French skipper Fabrice Amedeo achieved one of his life goals early this morning by passing Cape Horn for the first time. The 38-year-old Parisian journalist-turned-solo sailor rounded Cape Horn on the southernmost tip of South America on his IMOCA 60 Newrest Matmut at 0140 UTC to become the 11th Vendée Globe skipper in the Atlantic.
Amedeo, who quit his job with Le Figaro newspaper when solo sailor Sebastien Josse convinced him to enter the Vendée Globe, was treated to winds of more than 40 knots and huge seas for his debut rounding, conditions that will remain for another 24 hours before easing off. In a call to Vendée Globe HQ just prior to rounding Cape Horn, Amedeo said he was looking forward to getting into the Atantic and pointing his bow towards Les Sables d'Olonne for the first time since the solo round the world race began on November 6. “I'm very happy – the Vendée Globe was a dream for me, it's a crazy race, a crazy adventure,” he said. “I have good competition with three other boats, and obviously with Arnaud Boissières, so it's very interesting. I feel safe and secure. There is just this rounding of Cape Horn that will be a bit difficult and after that it will just be fun.” Arnaud Boissières in 12th was this morning within 20nm of Cape Horn, with 13th-placed Alan Roura 140nm away and Rich Wilson in 14th some 225nm off.
Meanwhile the gap between race leader Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson shrank again overnight, and at the 0400 UTC ranking British skipper Thomson was 71nm shy of Le Cléac'h. In the 24 hours prior to the report Thomson had a slim speed advantage over Le Cléac'h, averaging 22 knots compared to the leader's 20.8 as the pair relished in south-easterlies of 25 knots close to the Azores. With near perfect conditions for his yacht Hugo Boss, Thomson notched up a 24-hour run of 527.7 nm, just seven short of François Gabart's world record 534.48nm, while Le Cléac'h covered 498.7nm on Banque Populaire. Le Cléac'h, the runner-up in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, was this morning within 1,000 miles of the finish line. Both he and Thomson are expected to arrive in Les Sables this Thursday, but in which order remains to be seen.
A high pressure ridge lies between them and Les Sables, forcing them to sail as far north as Ushant on the western tip of Brittany before tacking onto port and heading for the finish. Thomson's starboard foil broke two weeks into the race, which hands a narrow advantage to Le Cleac'h when both are on port. Not all conditions are suited to foiling, however, and if winds are light then Thomson could be equally matched in the final dash to the finish.
It's not just race fans on the edges of their seats as the Vendée Globe reaches a gripping finale - third-placed Jérémie Beyou, some 700nm behind the leaders, told Vendée Globe HQ this morning that he is following the battle for the top spot eagerly. “Armel is a good friend of mine and we train together, but Alex has a lot going for him and can feel positive about all the miles he has clawed back,” said the Maître CoQ skipper, who is 600nm west of the Canaries. “Neither of the two can make the slightest mistake thought, as I’m lying in wait!” After a slower day yesterday Breton sailor Beyou was making steady progress north today, maintaining the 500nm gap between him and fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick. “At the moment I have twenty knots of wind, whereas I was expecting thirteen,” he added. “It’s nice to be able to clock up the miles easily on smooth seas. The boat advances well and we can stay dry. I’m ahead of where my routing put me and psychologically, that helps.”