LE CLÉAC'H, 'The Jackal' did not so much pounce as quietly assume the second place in the Vendée Globe that Roland JOURDAIN (FRA) held for 48 days before his retirement yesterday (read the full story here). LE CLÉACH looks set to follow up on his second place in last year's Artemis Transat by again proving to have staying power and regular performance as his key strengths. BritAir was passing east of the Azores this morning in a moderating NW'ly wind making the quickest speed of the fleet last night with a 15.3 knots average.
Britain's DAVIES has had the additional stress of working her way through the Transquadra Race fleet whose course from Madeira to Guadeloupe passes east to west. The Roxy skipper appears not to have had to alter course although her nearest rival GUILLEMOT, some 250 miles to the west of her, had a bigger concentration of the mainly amateur racers to pick a track through.
DAVIES had her first VHF radio conversation since the start of the fleet with one of the race fleet who were crossing a mile and a half away from her.
The Transquadra fleet is 83 boats strong but uses a very similar tracking system to the Vendée Globe. DAVIES and GUILLEMOT were delivered the requested updates of the fleet position, and the progress of that fleet - all either single or double handed - has been followed by Vendée Globe race direction since it left Madeira. The twosome's diverging courses see DAVIES still making the gains at the moment as her track keeps her closer to the rhumb line, while the long detour of GUILLEMOT around the Azores High pressure system - he is more than 800 miles from its centre this morning - sees him sailing consistently 25 degrees lower and at least 1.5 knots quicker in the NE'ly trades conditions. Both GUILLEMOT and DAVIES have managed to stretch miles away from Brian THOMPSON (GBR) on Bahrain Team Pindar who is now 420 miles behind DAVIES.
THOMPSON, now up to fifth, is banging along at 12 knots in upwind conditions in a short, uncomfortable three metres sea in the 25 knots - occasional gusts to 30 knots - well established tradewinds. The British skipper is unable to push Bahrain Team Pindar to the maximum in conditions which should be close to optimum for her design, sailing only with half cant on the swing keel, due to the loss of hydraulic fluid from a keel ram on the starboard side.
Dee CAFFARI (GBR) onboard Aviva is setting about the task of regaining some of her lost Doldrums miles, making steady progress at around 10-11 knots, while it is the turn of Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) to feel the slowdown in the ITCZ, although he has not yet stuck like CAFFARI did. He has maintained a steady 6-7 knots so far.
Steve WHITE (GBR) sailing Toe in the Water has favourable tradewinds at last making a good 10-12 knots, whilst Rich WILSON's (USA) track on Great American III is taking him east in light breeze.
"What a difference a day makes!" WILSON reported yesterday night, "Crystal blue skies, sea down, wind down, drifting along first NE then tacked NW to get to new wind a bit earlier, had a shower in the cockpit, had a shave, washed hair (pretty shaggy, will have to cut it soon). I saw a small pod of whales cross our wake about 1/4 mile behind, one pretty big one, and an errant flying fish, heading south, all by himself. I shouted to him "Wrong way! The warm water is this way!", but he paid me no mind."
After passing Cape Horn yesterday Raphael DINELLI (FRA) on Fondation Océan Vitale is now some 450 miles ahead of 11th placed Norbert SEDLACEK (AUT) onboard Nauticsport-Kapsch. SEDLACEK should pass out of the Pacific, round Cape Horn around midday on Wednesday.
Vendee Globe Leaderboard - 04:00 UTC 3 February 2009
1. Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Foncia finished after 84 days 3 hours, 9 minutes
2. Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA), Brit Air at 1194 miles to finish
3. Sam DAVIES (GBR), Roxy at 1071.9 miles to second
4. Marc Guilalemot (FRA), Safran at 1200 miles to second
5. Brian THOMPSON (GBR), Bahrain Team Pindar at 1455.5 miles to second
6. Dee CAFFARI (GBr), Aviva at 1769.2 miles to second
7. Arnaud BOISSIÈRES (FRA), Akena Vérandas at 2162.3 miles to second
8. Steve WHITE (GBR), Toe in the Water 3150.3 miles to second
9. Rich WILSON (USA), Great American III at 4452 miles to second
10. Raphaël DINELLI (FRA), Fondation Océan Vital at 5672.8 miles to second
11. Norbert SEDLACEK (AUT), Nauticsport - Kapsch at 6104.5 miles to second
RDG . Vincent RIOU (FRA), PRB, Awarded equal third as redress
30 boats started