Vincent Riou has a 78.5 mile lead over the Vendée Globe fleet today and believes that he is quite well placed for the coming weather shake-up. "I think we're going to have 40 to 50 knots but I'm not worried about it, we'll just have to try not to go too crazy with the boat speed. It's going to freshen up a bit and it looks like it will be pretty sporty. You really can't helm at the moment, so shockingly perhaps, I'm only helming for about 1% of the time and we're in survival mode down below."
Perhaps the most revealing news from today´s live radio session was the fact that second placed Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) has been suffering Standard F problems for some days which means that though he is getting the weather information by other methods, it is late in coming and he can´t get so much detail. It is clearly something that is getting to him as it has cost him valuable miles of late. "Things aren´t going well and haven´t been for the past 3 days really. I got caught in the centre of a depression and I was under 3 reefed main, and ORC upwind. I thought I´d done quite well last night but when I looked at the ranking Vincent had shifted away slightly. The seas are ok, the outrigger and rudder singing. Tonight looks a bit tricky but it´s becoming habit this kind of sailing. I´m fed up with the rain though. I´ve been having problems getting my weather files for some time but that´s the way it goes. I didn´t sleep much last night and it´s annoying when you have been working really hard and then it doesn´t come off well." On a positive note to an otherwise dejected tone, Jean Le Cam said he thought Bonduelle should be better than PRB on the climb up the Atlantic...
300 miles behind its sistership (Bonduelle) in third place, Sill et Véolia (Roland Jourdain) were on a "big merry-go-round." The skipper spoke of "grey with relatively good visibility. All the factors of the southern ocean are here. I found myself in a wind hole last night south of the Kerguelen islands. I passed within 20 miles of the shore and it was absolutely spectacular with the sun on the mountains and some penguins swimming behind the boat. Things don't look great in terms of weather."
The weather was a concern for Sébastien Josse (VMI) too though he was as upbeat as ever. "I'm doing ok, but there's a nasty big black thing chasing me! (Squall). I've got my fourth place back and I'm in rather annoying, variable conditions with rays of sun poking through. I've had a shower and I'm eating more and more, concentrating on keeping the boat safe. It's quite comfortable but it's wet. The seas are like big trade wind seas and with 25 knots of wind we can make 20 knots of boat speed."
Now north east of the Kerguelen Islands, south of Sébastien Josse (VMI), Mike Golding (Ecover) is making good speeds today. He had a bit of a scare earlier when he thought he'd spotted his second iceberg through the fog. Thankfully it turned out to be an Australian naval ship but he was unable to make contact with it over the radio. Sailing under gennaker and 1 reef he made a partial broach overnight. Being in the cockpit at the time he left the autopilot to bring her back round on its own and didn't suffer any damage. Like Roland Jourdain, Mike has also been having some strange quiet patches and there has been a massive drop in temperature though he hasn't had snow like the skipper of Sill et Véolia.
Setting a blistering pace in sixth and covering 345.7 miles over the past 24 hours, surpassed only by Jean Pierre Dick, Dominic Wavre (Temenos) reported sighting an iceberg at 49 South, 56 East earlier today. This is the second such sighting in this particular Vendee Globe, Mike Golding having spotted the first.
Making a staggering 18.4 knots of instantaneous speed, Jean Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec is in 7th with Nick Moloney (Skandia) making an instantaneous speed of 15.6 knots in 8th position, after a complicated night with the wind angles changing constantly. "I´m not feeling bad, just about to step on to the shallow bank of the Iles Crozet, so expecting the waves to pick up a bit. I'm trying to pass to the north of the most northerly rocks. Bit frustrating as I never expected to be reaching over a cluster of rocks in the Southern Ocean! They are currently 30 miles to the east of me and I should pass just 15 to 20 miles to the north. Moderate conditions, but I'm expecting the breeze to be 30 knots from the north-west in 3 or 4 hours. The night was quite painful. I've been quite stressed about the guys to the south making miles on me. Eventually I gybed after waiting for a shift, convinced I had to do something different. Then I spent two hours on a terrible heading in to the north, so had to bite the bullet and gybe back. About two hours ago the wind shifted again, so now I've gybed back into the north, sailing a little higher than I should because of these damn rocks in the way. This should keep me to the north of the Kerguelen Islands. I have always wanted to be north, and that has been one of my stresses."
Behind Thiercelin and Seeten, Patrice Carpentier (VM Matériaux) is on a slightly more southerly course, and has passed skipper Bruce Schwab (Ocean Planet), Carpentier intending to make contact with the American in English by email. Making the most of a "calm" day, Patrice has managed to make his bulkhead a little more waterproof where the ropes for canting the keel pass through. He has had this leak for some time since he lost the forward part of the keel surround underneath the boat. What this means is that he has quite violent projections of water coming into the boat around the keel area whenever he makes good speed. "With some pieces of spectra, I fixed some little flaps on the bulkhead where the ropes pass through. I've given myself a star for that". Encouragingly Bruce Schwab seems to be making better speed over the past half hour than Carpentier, with 5 additional knots of instantaneous speed, over 300 miles ahead of the "back pack" comprising, Liardet, Parnaudeau, Leibovici and now Humphreys. The English skipper left his mooring in Simonstown at around 0800 GMT this morning and is currently last in the ranking, 3031.7 miles from the leader.
As regards weather, the depression homing in on the leaders is not fully active for now but it will become much more active this weekend. The system is moving very quickly in the east but it is increasing in size as the hours go by. The phenomenon is going to be impossible for the leaders to avoid. Even if they get in some northing, they will suffer the effects of the depression, though in principal the skippers are currently trying to get easting along the course. The good news for the chasing trio (Sill et Veolia, VMI and Ecover) is that conditions will be lighter for them with winds in the order of 40 to 45 knots maximum. "The seas will get bigger though and we are expecting 8 to 10 metres on Saturday." For those in the group behind, that is Temenos and Virbac-Paprec, the wind is currently a 30 to 35 knot south-westerly. The seas are likely to be built up with waves of around 6 metres. The wind is set to be fairly stable and then veer to the west and then the north-west during tomorrow. These rather classic conditions in terms of the southern ocean will enable the skippers to swallow up the miles. Finally for the back of the group, there is a west/south-westerly wind and a fine corridor of wind that has formed between the 40th and 45th parallel south. They are going to make good progress down the course too which sounds positive for Humphreys.