugo Boss wound up to between 17 and 19 knots. And both the third and fourth placed skippers are already winding in miles from the leaders.

Just less than 2000 miles behind the leaders fifth placed Jean Le Cam is now looking to the next wind shift as he angles SE to prepare for the Pacific West. Mike Golding on Gamesa has continued to make small gains on Le Cam who is now 350 miles ahead, but the British skipper has been slowed this morning in the downwind conditions. Golding is still perhaps compromised in the moderate wind strengths against both Le Cam and Switzerland's Dominique Wavre who remains 49 miles behind Gamesa in terms of distance to finish, but is on a similar longitude but further to the south of the Briton. Javier Sanso is currently just to the south of the Auckland Islands, gybing downwind in winds of 20kts which will hold firm for at least 24hours, probably precluding the Spanish skipper's planned mast climb to repair his damaged mast track.

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