Plains sailing for Vendee race leader

The Vendee Globe race leader Michel Desjoyeaux has stretched his lead over his rivals to more than 500 miles, and his return passage to Les Sables now appears to be a true solo project.

Roland Jourdain, on Veolia Environnement, was making an average speed of 10.4 knots this morning to Desjoyeaux’s 16.2 knots, and Foncia‘s lead continues to expanded. Armel Le Cléach, on Brit-Air, in third has remained consistent making a steady 9.7 knots average.

Marc Guillemot’s strategy of sailing close to the Brazillian coast – sometimes as near as 13 miles – in pursuit of a thermal breeze appears to have paid off, and he has gained some of the miles he lost in very light conditions yesterday. This morning Guillemot, on Safran, managed to find a little more breeze and was making 10 knots. Sam Davies, the leading Briton in the race, aboard Roxy,was making a slow and frustrating stop-start progress off Rio in fifth place.

There are growing signs that the ‘Trio’, together since before Cape Horn, are now splitting apart. Only Briton Brian Thompson really benefited overnight, making more than 13 knots, the second fastest in the fleet this morning after Desjoyeaux. Thompson, sailing Bahrain Team Pindar, is on the attack and extending his lead over fellow countryman Dee Caffari to 96 miles and is now 560 miles behind Davies. Thompson’s attack might not be considered particularly gallant given that Caffari, aboard Aviva, is celebrating her birthday today. Arnaud Boissières, on Akena Vérandas, is now 142 miles behind her in 8th place.

Steve White, on Toe in the Water, continues to head north-eastwards, off the coast of Argentina. Of the three remaining in the Pacific, Rich Wilson, is 770 miles from Cape Horn. Wilson had to climb his mast to unhook the running backstay’s shock cord retaining line from the spreaders. Raphael Dinelli and Norbert Sedlacek are about 700 miles from the final ice gate and still in light winds. The Austrian skipper has now fallen about 90 miles behind his French running mate, and has reported electrical problems with his wind instruments which could compromise him.