For Michel DESJOYEAUX and Roland JOURDAIN at the front of the Vendée Globe fleet, Cape Horn is starting to feel within grasp and the home stretch within sight.
For the leaders this Vendée Globe remains a race of speed and tactics, but for the chasing pack it's now a race of attrition. Race leader Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA) on Foncia is shortly expected at Cape Horn closely followed by Roland JOURDAIN (FRA) on Veolia Environment just over 50 miles behind. A much big gap separates the remainder of the top five from the leader, whilst for those further behind, 12,000 miles must surely still feel an awfully long way to Les Sables d'Olonne, with sail damage affecting several British boats.
The front two are looking to reach Cape Horn, the last great 'gateway' of the course, in the next day or so. Meanwhile those at the rear of the pack have yet to make their way across the Pacific Ocean, which has wreaked as much havoc as the Indian and Atlantic Oceans before it.
At the front, JOURDAIN has had a strong day, climbing back 20 miles on DESJOYEAUX from his overnight lead. Behind them, Vincent RIOU (FRA) on PRB, winner of the last edition of the race, has also held steady in fourth place, having overtaken Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA) and Brit Air yesterday evening.
Sam DAVIES (GBR) on Roxy reported that she made a promise to her friend Sebastien JOSSE (FRA) when BT retired, that she would not go for boatspeeds over 17 knots! DAVIES, in sixth place, seems to be in danger of breaking that promise, holding averages of 16.5 knots over the past 24 hours to score the highest mileage of the fleet.
For some, nearly two months at sea is starting to show - both in the skippers and in the boats. In this morning's radio sessions Jean LE CAM's (FRA) voice on VM Matériaux couldn't hide his tiredness, or his eagerness to finish with the Southern Oceans and get around the Horn to head for home.
Others are made despondent by recurrent or worsening problems: Jonny MALBON (GBR) on Artemis is facing a serious delamination to his mainsail, as the Kevlar fibres, taffeta and Mylar film separate, leaving the Artemis team pondering their options with more than 12,000 miles to go. Dee CAFFARI (GBR) on Aviva is facing a similar problem, watching her sail disintegrate despite attempts to fix it with any tools she has to hand.
"I've had a bit of a blustery 24 hours. I found myself 47 knots and in the lulls 25 knots. It's been quite hard to get the sail plan right, and huge waves, so a little unsettled. I'm down to three reefs and a staysail at the moment. The wind's probably averaging 35 knots, but the lulls are making me feel pretty underpowered,"
"I'm probably on the worst gybe [for the mainsail] at the moment, because the whole damaged area is pushing into the lazy jacks. It's falling apart but I think that it's something that every few days I'm going to have to repair. I'm getting through my sail repair kit quite quickly It's quite frustrating because it's the only thing that's wrong, and I'm quite anxious about it, especially if there's any breeze,"
News from those whose race has already ended: Derek HATFIELD (CAN) on Algimouss Spirit of Canada has made landfall in Hobart, and Unai BASURKO (ESP) has safely arrived in Cascais, Portugal.
Vendee Globe Leadeboard - 05:00 UTC 3 January 2009
1. Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Foncia at 7597.2 miles to finish
2. Roland JOURDAIN (FRA), Veolia Environnement at + 56 miles to leader
3. Jean LE CAM (FRA) VM Matériaux at + 424 miles
4. Vincent RIOU (FRA) PRB + 661.6 miles
5. Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA), Brit Air + 683.3 miles
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