Twelve competitors have now crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin. Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt) and Fa are now on their way to the halfway mark and can sail further south along the edge of the exclusion zone. Still chasing Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) some 550 miles ahead, the pair are being pushed along by a powerful NW’ly air stream, which is set to strengthen in the coming hours. This is the area of strong winds that swept across the pack last night, without causing too much damage in spite of cross seas and gusts in excess of 50 knots. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) reported that his there was was a three metre long rip in his mainsail between his second and third reef.
In terms of the winds and seas the worst affected were the three international skippers. Irishman Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland), the young Swiss sailor Alan Roura (La Fabrique) and the American Rich Wilson (Great America IV) are sailing on very confused seas, which should gradually ease as they have done for those behind – Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean), Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean). Costa has less wind than his pursuers right now.
While Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine) is now in the Pacific, the focus sharpens on the trio that has now converged off Auckland Island. After his long detour north, arcing up and through the Bass Strait to avoid a big storm, Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) is back in the group, 56 miles behind Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and followed by Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) 35 miles behind him.
In a good NW’ly air stream all three are now heading due east in the wake of Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) – who report a lot of wind this morning, more than 40kts, although the three musketeers are almost a thousand miles behind. Dick said this morning: “I had to push the boat hard to get back down here. At the moment I’m quite fast sailing at 130° to the 25-30 knot winds. I’m able to use my foils, as they can withstand that and are not as big as those on Banque Populaire. I am not heeled over as much, which is interesting. Cape Horn is still 4000 miles away and is looking complicated with some nasty lows as well as areas of calm. I hope we’ll get through in between.”
Britain’s Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) has still not made it out of the low-pressure system, forcing him to sail upwind, while the leader, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) is riding the back of a low, which should carry him to Cape Horn, just over 2000 miles away.
Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut): “The low lived up its expectations. I cautiously moved to the north, not to get less wind, when the front went over, but to have more manageable seas. I was afraid we world get cross seas like we did near the Kerguelens. I saw I wasn’t the only one to take that option, as Cali (Arnaud Boissières) also went further north. I got 45 knots of wind with 50 knot gusts. I got through it OK, but I tore my mainsail between second and third reef. A pocket of water formed when I was sailing under J3 and rubbed against the coach roof, which led to a three-metre long tear. I’m going to have to sew it back up and apply Cuben Fiber patches. I’ll do that when the wind eases. I shall continue with three reefs in the main for the time being.”