With around 180 miles to go now, supporters from America, England, Sweden, France and Italy are already in Les Sables d´Olonne to welcome Bruce SCHWAB (Ocean Planet) as he battles through further hailstorms on his climb up the Bay of Biscay. The French Navy were the first to congratulate the American skipper out on the water this morning. 'Things are ok aboard. It's a little bouncy and rough but I'm making headway. I had my first official greeting home this morning from the French Navy. I saw a ship on the radar. It was very close and I was just about to call them up and warn them that I had limited manoeuvrability when they called me. They knew exactly who I was before I could say and said they wanted to be the first to congratulate me back into French waters.'
Bruce is currently averaging 6.8 knots of boatspeed upwind under blue skies swept along in a bitingly cold north north easterly wind. Having tacked onto starboard yesterday, Bruce is hoping to tack back over to port to make a direct route to the finish during the course of the day as the winds veers more northerly.
'I've got some north easterly winds and I'm still on starboard tack going N but I'm hoping to tack onto port soon when the wind shifts further north. I should have a good trip towards Les Sables tomorrow if the wind holds. All I need is an average of 5/10 knots so I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed. I think I should have a nice reach as we approach shore and may finish as early as 13/1400 hours GMT. In the chop and the pounding I worry about every little noise but that's the way I am. Man it's cold. Fortunately I can run the heater a lot. I'm upwind now so it actually feels colder than when I was racing downwind in the Southern Ocean. I had three or four hailstorms last night, one even had snow in it I think. I managed to get two good lots of sleep last night and I'll try and sleep a little more today. I'm cleaning everything up and will try to take my last bucket bath. Though all my goodies have gone in terms of food, I did manage to knock up a Mexican omelette with hash brown potatoes, tabasco sauce and a bit of salt last night, in preparation for this final haul to the finish!'
After making 248.5 miles over the past 24 hours, French skipper Benoît PARNAUDEAU (Max Havelaar Best Western) is currently the fastest of the fleet over that time frame and has closed to within 1150 miles of the American skipper today. In continuing downwind conditions Benoît is on a good course making a sound ten knots of speed as he benefits from a depression centred over the Azores which is distilling a favourable westerly airflow. He is currently abeam of Morocco and around 270 South of Santa Maria (Azores).
Just over 480 miles back, Anne LIARDET on Roxy is suffering very shifty conditions off Mauritania, though her excellent VMG throughout the day shows that her numerous sail changes are paying off, her speed and VMG exactly matched over a half hour period. The trailing duo Raphaël DINELLI (Akena Vérandas) and Karen LEIBOVICI (Benefic) continue to make around nine knots of headway toward the north north east, respectively to the west and south west of the island of Fogo in the Cape Verdes. Raphaël DINELLI (Akena Vérandas), twelfth and 2537.7 miles from Les Sables d'Olonne, is making the most of the last few days of trade wind sailing before hitting the depressions served up by the North Atlantic. Just over 270 miles behind, Karen is having rather a tough time of things south west of the Cape Verde islands, bombarbed by flying fish and unable to make due northing as the wind heads her around 2810 miles from the finish.