The way forward looks to have been swept clear leaving the leaders to greedily swallow up the miles while the chasing pack still wallow in the wind holes strewn across the track. The duel between Jean Le CAM and Vincent RIOU has only just begun...
Today must surely be a crushing blow to those watching the fearsome duo take to their heels as behind the brakes are well and truly on as the fleet continue to wallow in the anticyclonic magma. The group comprising Sill et Véolia, VMI and Ecover are still suffering...though forecasts indicate that they will soon be able to extract themselves from the ridge of high pressure between now and this evening. For now, they are trying to put in as much southerly as possible to make 30° of latitude. Incredibly it would seem that the leaders may get a lead of a staggering 300 miles.
Behind this group, Alex THOMSON is seemingly racing his own race on what many deem a 'wild west option'. He bravely took an enormous, but nonetheless well calculated risk 48 hours ago, right away from his playmates. Only time will tell if he was right but clearly for now he is making more ground than Sill et Véolia, VMI and Ecover who are well and truly stuck. The signs are that Thomson is likely to make up his deficit in the next 24 hours, though it is unclear whether this will be enough. It may well be that Hugo Boss holds onto his current sixth place with a 100 mile deficit on the trio.
Behind Thomson, the scenario looks far from peachy with the eight boats between Virbac-Paprec and VM Matériaux, still on the wrong side of an anticyclone which is set to expand towards the south and the east. A huge barrier is being created by this air mass without a gradient, barring the whole of the southern Atlantic. To pass it, one sole solution looks possible: gaining southerly and westerly, with an exit at around 30°S and 28°W. This doesn't look too far ahead (250 miles for Virbac-Paprec, on a heading of 195) but it is far off their theoretical course (60°) and in light winds... Between now and tomorrow evening this group is unlikely to have tracked down the anticipated west south-westerly. During this time, the two leaders may well be skipping along at over 10 knots.
This Sunday, after 3 weeks of racing, this group is highly likely to have a 1000 mile deficit on the leader. There will be three divisions in this Vendée Globe : the first comprising the top 6 in the current ranking, the second which will extend back to the 15th placed racer, Ocean Planet, and the third, with the last 5 in the ranking… This is the forecast, but the reality may well have a few surprises in store...