The battle for the crown continues between the two leaders of the Vendée Globe, Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) and Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher), both probably unaware that, because of their incredibly close match after 84 days circumnavigating the planet, the Vendée Globe has come under the microscope of thousands more people worldwide.

Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) has squeezed out a few more precious miles over Ellen in the same 15 knot North Easterly breeze, showing that even his fractionally superior speed of 0.8 knots can make a difference over 12 hours. Who will have the last word? Desjoyeaux indeed told the Race HQ that he had one final weapon in the shape of a head sail specially tailored for this upwind stretch. PRB’s skipper has kept this sail in his hold all the way round wisely waiting for the moment to hoist and hopefully accelerate away from any potential rival.

Ellen did a while back admit to having lost certain sails, notably the use of her gennaker, which she hoped to repair at the time. However, since this incident we have heard no news on the state of this sail, the young British skipper probably not wanting to divulge such information to her rivals. The current difference in their boat speeds is perhaps showing these first indications of the condition and effectiveness of their respective sail inventory.

Just behind, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) in his Easterly position seems to have brushed through the Doldrums with a few more scratches than Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère). OBilou1 on the other hand was sounding confident at the outcome of his tactic to pass to the West. “It’s still not quite trade wind conditions yet but I got going at 0200hrs in the morning and I think I1ve gained ground between the entrance and exit of the Doldrums.” He lies now 1 degree further North than Thiercelin and yet 5 degrees to the West, thus still in 4th place in terms of distance to finish. The miles gained to the North, though, are valuable now, and as Thiercelin is still travelling at just over 7 knots, evidently still in the calms, the duel is coming to a head for this pair. It’s a none too easy choice to have to make: either a more direct passage North through the calms to be positioned to windward at the exit, or a faster route past this system to the West to gain in latitude but end up in the lee of your rival.

Jourdain’s solution in theory wins each time. However, Thiercelin, the veteran Vendée skipper, may hold the trump card on the water, as he has opted to come out in a controlling position over his rival to windward in the North Atlantic climb, despite a more laborious passage through the Doldrums. He knows his Open 60 is better suited to Southern Ocean surfs and slightly less powerful compared to Jourdain’s high performance Open 60 close to the wind, which explains his need for a different strategy to keep ahead of Jourdain.

The wind seems to have lost interest in the following pair of skippers, Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée)/Thomas Coville (Sodebo). These two are waiting impatiently for the South Easterly breeze to kick in after being drawn nearer to the Brazilian coastline, but Wavre confirmed that it hadn1t reached them yet. “Now it’s gone light again. I am back on the right heading, but when we were following the coast line it was because we were forced to because of the high pressure. North of Brazil, there is a sort of bubble and I expect to come to a halt at the Equator.”

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) counts herself in on the bad luck that the two ahead are having as well. She is progressing up nearer the Brazilian coastline in fits and starts under alternating rain squalls and calm patches. Her water-maker is dead, but she has managed to collect rainwater, which she must ration. “This Atlantic leg has been really testing, it’s not the stress, but the incessant manoeuvres and uncomfortable conditions.”

Behind, the two British boys Mike Golding (Team Group 4) and Josh