French skipper quickest in Vendee fleet

Armel Le Cléac’h has taken the second place in the Vendée Globe around-the-world yacht race that Roland Jourdain held for 48 days. Jourdain has moored his boatVeolia Environnementat Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores.

Le Cléach, the skipper ofBrit Air, looks set to follow up on his second place in last year’s Artemis Transat. He was passing east of the Azores this morning in a moderating northwesterly wind making the quickest speed of the fleet last night with a 15.3 knots average.

Britain’s Sam Davies, now in third place, and her rival Marc Guillemot, in fourth, have had to contend with a fleet of 83 boats racing east to west from Madeira to Guadeloupe in the Transquadra Race. TheRoxyskipper does not appear to have altered course but Guillemot, some 250 miles to the west of her, had a larger concentration of the mainly amateur racers to pick a track through.

Davies is still making the gains at the moment as her track keeps her closer to the rhumb line, while the long detour of Guillemot around the Azores High pressure system – he is more than 800 miles from its centre this morning – sees him sailing consistently 25 degrees lower and at least 1.5 knots quicker in the northeasterly trades conditions. Both Guillemot and Davies have managed to stretch miles away from Brian Thompson on Bahrain Team Pindar who is now 420 miles behind Davies.

In her daily message, Davies recounts how she has had her first VHF radio conversation since the start of the race. She said: ‘The trade winds train continues northwards withRoxy, and it is starting to cool down a bit. I have got out my fleecy blanket to curl up in when I sleep, and soon the seawater showers are going to be “invigorating!” This morning, as I did the daily flying fish death count and clean-up, I discovered a really scary looking long fish!! He wasn’t a flying version, and was probably minding his own business chasing his dinner when his world got churned up and dumped on Roxy’s deck, the poor beast got trapped under the outhaul line, and his meal got spared to live another day!

‘I have just crossed paths with a French cruising boat, who is on passage from Cape Verde to Pointe a Pitre! Luckily I have had my radar on as we are also crossing the “Transquadra” fleet. I saw the little blip on my radar cross just a mile and a half fromRoxyso I called them up and we had a nice conversation and I gave them the latest weather information! That was the first time I have spoken to anyone on the VHF since the beginning of the race! They told me they’d seen my nav lights and my mast is so tall they thought thatRoxywas a ship!’

Thompson, now up to fifth, is making 12 knots in upwind conditions in a short, uncomfortable three metres sea in the 25 knots – occasional gusts to 30 knots- well established tradewinds. The British skipper is unable to pushBahrain Team Pindarto the maximum in conditions which should be close to optimum for her design, sailing only with half cant on the swing keel, due to the loss of hydraulic fluid from a keel ram on the starboard side.

Dee Caffari, also of Britainb, is setting about the task of regaining some of her lost Doldrums miles, making steady progress inAvivaat about 10-11 knots. Arnaud Boissières, aboardAkena Vérandas, is beginning slow down in the ITCZ, although he has not yet stuck like Caffari did. He has maintained a steady 6-7 knots so far.

Briton Steve White, the skipper ofToe in the Water, has favourable tradewinds at last making a good 10-12 knots, whilst Rich Wilson’s track onGreat American IIIis taking him east in light breeze.

After passing Cape Horn yesterday Raphael Dinelli, onFondation Océan Vitale, is now some 450 miles ahead of 11th placed Norbert Sedlacek, the Austrian skipper ofNauticsport-Kapsch. Sedlacek should pass out of the Pacific, round Cape Horn around midday Wednesday.