A new transition
To the North of the Kerguelen Islands, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the eagle and the lion emblematic of the hull of Gitana 16 are powering eastwards. The Thomson - Le Cléac'h duo is still leading the way some 664 miles ahead. Already though, the two leaders are beginning to stall under the influence of a buffer zone that precedes a gale announced for the end of the week. Since his rudder issues a week ago, Sébastien Josse, still third, is negotiating less favourable conditions at the back of the lead wagon. Familiar with the adage of try and try again, the sailor from Nice is putting in a constant effort. However, it's the weather dictating proceedings and the skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild has just had to hang on in there. Today, he's finally touched more pressure than his two playmates up front so he's hoping to make up some ground on the head of the Vendée Globe fleet.
After dropping down as far as 46 degrees South, Sébastien has opted to head further North to get clear of the ice exclusion zone, as well as lining himself up better for the low pressure system that is set to press down on the fleet from behind.
Drop in pace
Yesterday, the French Navy, flew over Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss as they were making headway just off Kerguelen. The two skippers were making good speed, their boats tearing along as they cleaved through the sea. At the 14:00 GMT ranking this Thursday, the atmosphere had changed a little, particularly for the new leader Alex Thomson, who has been posting a speed of 15.8 knots for the past four hours, whilst Sébastien Josse was making headway nearly a knot and a half quicker at 17.1 knots. Such numbers suggest that the frontrunners are beginning to get caught in the clutches of the ridge of high pressure. If the weather forecast pans out the same on the water, the skipper of Gitana Team should still be able to make up a few precious miles on his adversaries.
After a very calm week, the tail end of the fleet has taken off, accelerating towards the roaring forties. Not everyone's in the Indian Ocean yet, but the weather has no limits and the low pressure system already breathing down the necks of the backrunners, is likely to give them a seriously rough ride before rumbling onwards to bully the whole fleet. The isobaric compression is impressive right now in the South Atlantic, where winds might reach 50 knots. However, the low pressure system should have vented at least some of its spleen by the time it hits Edmond de Rothschild between 4 and 5 December.
Ranking on 1 December at 14:00 GMT
1. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 14,793.6 miles from the finish
2. Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 0.7 miles behind the leader?
3. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 664.6 miles behind the leader
4. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 1,073.4 miles behind the leader
5. Paul Meilhat (SMA) 1,087.8 miles behind the leader ?
6. Yann Eliès (Queguiner Leucémie Espoir) 1,455.6 miles behind the leader
7. Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel - Virbac) 2,027.7 miles behind the leader