Michel DESJOYEAUX starts 2009 in the same manner and style that he spent the final 15 days of 2008, in control of the Vendée Globe fleet and maintaining sensible strategies on board Foncia as he heads for Cape Horn.
Michel DESJOYEAUX's (FRA) lead this morning is 67.7 miles over his long-time rival and friend Roland JOURDAIN (FRA) on Veolia Environnement. Running downwind in around 25 knots of NW'ly wind the pair have been evenly matched overnight, JOURDAIN showing a small speed advantage, maintaining his course slightly to the south of Foncia's track.
Matching up together over thousands of miles since they took the advantage on the 16th December there is little to choose between the 2004 Lombard design and DESJOYEAUX's 2007 Farr boat. If anything JOURDAIN loses when the breezes slacken off and consistently gains when the winds are stronger, more likely prepared - or required - to push harder. But in his mind he knows that the real challenge will be going back up the Atlantic, and so he needs to stay as tight as he can to DESJOYEAUX, the 2000-2001 Vendée Globe winner.
Paprec-Virbac Loses Port Rudder
Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA) looks set to give up his battle to stay in the Vendée Globe after a collision during Tuesday night which removed his port rudder and assembly off the transom of Paprec-Virbac 2. The Nicois skipper acknowledged almost immediately that his Vendée Globe ambitions are shattered. After damaging his starboard rudder in a similar type of collision with a semi-submerged object 17 days ago when he was leading the race, DICK had fought valiantly to make a repair, and was in sixth position when the cruel blow occurred.
DICK has made steady progress through the night, and while he has not officially retired, there is no chance of him completing the race with only one, already damaged rudder. This leaves 15 skippers of the original 30 who started in Les Sables d'Olonne still actively racing, confirming this editions to have the highest attrition since the 1996-97 edition, when only 37.5%, or six of the 16 starters, made it to the finish. The last two races, 2000-2001 and 2004-2005, saw over about 65% of the fleet reach the line in Les Sables d'Olonne.
Those who had been dealing with recent problems appear to have them under control at least this morning. Steve WHITE (GBR) on Toe in the Water in 12th was threatening to be bringing in the New Year (theoretically the first to reach 2009 as he had not yet reached the antemeridian date line) under the chart table fighting with his malfunctioning autopilots. His strategy - slowing the boat for a several hours yesterday - seems to have been successful and he has been making steady, if uncomfortable progress, upwind, skirting a high pressure system which, unluckily for him, is moving with him. It's a similar tale for Brian THOMPSON (GBR) on Bahrain Team Pindar in ninth. He has managed to average 14.5 knots overnight while trying to get to the bottom of a wiring problem. Jonny MALBON (GBR) on Artemis II made good progress last night, in unsettled seas in 25-28 knots.
Notwithstanding mileage anomalies on the rankings (eg JOURDAIN making 516 miles this morning!) Jean LE CAM (FRA) has been quickest between the overnight polls, regularly observed to be making more than 20 knots. In third place, LE CAM is 402 miles behind the leader, while about 40 miles now separates Armel LE CLEAC'H (FRA) on Brit Air in fourth from Vincent RIOU (FRA) on PRB but they are now over 670 miles behind Foncia.
Vendee Globe Leadeboard - 05:00 UTC 1 January 2009
1. Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Foncia 8503 miles to the finish
2. Roland JOURDAIN (FRA), Veolia Environnement at + 67.7 miles
3. Jean LE CAM (FRA), VM Matériaux at + 402.8 miles
4. Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA), Brit Air + 672.3 miles
5. Vincent RIOU (FRA), PRB + 709.2 miles
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