Further east and now a surprising 53 degrees south of Jean, second placed Vincent RIOU (PRB) was the first to pass the Cape of Good Hope today at 14h20 GMT, after around 24 days and 2 days of racing, approximately 4 days and 6 hours ahead of Yves PARLIER's time in the last edition. They are making around 14/15 knots 'in a big swell, with wind and short waves coming at us from the other direction' in what is a rather classic southern ocean scenario. Mike GOLDING (Ecover) has no option other than to stick on his course and try not to slip off the back of this same depression while Alex THOMSON (Hugo Boss) looks to have definitively fallen off the lead wave now, stuck between two depression systems. The latter of these systems contains the more northern bulk of the fleet who are still suffering the tribulations of the South Atlantic, still under threat from the influence of the Saint Helena high which is going to build up, and preventing the skippers from descending into the Antarctic flow. Two members of this second group reported damage today, one physical one structural. Raphael Dinelli (Akena Verandas) slammed a hatch shut on his ring finger at around 2100 GMT last night, turning his nail completely inside out in a rather bloody accident that is causing him considerable pain. Meantime Marc Thiercelin (Pro-Form) broached earlier today, like a number of boats before him. Unfortunately he has lost his bow-sprit and gennaker and has a broken pulpit.
Jean Le CAM (Bonduelle) has taken a lead of a staggering 81.5 miles at the 1500 GMT ranking today, making around 100 miles more than now second placed Vincent Riou (PRB) since 0400 GMT this morning after making a considerably better VMG (speed towards the goal). 'I don't understand Vincent (Riou)'s strategy' he said. 'We have more than enough time to negotiate the next depression. I fully intend to favour the direct course. I bank each mile I cover. I'm happy with where I am. The seas have become really dreadful. There's a big swell, with wind and short waves coming at us from the other direction. You have to sail gently without pushing the machine too hard.'
Behind him Vincent RIOU (PRB) remained philosophical of word but rather gentle of voice. 'There are many different ways of reaching a same point. I'm taking a more workable course, banking more on long term gains. The shift in our positions is always interesting. Mine is a choice motivated by the desire not to suffer damage.' He had spoke of perhaps finding a more comfortable course but interestingly he has now gybed back onto course behind Jean at the last ranking, clearly deciding that his was indeed rather a dubious option. For these two men and their two immediate pursuers, Roland Jourdain (Sill et Veolia) and Sébastien Josse (VMI), it is the beginning of a subtle game of leap-frog from one depression to another, that is not without acrobatics or uncertainty.
Golding has been giving his all to hook onto the right carriage, now playing in the same yard as the four frontrunners. 'Things are going well and the conditions are fairly stable. I think I may fall off the back of this current system I'm in but will try to stay in it as long as possible. It's very rough and bumpy and frankly I'm surprised to be doing as well as I am as they have more wind up front but this is a really big system stretching across thousands of miles. I think Bonduelle and PRB have passed the brunt of it. I've got very confused seas but I don't have the luxury of another option and have to keep on this course because if I gybed I'd be becalmed within around 5 to 6 hours and wouldn't get where I wanted to go. As a result I'm concentrating on making the shortest course I can and the best speed. I'm very pleased with the boat's performance and got my record 31 knots yesterday.'
Sadly the same cannot be said for Thomson (Hugo Boss), now accompanied by George the albatross, the pair being slowed between two depressions. Though Alex has shifted in latitude, the English sailor must be more concerned by what is behind him rather than what is in front, with the return of the group lead by Jean Pierre DICK (Virbac-Paprec).
This latter group is continuing to suffer the effects of a depression stemming from Uruguay that is diving full east, plunging the rear of the fleet into strong winds. Once past, the centre of the depression will force the racers into a few painful hours of upwind sailing to make the southern latitudes in choppy seas. Should they not fancy this particular option they may take a more easterly course with the risk of being swallowed up by the calms, nearly 10 degrees north of the favourable westerlies.