Has Vendee race leader cleared Doldrums?

Vendee Globe race leader Michel Desjoyeaux crossed the Equator this morning and appears to have escaped the Doldrums. His average speed is back up to 9.9 knots, but race officials say that in this unpredictable zone, the French skipper, sailingFoncia, would be unwise to jump to conclusions. The violence of the squalls could still offer some surprises to the clear leader in the sixth Vendée Globe.

Desjoyeaux said in his daily message: ‘That’s done and dusted! At 6H14’10” on Tuesday 20th January 2009,Fonciacrossed the Equator for the second time in this Vendée Globe. I don’t think I paid the toll on the way down, as there was no one in the booth. This time they made up for it and charged me double!”

Some 334 miles further south, Roland Jourdain, aboardVeolia Environnement, has regained 160 miles in 36 hours. At 13.3 knots this morning, he is making the most of the steady trade winds to win back the miles from his rival.

Leading Briton Samantha Davies, sailingRoxy, is currently to the south of Rio, Brazil, struggling in light winds with average speed over 24 hours dropping to 6.5 knots.

The battle is raging between the Cape Horn Trio, Bitons Brian Thompson, onBahrain Team Pindarand Dee Caffari, onAviva, and Frenchman Arnaud Boissières, aboardAkena Vérandas, off the Valdès Peninsula in Argentina.

On his ten-year-old boat, the Frenchman is finding it difficult to keep up with his British rivals. Caffari is making an average 16.9 knots this morning in spite of the damage to her mainsail and has achieved the best performance over 24 hours. She is now just 70 miles behind Thompson and the same distance ahead of the French skipper, and has been consistently quicker than her compatriot. But this group are expected to hit lighter winds today.

Fellow Briton Steve White rounded Cape Horn last night and is suffering a slow down as he turns up the Atlantic towards the Maire Straits. But at 0600hrs this morning the British skipper, sailingToe in the Water, had made nearly 100 miles since departing the Horn. However, for the time being at least, light winds in the South Atlantic looks set to thwart his plan to catch up with the trio nearly 1,000 miles in front of him.

Rich Wilson is in tenth place with 1,400 miles to go before reaching Cape Horn, whilst the Dinelli and Sedlacek duo are making slow, but steady progress resolutely south of the SW Pacific Ice Gate, presumably deciding together when they will jump north to satisfy the gate’s requirement.