Le Cléac'h due to cross finish line tomorrow

Armel Le Cléac’h looks set to finish his first Vendée Globe in second place with less than 260 miles to go, heading directly at the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line. The French skipper ofBrit Airis making between 12 and 14 knots in 25-30 knots of north-northwesterly winds and is expected to cross the finish line before breakfast on Saturday. Le Cléac’h covered 115 miles between 1900 and 0400 GMT.

In his wake, 550 miles to the south-southwest of the Azores the battle betweenSafranandRoxyremains as engaging as ever, with Marc Guillemot rounding the northwest corner of the anticyclone but not yet picking up any significant speed advantage over the leading Briton in the race, Sam Davies – her lead is 282 miles. The British skipper, sailing upwind in around 10 knots of northeasterly breeze put in a second tack at around midnight to return to a more northerly course. The pair are squared up 450 miles apart across the axis of the high pressure and there is little to choose between their positions, although Guillemot is sailing downwind now and has a slight speed advantage over Davies, which should start to increase today.

Brian Thompson, the British skipper ofBahrain Team Pindar, is now a respectable 143.7 miles behind Guillemot in terms of distance to finish, a figure exaggerated in reality by the roundabout route the French skipper is taking. Thompson is continually having to throttle back in the bouncy seas, in upwind conditions to preserve his damaged keel rams. He is ceding miles to fellow countryman Dee Caffari, aboardAviva, due to his inability to sail at anything close to 100%, but is confident he can apply more keel and open the gap as soon as he his not upwind in such short, slamming, violent seas.

Dee Caffari has been quickest in the fleet this morning, making 12.8 knots, nearly two knots faster than Thompson.

Steve White, the British skipper ofToe in the Water, is off Cabo Branco on the northeast corner of Brazil, lining up for his Doldrums crossing, 200 miles due south of Fernando de Noronha making a steady 10-11 knots, 420 miles to the Equator.

Rich Wilson, too, is having a third steady day so far, onGreat American III, expressing his concern for Raphael Dinelli,Fondation Océan Vitawho, the American skipper considered, is dicing with a nasty low pressure:

Norbert Sedlacek, the Austrian skipper ofNauticsport-Kapsch, is 120 miles to the southwest of the Falklands making 9 knots.