Over the last 24 hours the distance between the hard driving third placed Bestaven and Damien Seguin in fourth has increased by more than 60 nautical miles whilst leader Charlie Dalin can certainly contemplate reaching the midpoint of the race in the next few days with a margin of more than 300 miles in hand over Seguin and Jean Le Cam.
The trio should make hay for the next three day benefiting from SW’ly winds of 20-25kts. The huge Mascaregne high pressure system which is dominating the South Indian Ocean is set to slow the speeds of Seguin, Le Cam, Benjamin Dutreux, Louis Burton and Germany’s Boris Herrmann and more especially the sailors just behind them. And so Dalin, Ruyant and Bestaven might make a definitive break as they enter the Pacific Ocean where, traditionally, a longer, more even swell should welcome them.
Once again underlining how close this race has been, eight solo skippers have crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin within 24 hours of leader Dalin. Herrmann crossed at 0809hrs UTC this morning on SeaExplorer Yacht Club de Monaco while Franco-German Isabelle Joschke on MACSF passed at 1109hrs UTC, 23 hrs and 49 minutes after the yellow hulled Apivia of leader Charlie Dalin. Joschke has been one of the fastest in the Indian Ocean from Cape to Cape. Italian skipper Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) crossed in tenth during the afternoon.
As they approach the midpoint of the race the leaders are now more than six days behind the race record but the group at the back of the fleet are more than one day ahead of the 2016 race pace of the equivalent group, confirming the race is more compact from front to back than on the last edition.
Dalin looked relaxed but very focused when he spoke on the Vendée Globe Live today, admitting that while he did not feel too much pressure he was monitoring his closest rivals much more closely, “For sure it is not the same now as a few days ago when they were 200 miles back. Now it makes more sense to compare their speeds and angles than before. Apivia is good everything is holding up well. My next complete check will be in the next period of lighter airs, maybe sailing past New Zealand but all is good.”
He added, “I am enjoying the race. You have some low moments, but they don’t last long for me. I know an awful lot of people would trade everything to be in my spot here with a latest generation boat.”
Guest on the Vendée Globe Live show today was Merf Owen, designer of four IMOCAs in the race fleet, Arnaud Boissière’s La Mie Caline-Artisans Artpole, Didac Costa’s OnePlanet-One Ocean, Miranda Merron’s Campagne de France and Ari Huusela’s Stark.
He highlighted the tenacity and drive of Barcelona’s Didac Costa who is sailing the former Kingfisher which was designed and built for Ellen MacArthur
“Didac is doing a fantastic job. He and Pep his brother prepped the boat themselves largely. We did a whole lot of lightening work on the ‘old girl’ this year. It was in doubt whether he would make it to the start but here he is on his second time around. Last time he showed some excellent speeds in the Pacific and he is doing the same things again. He is quite a guy.”
Owen explained, “We took the daggerboards out. The boards are old and Didac did not have the money to build new boards and they did not look to be in great condition. So we decided to give it go and we chopped them out. One of the strengths of our (Owen Clarke) boats is in the South Atlantic we have twice had boats which have lead because they were good upwind boats, but maybe (with no boards) he will suffer in the Atlantic a little but by taking the boards and the cases out we pulled nearly quarter of a tonne out of the boat.”
Maxime Sorel noticed two large tears on two of the headsails on board V and B – Mayenne which he has climbed the mast to fix.