At the 1400 hours GMT poll DAVIES was just 13.8nm behind third place Eric DROUGLAZET (FRA), having gained another four miles on the Frenchman since the 0900 GMT poll this morning and another eight miles on CAUDRELIER in the lead. She was the fastest boat in the fleet yesterday, winning the 'Top Chrono' (fastest 24 hour record of the day) with 238.7nm. Her continued speed today means she has gained an incredible fifty miles on leader, CAUDRELIER in just 24 hours, passing the hapless Yannick BESTAVEN (FRA) on Aquarelle.Com this morning to take fourth place. BESTAVEN is having serious problems having dropped from fourth yesterday, 42 miles behind the leader to seventh and almost 80 miles back from the front this afternoon.
After an incredible 36 hours which has seen her speed her way up to the front of the fleet, DAVIES explained how the conditions have shaped the race: 'At the moment, there's the Azores high pressure which we're running away from as it spreads out, so we're not in any risk of being in no wind. We're right on the big curve of the high pressure - because I'm nearer the south I'm nearly hooked in to the trade winds which are stronger and more east [in direction]. So I have a better angle to the wind and greater strength. Bostik and Credit Maritime-Zerotwo are nearly there but they are just right in the curve, the isobars are further apart where they are and they've just got lighter winds for the moment.'
DAVIES also thinks that the conditions will remain to her advantage for the time being although things could change: 'Maybe I have a biased opinion but it seems to me that the further south boats will do better because the further north you are the more you have the wind forward of the beam. Cercle Vert will almost certainly be in the genoa when I will be in the spinnaker which can only be a good thing for me! The winds are going to be a little bit stronger if I'm further south...until we get to this cold front which is going to pass in three days time and then that's going to be interesting. Every model I get shows a different thing happening on the cold front so it will be really close to the time to try and pick the passage through keeping the most wind. Then the guys in the north could come out with the luck of the draw.'
The fleet is not as divided as tit was a few days ago, with the northern and southern groups coming closer together. Skandia remains almost exactly mid-way between the most northern boat, and the most southern boat. Eight of the twelve boats are now south of the Rhum Line (the direct course between St. Nazaire and Cuba). Cercle Vert is one of the only leading boats in the north, while Bostik, Credit Maritime-Zerotwo and Skandia are each about 50 miles apart forming a line advancing towards Cuba.
Everything is well for DAVIES onboard Skandia with 'fantastic' sailing conditions under asymmetric spinnaker which is newly allowed under the class rules for this race.
Current weather still looks to favour Skandia - but with Credit Maritime-Zerotwo and Bostik taking miles south where possible, the advantage that DAVIES holds weather-wise, is likely to be reduced. As the boats get into the established trade winds keeping the boat sailing at optimum pace will become very important, any downtime due to skipper fatigue, or gear failure will quickly transfer to miles added to the leaderboard and a slip down the rankings.