The leading duo have constantly spoken out against complacency, letting their guard down. They know that misfortune has visited skippers in the closing stages of many of the recent IMOCA 60 Round the World Races. They know that after more than 21,500 miles of hard racing the boats are at least as tired as their skippers. And the concept of... 'well, we have made it this far, so chances are we should make to the finish' holds no substance.' Indeed the regular, almost metronomic slamming upwind in the north easterly trades at best works your dental fillings loose, and worst exposes the small weaknesses to become big problems. As ever, setting the red line, how hard to press, is probably more relevant now for the top three boats as it is at any time in the race.
Jean-Pierre Dick lost the four tonne bulb off his keel of Virbac-Paprec 3 with just over 2000 miles to go during the last Vendée Globe and lost third to Alex Thomson. Spain's Javier Sanso lost his keel 360 miles south of the Azores whilst on course to complete that same race and had to retire. In the previous edition in Feburary 2009 Marc Guillemot dropped his entire keel at 960 miles to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne. Days earlier Roland Jourdain lost second place in that edition, chasing victor Michel Desjoyeaux, when his keel fell off Véolia 600 miles from the Azores.
It is never, ever over until the finish line is crossed.
Altadill, the well-travelled Spanish skipper on Neutrogena is clearly continuing to press the Farr IMOCA 60 as hard he and Munoz dare. They have opened distance on third placed GAES Centros Auditivos again to gain a lead of 233 miles, as well as clawing back 278 miles on the leaders.
But, in comparison to Stamm and Le Cam, Altadill and Munoz are reaching, making easier miles in easterly trades, whilst the leaders are slamming, almost upwind in moderate north easterly trades. Cheminées Poujoulat will pass the Cape Verdes tomorrow and likely have another two or three tacks to make before Gibraltar which they should reach on 21 March. Stamm and Le Cam have been especially quick in the South Atlantic, sailing between Cape Horn and the Equator in just 12 days, 19 hours and 57 minutes.
Neutrogena v GAES Centros Auditivos has ebbed and flowed since Altadill and Munoz restarted from New Zealand on 13th February. Corbella and Marín got as close as five miles astern in the Pacific, but in the Atlantic, Neutrogena have stepped away steadily. However, they have a Doldrums 'lite' experience ahead, although it's expected to be relatively straight forward transition.
Meanwhile the battle for fourth and fifth remains close. With just seven miles - in terms of distance to finish - between We Are Water in fourth and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton in fifth. Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa continue to defy predictions with the former Kingfisher and there is now 23 miles between them and the Garcia brothers on We Are Water who have been steadily gaining speed over the last few miles.