The 42-year-old Brit took 62 days, five hours and 10 minutes to cross the Equator heading north after starting the solo round the world race from Les Sables d'Olonne in France on November 6 – more than three days ahead of Gabart's record-breaking run. Incredibly Thomson rounded Cape Horn on Christmas Day lagging behind Le Cléac'h by almost 500 nautical miles, but favourable conditions in the South Atlantic saw him reel in his French rival, at one point getting to within 50nm of Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire. The delta separating the pair was this morning fixed at 146nm as both skippers tried to wiggle their way through a very active Doldrums located just north of the Equator. Le Cléac'h had a slim advantage at the 0400 UTC rankings with speeds of seven knots compared to a painful four knots for Thomson. The unstable, light winds currently stretch around 600 miles to the north of the duelling pair, hampering their progress towards the finish line.
The same can't be said for third-placed Jérémie Beyou, who is making the most of the south-easterly trade winds to eat into the deficit between first and third. In just 24 hours the French skipper of Maître CoQ has clawed back 300nm on the leading duo, and more miles are expected to tumble throughout the course of the day. Hungarian sailor Nandor Fa, currently in eighth place, is expected to pass Cape Horn today, having only 270 miles to go at 0400 UTC. The quickest skipper this morning was 10th-placed Frenchman Eric Bellion, making 17 knots towards Cape Horn in south-westerly wind of around 13 knots.
In a call to Vendee Globe HQ this morning, TechnoFirst FaceOcean skipper Sébastien Destremau revealed he had carried out a major repair to his mast after leaving the shelter of Port Esperance in Tasmania. “The opportunity to exit the bay though the very narrow passage was too good to be missed so I took it even if I still had a mega job up the mast outstanding on my 'to do' list,” said Destremau, who spent three days at anchor making repairs to damaged rig. I sailed for a few hours to be well offshore then slowed the boat right down and went up the rig to sand, glue, laminate carbon fibre and so on. The boat is now in perfect condition and I am very confident the mast is as strong as it can be.”
Will Carson / M&M
Tune in today's Vendee Live show at 1200 UTC where host Will Carson will be joined by four-time Vendee Globe competitor Mike Golding.
Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac): “I have got away from the ridge of high pressure. The wind isn’t very strong, as it isn’t even ten knots. But that is enough to push me along at more than ten knots towards the Equator. I’m waiting to see whether my two close rivals have also managed to get going again this morning. They are much further east than me, and as the trade winds are going to be variable in strength and direction, it’s not going to be easy as I’ll be sailing at a tighter angle. It’s going to be a long tack with a lot of trimming and sail changes. I’ll be able to use my foils and hope to reestablish the lead I had in the Falklands and which then melted away. There is a long way to go to the Equator, but it shouldn’t take too long as the winds will be fairly steady allowing me to clock up decent average speeds.”