The Fleet Comes Together Right Now
As expected the front of the fleet has compressed and the distances between the competitors has shrunk. Just 70 miles separates Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), François Gabart (MACIF) and Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) François Gabart (MACIF) has closed the gap to a very tight 20 miles. The chase continues between the eight leading boats but for the pack at the back, they are up against it and speed is the on the menu to ensure they don’t get caught in the forecast high pressure over the next few days.
At around 7am GMT the fleet will pass by the island of Tristan da Cunha, a small piece of land, in the middle of the South Atlantic. The goldenboy, François Gabart (MACIF), who is loving his Vendée Globe, sent this message: "Dear inhabitants of the island of Tristan da Cunha, I hope to come on a cruise stop one day so we can become better acquainted. I believe that if you live on an island like this you will have lots of stories to tell!"
On a port tack, with a steady wind, between 17-20 knots the IMOCA fleet are sailing with good speed towards the Gate of Aiguilles, around 1200 miles away, and are expected to arrive in less than four days.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) had his foot to the floor last night, making 20 knots and banking him 456.8 miles. The magic of the Vendée Globe is in full swing as the skippers steal miles from the leader, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire). The roads are converging as they align back onto the great circle and shortest route: there is a 400 miles lateral gap between Virbac Paprec 3 and Banque Populaire but the distance this morning is more than 200 miles. Behind the top three (Armel Le Cléac'h, Jean-Pierre Dick and François Gabart), five hungry hunters are also bearing down on the front trio. Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) takes fourth place Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), while Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel), Mike Golding (Gamesa) and Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) are maintaining the speed on the dashboard at a steady 17 knots.
Pedal to the metal
The pack at the back can’t dance to the beat of the same drum. Tail end Charlie, the salad growing, sea gardener, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) is the boat likely to be most effected by the predicted light airs as the wind eases off, while Bertrand De Broc (Votre Nom Autour du Monde avec EDM), Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) and Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas) are being held back by a lighter wind that doesn’t enable them to catch the leader, who is advancing away from them. Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) is the one that got away, and he is making good speeds of 17.3 knots. Last night, he sent this message to the race office, “Being the fastest boat in the fleet for almost 2 days, catching up the leader by more than 200 miles and getting close to the guys in front of me. There is still good pressure and good wind, let’s see how long it lasts. In three days time we will have a pretty complicated situation; right now it’s difficult to predict which way to go through……there is still a lot of racing left and there will be more opportunities.”
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The top 5 ranking 5 hours (4h UTC)
1 - Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire) to 19 226 miles from the finish
2 - Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) to 68.9 miles (DTL)
3 - François Gabart (MACIF) to 88.3 miles (DTL)
4 - Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) to 140.3 miles (DTL)
5 - Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) at 146.9 miles (DTL)