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Southern Star: New southbound race reference for Thomson

Sailing aerial images of the IMOCA boat Hugo Boss, skipper Alex Thomson (GBR), during training solo for the Vendee Globe 2016, off England, on September 16, 2016 - Photo Cleo Barnham / Hugo Boss / Vendée GlobeImages aériennes de Hugo Boss, skipper Alex

Thomson's new benchmark time is 9 days 7 hours 02 minutes, one day and four hours faster than the previous best time set in 2004 by Jean Le Cam. Thomson and the lead group benefited especially from favourable conditions across the Bay of Biscay since the start on Sunday 6th November, good reaching all the way to a smooth, quick Doldrums passage. There have also been huge improvements to the IMOCAs over the years, whether they have foils or not. Thomson is the first British skipper to have led the race at this early milestone. Hugo Boss crossed 2 hours and 54 mins ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), 3 hours and 22 mins ahead of Vincent Riou (PRB). Four hours and 59 mins later, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) crossed and 5 hours and 47 minutes later than Hugo Boss it was Paul Meilhat (SMA).

Thunder and lightning

As for Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), he moved into the Southern Hemisphere just before the 0400 hrs rankings, followed by Morgan Lagravière (Safran) off to the east. The first ten boats managed to get away from the Doldrums and are now on their way to Recife in the SE’ly trade winds, blowing moderately around the Equator (10-15 knots) but which are already stronger for the leaders (18-22 knots). On the other hand, between 8°N and 4°N, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone is tending to shrink and the pack are not all slowed down that much, even if there is thunder and lightning in the area.

© Rich Wilson/ Great American IVAt 27°W, it looks like there is a crossing point, where the Doldrums are not very active, which should enable the skippers to maintain average speeds above 6 knots, as is the case for Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), Bertrand de Broc (MACSF) and Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline). But further back, it is not clear whether the conditions will be as favourable, even if it gets a bit easier once the sun has risen, as this allows them to spot the big dark clouds.

Finally, around the Cape Verde Islands, Irish sailor Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyage-Team Ireland) is getting away from the disturbed air, while Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is attempting an unusual route between the islands and the continent. Meanwhile, Tanguy de Lamotte has set sail from Mindelo. The skipper of Initiatives-Cœur has not officially retired, but is heading back to Les Sables d’Olonne under reduced sail.

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