The descent of the Atlantic continues at a lightening pace with the top seven in the general ranking promptly swallowing up the island of MADEIRA, from Vincent RIOU (PRB) to Dominique WAVRE (Temenos).
This passage proved slightly more complicated for British sailor Alex THOMSON (Hugo Boss) who remained downwind of the island for some time, either becalmed or making repairs. He has dropped from third into sixth place, while Mike GOLDING (Ecover) is now up in third position behind Roland JOURDAIN (Sill et Véolia).
The top seven in the ranking have opened up a considerable lead on their pursuers. English sailor, Conrad Humphreys (Hellomoto), 8th, is now 50 miles behind Swiss sailor Dominique Wavre. Behind him the separation is even wider. The Austrian Norbert SEDLACEK (Brother), last in the ranking, now has a 442 mile deficit.
Yesterday at 1900 GMT he was just 379 miles behind which means he has dropped back 63 miles in 9 hours. Vincent RIOU (PRB) dealt perfectly with the wind shadow from the island of Madeira, as did Roland JOURDAIN (Sill et Veolia), Mike GOLDING (Ecover) and Jean Le CAM (Bonduelle) who all passed to the west of it. Sébastien JOSSE (VMI) and Dominique WAVRE (Temenos) rounded upwind of the island, on the African coast side.
Alex THOMSON (Hugo Boss) slowed right down as he passed close to the island. He was forced to change course 90° from the route so as to free himself from the calms. A manœuvre which may perhaps have been chosen voluntarily by Alex had he wished to encounter calm conditions to undertake repairs.
The head of the fleet is expected in the Canaries at the end of the afternoon, with just 160 miles to the archipelago. At 1200 GMT the 5th day of this Vendée Globe race will begin which means that the current record of just over 6 days from Les Sables d'Olonne to the Canaries, held by Yves Parlier, will be exploded. As regards the speed (14 to 15 knot averages in the past 4 hours), the north-easterly winds are still enabling the skippers to make rapid progress. However the leaders are now closing in on a high pressure ridge created by the increasing distance of the low pressure system centred around the Canaries since the start. Will the charts redistribute the cards with this first weather trap Response in the next 36 hours. The Canaries will then be far behind them and the skippers should have managed to hook onto a stable trade wind pattern to continue their express descent towards the equator still 1900 miles away.