RIOU made his break last night extending his lead to over 50 miles, although that had fallen back to around 40 at noon today. In second place Jean LE CAM's (FRA) VM Matériaux in less than 2 miles ahead of Jérémie BEYOU (FRA) Delta Dore. RIOU now has enough room to manoeuvre to control his pursuers and solely a zone of light wind at the entry to the Channel casts a shadow of doubt over his crown and the hour of his arrival. Though the weather forecasts are still uncertain to say the least, the arrival of the winner is predicted for midday tomorrow.
This morning at 05:00, the orange hull of PRB was slipping along 100 miles offshore of Newcastle. Its adversaries meantime had only got down as far as Edinburgh. Yesterday the British skipper Jonny MALBON on Artemis Ocean Racing, fifth in the ranking, observed that the leader had not made a single error since the start and he did not see why he would suddenly make one now. There is no choice but to accept that, despite a high risk zone created by a small minimum depression, RIOU has managed to a sneak along the course, enabling him to go twice as fast as his pursuers at times.
'It's cool, things are going well and even if the wind is gentle, we should make Calais tomorrow,' said RIOU. 'We haven't made too many mistakes with our trajectory. We had the chance to get away and then progressed from there'.
PRB passed through the windless zone yesterday, and according to Gildas MORVAN (FRA), crew on VM Matériaux, it was not as large as forecast. 'We were slowed down for a couple of hours, but now we're off again. To get back in the action we'd need a serious park-up ahead and we have a lot of boats behind.'
This zone, with its easterly wind rotation in the west, saw the return of yet another pea-souper and very high humidity in the air. 'The new wind has filled in but it's not steady yet,' continued MORVAN. 'We're constantly trimming the sails and we have 8 knots of westerly.'
Less than 2 miles behind VM Matériaux, Delta Dore is increasingly well positioned for a podium place. The conversation this morning was brief but visibly Pascal BIDÉGORRY (FRA) translated the atmosphere aboard well. However, it is the second place they are aiming for now and not the first. 'That's life, we haven't a chance. What do you want me to say...?'
Ninety miles further back, seventh in the ranking after being overtaken by the girls on Roxy, Alexandre TOULORGE (FRA) on Maisonneuve, was suffering from the light conditions the leaders had just crossed. 'We are becalmed and hunting around for a way out. We're on the edge of the zone of light airs, hoping it won't be too long.' Maisonneuve was making less than a knot of headway at 05:00, whilst PRB was weaving along with the wind on the beam at 11 knots. Stress for one, the joy of his next crown for the other!
Fortunately for Dee CAFFARI's (GBR) crew on Aviva at the back of the fleet, they have found the wind at last and are making the fastest speed of the fleet in a bid to make up their deficit, now just 284 miles behind and making double the speed of PRB.