Thomson Weaves Into Third Place
At the back of the fleet, Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski (ENERGA) partially revealed the reason for his strange heading – he is testing a new solution to his autopilot nightmare. Since releasing his gennaker, the 39-year-old Polish skipper, has been heading due east and is 1607.9 miles from the top of the fleet.
Last night he told his team that he is heading in the direction of the Canary Islands (280 miles away) but not to stop and only because this is the “best option regarding the weather situation.” His team have sent suggestions to the problem with his autopilots.
"I got out from the no-wind zone (last night) sailing 15-17 knots with a south-west breeze,” Gutek said. “In the morning (Tuesday) we'll get cold front with rain and squalls up to 30 knots. And after that on this front a new low will be born, giving more wind.
“So, now I am driving east to be able to sail south-east afterwards without a fight with strong wind straight on my nose."
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) has been the big winner from the Doldrums so far, making up 80 miles on those in front since yesterday afternoon and moving into third place. But if the top six all looked to be through the Doldrums this morning then there was a small reminder of the lottery of the wind in this feared equatorial zone at the 0900hrs (French time) ranking.
Vincent Riou (PRB), who had moved up two places into third overnight, was totally becalmed, making 0.0 knots in the last hour. Riou had turned and was heading north-west, almost in the opposite direction to the race course, in a desperate attempt to get out of the hole.
Armel Le Cléac’h, (Banque Populaire), does look to be through and has an opportunity now to open a gap. He has been averaging more than nine knots since last night and appears to have left behind the shifty six knots easterlies for 12 knot south-easterlies, but it is still unstable. The race to catch the first low-pressure weather system south into the Roaring 40s.
Le Cléac’h seems to have had a calmer night than those behind him, carving directly south-south-west, while other five have bobbed and weaved.
The Doldrums have compressed and shuffled the deck behind him. Just 10 miles separates the five chasing him.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) had moved into second place last night, past Francois Gabart (Macif). But the 29-year-old Gabart, the youngest skipper left in the fleet, re-took second but has made just 1.7knots in the last hour. Dick had slipped back to sixth behind Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat).
Vincent Riou (PRB), the 2004 winnner, has been another winner in the Doldrums, as he clawied back miles but now he will need all his skill. Having caught up, the ‘accordion effect’ of the Doldrums should not affect them now, but bad or unlucky routing will.
Ranking at 0800hrs UTC (0900hrs French time)
1 Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), 21,229.7 miles to the finish
2 François Gabart (Macif), +25.2 miles to leader
3 Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), GBR +26.9
4 Vincent Riou (PRB), +29.2 miles to leader
5 Berrnard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), SUI +31.7 miles to leader