The leader Banque Populaire VIII is getting chased, while the chaser can see where not to go, what to avoid, where there is no wind. It is in front that the wind is playing hide and seek. Fortunately for the French skipper, it is now daylight in the middle of the Atlantic, as at night it is a dark tunnel with no hint of moonlight. What exactly is happening off Montevideo? An area of high pressure has developed out of the sub-tropical heat and with its isobars spread out, there is very little wind to be found. This is particularly frustrating when the leader has seen his lead of 800 miles melt away so quickly.
We know that the Breton sailor is psychologically very strong, always determined and his convictions are seemingly hard to shake. He has no choice here but to push ahead at 39° W heading north as best he can to attempt to pick up the weak easterly winds. Unfortunately this area of high pressure is only the first problem as high-pressure cells are bubbling up everywhere. The St. Helena high is swallowing up what remains of this system which developed off Uruguay and is creating havoc in the Atlantic. Alex Thomson appears to have analysed this new situation. He is moving away from the route taken by Le Cléac’h to head towards the NE hoping to get around the problem out at 35°W. He hopes to make the most of what remains of a southern low heading off towards the Indian Ocean.
In a moderate westerly air stream, Hugo Boss can imagine getting to the same latitude as the leader but further east going from one cell to another. This is a risky strategy and an aggressive one, and the outcome is highly uncertain, as at the end of the year it looks like there will be another upheaval in the Atlantic with trade winds developing along the coast of Brazil, meaning they may want to get closer to shore. It will be upwind and against the currents, but at least there will be some movement with the possibility of tacking upwind to Cape Frio, which marks the separation between the St. Helena high and the Bay of Rio. The next one hundred miles will be crucial for Armel Le Cléac’h. If he gets completely stuck in the calms, Alex Thomson is lying in wait.
Dominic Bourgeois / M&M