• Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss.
    Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss.
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Passing the Azores, some 100 miles to the east of São Miguel island, Britain’s Alex Thomson leads the Vendée Globe fleet this afternoon on Hugo Boss. He moved south away from his closest rivals on the water early this morning, choosing a time when he thought they would be at their most tired, perhaps resting, to slide away.

Pacing himself against the newest generation of foilers like his HUGO BOSS, he is 13 miles up on Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and Charlie Dalin (Apivia) as the lead group slide south on the western side of a low pressure system, described today as a ‘baby low’ when compared with tropical low Theta which lies in wait for them from tomorrow Friday.

Five days into the race and the head of the fleet comprises a slightly unexpected mix of the latest foilers intertwined with older generation non foiling boats, such as sailed by the wily 61 year old Jean Le Cam on his fifth Vendée Globe and lying second to Thomson who is also on his fifth race.

Thomson has been no stranger to adversity over his 16 years chasing his holy grail, victory in the Vendée Globe. And so his message of solidarity today for French title favourite Jérémie Beyou, who had to U turn back to Les Sables d’Olonne with rig and rudder damage yesterday, came from the heart.

Dealing with his shattered ambitions of winning, founded on a four year plan which included building a state of the art foiler Charal, launched one year ahead of the rest of the new boats, he spoke to the French media on a recording for the Vendée Globe LIVE show. Beyou’s pain was palpable today.

Beyou is expected to reach Les Sables d’Olonne on Saturday. His team will make an immediate evaluation of the repairs required and ensure they have the logistics in place.

Repairing man and machine

Sébastien Destremau has survived the stormy hours on his IMOCA MERCI, which he struggled to have ready on time for last Sunday’s race start. Last night, exhausted from the first few days he fell asleep and spent several hours asleep inside the boat heading northwards. His day was then spent tinkering on the deck and climbing the mast to untangle twisted halyards. The list of minor technical issues grows as sailors check the condition of their boats. Maxime Sorel also climbed the mast to retrieve a halyard.

After jumping the start gun last Sunday by a matter of seconds, Louis Burton completed his five hours penalty last night, losing more than 70 miles in the process. In addition to that the skipper from Saint Malo has had to mop up litres of oil (coming from his keel cylinder) spilled inside his boat before grabbing the grinder to repair a small crack on his bulkhead. 

All of the skippers have been making sure they are rested as tomorrow morning they will have to tackle the big tropical depression Theta which blocks their way.

Theta, the 29th tropical depression of the year

It is front of mind for all the sailors. It's a big red ball sitting right in the middle of the map. The solo sailors will have to pass round it to the west.  Those who come in too close could be severely punished, because this subtropical depression contains winds of 50 to 60 knots and waves of 6 meters. It’s name is Theta. And this is the 29th tropical depression of the year, a record in fact. Tropical and subtropical depressions are named after the letters of the alphabet, and with 21 letters from the Latin alphabet now passed, we switch to the Greek alphabet. Theta is the 8th.

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