Vincent RIOU is denying that he's gone into turbo drive but he is the only sailor to have made over 300 miles over the last 24 hours and has consistently matched or been quicker than his pursuers.
"I've turned right so I'm going quicker now. I don't yet know exactly which way I'll pass the Azores. The current scenario is rather a simple one except that Bonduelle hasn't slowed up yet. Jean and Mike had to give that option a try but I'm hoping that by tomorrow night I should be in stable winds and will be able to start counting up the points. It's a great race and it has been like that all along. All races have difficult situations to negotiate and I've been looking into the weather for the finish for some days now. It looks like it will be fast all the way in. I'm at 31 degrees North so it's beginning to get cold now. Once I get into upwind conditions I can rest a bit" explained the leader earlier today.
Meanwhile Nick MOLONEY (Skandia), exhausted by his overnight ordeal, trying many times to successfully fix a tow line from the Brazilian navy vessel Guajara, is nevertheless remaining upbeat and looking for the positives from his Vendée Globe experience.
"I'm Ok, I'm going to refuse to get down over it. My initial concern at the start was that I wasn't mentally strong enough to get around the world. But I was overcoming the problems, and I was on the home stretch and my focus was the finish. I felt I was strong enough to do the Vendée. I never ever expected the boat to fail in any way" he asserted today. After passing New Zealand, I knew there was no going back, and Cape Horn really did mark the moment that I had passed the 3 Capes, and I really felt like I'd completed my 3 round the world voyages at that time."
Second placed Jean LE CAM on Bonduelle was really at his best today, his visions of victory becoming more and more vivid the closer the top trio get to the finish here in Les Sables D'Olonne.
"The situation is still uncomfortable. There's a hole to round and all you can do is go for whatever route you decide on and hope it works out. It's not that bad...It could be worse! We've got 1700 miles to go so we can still pull something out of the bag. Some things are fairly pragmatic like the weather routing. If you route PRB on American models then it passes just ahead of a zone of no wind, but sometimes the models aren't that reliable. I thought Ecover and Bonduelle would have been slowed down more than they are at present. It would be a great surprise for Bonduelle if the models were wrong and I'm certainly not giving up on my hopes of victory. Everything's perfect aboard. If the high were to shift over a little and block Vincent, Mike and I could round it and we could have a great battle within 20 miles of the finish in the Bay of Biscay. PRB would be on port tack, Bonduelle on starboard and then BAF! the wind veers in my favour and I win by two and a half minutes!"
Mike GOLDING remains upbeat and objective about the losses which he hopes will only be temporary and despite losing a few more miles to Bonduelle than he perhaps anticipated, he reported today that he is feeling more positive as he surveys what lies ahead. For him at the moment he has to play a waiting game and just try to maintain the optimum sailplan and trim for the conditions, something which he felt might have contributed to the additional mileage Bonduelle has gained over the previous 24 hours. "It's been a little slower than of late but I am still moving. I'd like to be going a little quicker but it is happening slowly. PRB is moving quicker today in better breeze and so I think we will see the deficit increase again." Mike reported. "It has been tricky with the sailplan but maybe he has had a little better wind or maybe I had the wrong sailplan some of the time. Sadly it could get a lot worse. It has been quite settled (in terms of wind strength) but the wind has been all over the place."
Golding reported that he is on schedule in terms of his consumables, with a couple of gas bottles left, enough of his staple diet of tea and coffee, no biscuits but still hanging on to some Christmas cake remains. He expects another slow down in another day or so when PRB could lose speed first, but Mike currently believes the race could be down to a slow final finish into Les Sables d'Olonne. In contrast to Jean LE CAM, Mike believes that the overall honours could be decided over the last 50-100 miles. "It's certainly not over until it's over." He signs off, wryly.
Quotes from the Boats:
Nick MOLONEY (Skandia): "Our preparation was incredible and I always had confidence in the boat, I always thought it would be up to me not the boat. The keel problem was such an unforeseeable, I guess it just wasn't meant to be. We've had our [technical] troubles and we've been able to overcome them all, and if you are going to have to bail out I guess it was going to have to be something this serious. It was a great joy for me to round Cape Horn and to have done the 3 great Capes, that was a really significant thing. It was very difficult to progress after the mid-Indian Ocean [where Nick capsized], in particular under Australia and I took each day as it came."
Nick MOLONEY on Skandia has been under tow since around 0930 GMT this morning. The wind has risen to 30 knots and the waves are getting pretty big again. "I reckon to make Rio at around 0100 GMT tomorrow. It's a big relief to have been picked up by the Brazilian navy after what proved to be a very tiring night. It's nice to know that help is at hand if need be. We made numerous attempts to fix a line between our two boats but it just kept breaking. Finally it came good and I'm now trying to rest. The problem now is that the boat is rolling around badly which means that I'm having to steer. Ideally I'm hoping that the wind will die down so that I can sleep as I'm exhausted."
Bruce SCHWAB (Ocean Planet): "It was very windy last night with big waves, almost like the Southern Ocean but it was spectacular with a full moon. I was expecting the wind, but not the waves like they were. You kind of get out of the Southern Ocean and expect the Atlantic to be better but it is not at the moment. Conrad may well get away now when the wind is on the beam. The best Open 60's with canting keels are much faster on a reach. Ocean Planet is a compromise, simple with a fixed keel and is good upwind and downwind. I am happy with my choices and still in the race, doing OK. Of course I dreamt of winning the Vendee Globe but I think this is it for me, twice around the world, but my hope is that when I finish this Vendee Globe it will open doors for me."
Conrad HUMPHREYS (Hellomoto): "Just hours after hearing Nick's news, I lost all pressure in the keel as well. The keel was rocking around so violently that I literally thought it would shake itself out of the boat. I even got my grab kit together. After watching it quite closely I discovered it seemed like the starboard ram had let go. The port ram still seemed to be trying to hold the keel but the way the system is designed, the keel ram will work independently and one will work as a back up for the other. A loss of oil pressure in the starboard ram was causing the whole system to loose pressure and hence the keel had free movement to go whichever way it wanted to go. Having found that out, I isolated the starboard ram and that ram is now out of action so I am just running on the port ram."
Joe SEETEN (Arcelor Dunkerque): "Conditions are difficult to digest but I'm going the right way now. I went into the centre of a depression, which was much more aggressive than forecast. I had 55 knots of headwinds that were very tricky. I dropped the mainsail, which proved to be a good idea as it was a really harsh blow. The wind rose very steeply and quickly and the boat broached. At 0700 GMT this morning the wind clocked round 180 degrees in a matter of just 10 minutes and I went from 50 knot headwinds to 35/40 knots winds on my back. It was very chaotic and I didn't know where to point the boat next. I had to change the ballast very quickly and I think I'm lucky to still have a mainsail. The situation as we head towards the equator looks better though unfortunately Conrad may come back on me. I'd prefer to keep a handful of miles lead over him. It's very sad news about Nick. I've gained a place in the ranking but it doesn't mean anything."
Benoît PARNAUDEAU (Max Havelaar Best Western): "I´ve got a prevailing 30 knot SSW wind and big seas. Barometer 1004 and rising. 3 reefed main soon to change to 2 + trinquette ». Conditions are hellish, with some big squalls. The wind goes from 277 to 196 in 3 minutes and from 15 to 55 knots. It´s not easy to keep the sail area up or to decide which way to go. Perhaps I´ll be able to have a long awaited shower tomorrow in the rain. Kisses Ben."