Michel DESJOYEAUX has extended his lead at the front to almost 300 miles and is looking ever-more likely to win the Vendée Globe race for the second time as he closes in on the finishing line at Les Sables d'Olonne.
Working upwind, on a direct, straight course in strong NE'ly breeze Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA) watched Foncia slide under the '5000 miles to go mark' this morning knowing he now has a with a handy lead of very nearly 300 miles over his friend and fellow Port La Foret skipper Roland JOURDAIN (FRA).
While the 2000-2001 race winner looks to be on course to become the first skipper to win solo racing's most coveted prize twice, he knows only too well that there are no certainties in this rarefied sporting world, and only when the Les Sables d'Olonne finish line is in sight might he let his guard down.
JOURDAIN is working to a much more westerly course, closing towards the Brazilian coast as the leading duo negotiate a small, but quite active low pressure system which is giving them some stiff headwinds. The Veolia Environnement skipper, third behind DESJOYUEAUX and Ellen MACARTHUR (GBR) in the 2001 race, said yesterday that his repairs are complete and his Lombard design is back close to full strength for the final 20% of the course.
Armel LE CLÉACH (FRA) in third may now feel more assured that a podium place can be his. Slowed through the light winds of a high pressure system, the Brit Air skipper is emerging steadily from the gentler breezes and has picked up speed making 10 knots after a slow night where his speeds averaged just six knots and he lost nearly half the gains he had made over the previous 48 hours, but he has over 1,100 miles on fourth placed Roxy.
Sam DAVIES (GBR) was due to be getting some well earned rest. As she noted during the night 'my sleeping bag is in my sights'. There has been no respite for the British soloist who her French rivals call the 'Pink Flamingo'. After a tough 48 hours on the edge prior to rounding Cape Horn yesterday morning, DAVIES was trapped in light winds in the transition between the Pacific and Atlantic, making less than 5 knots for several hours. She had to work progressively back up her sail-plan, shaking out her reefs and unrolling progressively bigger headsail to drag Roxy out the sticky zone, only to have to reverse the procedures - shortening sail again as she emerged into the brisker Atlantic winds. DAVIES is on course to pass east of the Falklands Islands.
Behind her Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA) on Safran will round the rugged, rocky Cape this morning, probably around 08:30 UTC, and is then expected to set a course to try and make repairs to his mainsail track at the Falklands. He has been quickest over the last 24 hours, despite sailing with three reefs in his mainsail, and was regularly hitting over 20 knots as he closed on the Horn this morning.
The trio of Aviva, Akenas Veranda and Bahrain Team Pindar have seen Brian THOMPSON (GBR), making the best speeds and continuing his advance away from his compatriot Dee CAFFARI (GBR) and her French companion Arnaud BOISSIERES. Akenas Verandas is at about 33 miles ahead of the yellow hulled British boat.
Steve WHITE (GBR) continues to keep his foot flat down on Toe in the Water, having some excellent spells through the night, making over 16 knots averages in the small hours, with 350 miles to the SE Pacific gate.
Norbert SEDLACEK (AUT) onboard Nauticsport-Kapsch has been battening down and heading north as he prepares to be hit by an active, deep low pressure system which is predicted to give winds to 50 knots and big, short, steep seas. He reported last night that all was in good shape aboard.
Meantime British skipper Jonny MALBON nosed Artemis II into Auckland harbour, New Zealand at around 23:30 UTC last night while Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA) will join him this morning with the wounded Paprec-Virbac II, and was making the final 30 or so miles across the Hauraki Gulf this morning.
Vendee Globe Leaderboard - 04:00 UTC 12 January 2009
1. Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Foncia at 5026.8 miles to the finish
2. Roland JOURDAIN (FRA), Veolia Environnement at + 298.2 miles
3. Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA), Brit Air + 791.7
4. Sam DAVIES (GBR), ROXY at + 1807.1 miles
5. Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA), Safran at + 2056 miles
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