The skipper of Gitana Team is the third solo sailor in this edition to shatter the 2012 reference time of 22 days 23 hours and 46 mn. Having led the fleet for what is soon to be twelve days and with the record for the section between Les Sables d'Olonne and the equator, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) rounded the headland after 17 days, 22 hours and 58 minutes of racing, shaving 5 days and 48 minutes off the previous record. Armel le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) followed suit yesterday, an hour or so before midnight, improving on his personal best with a time of 18 days 3 hours and 30 minutes.
The Atlantic war
Thanks to an optimum weather sequence that favoured high and constant average speeds, the leaders in this 8th Vendée Globe have had the opportunity to test the potential of their machine. Nobody has openly eased off the pace, instead each skipper adjusting the accelerator pedal according to their own way of sailing. The war of nerves has been going strong, but a series of UFOs have made the playing field a sensitive area. First to be hit was Bertrand de Broc aboard MACSF, then one of the main favourites, Vincent Riou aboard PRB and, yesterday evening, ‘rookie’ Morgan Lagravière at the helm of Safran, have had to throw in the towel after colliding with an Unidentified Floating Object, which caused too much damage to continue. Moreover, the flight of the black rocketship Hugo Boss was also constrained some six days ago after a similar collision caused the starboard foil to break. Finally, Sébastien Josse has not been spared either, hitting something hard on Tuesday night, which caused the starboard rudder to kick-up violently. This encounter caused a serious issue with the kick-up rudder system itself. Sébastien Josse had to battle on deck for more than four hours to get his steering system back in its lower position. By the time he returned to full strength on the racetrack, Gitana 16 had lost around sixty miles. And so it is that after the high tension of the Atlantic descent, the adventure will step up another gear for the front runners now negotiating the Southern Ocean.
The Indian Ocean has a bad reputation. The sailors who have experienced it agree that it can be harsher and wilder than the immense Pacific Ocean. With the temperatures plummeting and short, boat-breaking seas, the Indian Ocean is not easy to tame. And yet, given the current forecasts, these next few days are likely to offer some kind of transition with easing winds. This slowing up is due to a huge outgrowth of the Saint Helena High, that is far from its usual home, stretching out under Africa! Sébastien Josse gybed yesterday morning, diving beyond 40 degrees South. Between the ice exclusion zone below and this weather barrier to the North, now is the time to post an inspired performance as he awaits the next low. Though the drop in breeze is making for a gentler life aboard, the current situation does not exactly translate as light work for the strategists.
Passage of the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa)
1. Alex Thomson: 17d 22h 58'
2. Armel le Cléac'h: 18d 03h 30' some 04h 32' behind the leader
3. Sébastien Josse: 18d 12h 42' some 13h 44' behind the leader
Ranking on 25 November at 08:00 GMT
1. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 17,270 miles from the finish
2. Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 40 miles behind the leader
3. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 239.7 miles behind the leader
4. Paul Meilhat (SMA)) 867.9 miles behind the leader
5. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 917.3 miles behind the leader
6. Yann Eliès (Queguiner Leucémie Espoir) 1,225.0 miles behind the leader