Just 15 sailors left in the race of 30 starters

Michel Desjoyeaux leads by 64.6 miles from Roland Jourdain who continues to pace the leader as they head for Cape Horn 1,400 miles ahead. Sam Davies, (pictured aboard Roxy) lies sixth now after taking over the position of Jean-Pierre Dick who has confirmed he will be retiring.

On the current schedule the leader in this remarkable 2008-9 Vendée Globe is set to round Cape Horn on Sunday night, which means he should have caught up to be close to the time set by Jean Le Cam in 2004.

There is a major difference between the 2004-5 edition and this one. Because of the Ice Gates, the total distance for the race will be 24,840 miles instead of the 23,680 miles covered in 2004-2005. This race will be 1,160 miles longer.

The intensity and pace of this race is now confirmed. Bear in mind the leaders were two days behind the time set in the last race, as they struggled to get around the St. Helena high pressure system in the South Atlantic. So as they traversed the Southern Ocean, despite the challenging and at times very difficult conditions, they will have gained five days. A huge gain, which certainly explains why some sailors are today feeling exhausted.

Further evidence, if it’s needed of the pace and intensity of the race can be seen by looking at the number of leaders since the start: 26 in all and nine of the 30 skippers who started held the lead at one stage.

And with 15 boats still in the race, half of the skippers that set out have had to retire. That compares to a retirement rate of 46% in 1989, 53% in 1992, 63% in 1996, but 35% in 2000 and 2004. If we compare the weather experienced, 2008 has been is much closer to what was experienced in 1992 and 1996, while the previous two races have been kinder for the competitors.

Four boats have not yet reached the half way point and the leader has 8,418 miles still to complete but already it is being hailed as vintage edition, a remarkable life affirming race, and a truly great sporting endeavour.

From Michel Desjoyeaux’s remarkable comeback, charging back through the fleet after re-starting 40 hours after the start, a deficit of more than 600 miles at one stage, to take the lead, to the true grit and adventurous spirit of Raphael Dinelli and Austrian Norbert Sedlacek who may be 5,000 miles behind but their endeavours are equally enriching and inspiring.

The remarkable British pair Sam Davies (Roxy) and Steve White (Toe in the Water) are also inspiring. There’s Sam’s sheer joie de vie and exuberant passion and White’s dogged determination to fulfill his 10 year dream to do this race. His ability to not just make a silk purse of a race from a sow’s ear of a shambolic, last minute start has been amazing. He does so with such a down to earth ego-free frank, and often whimsical approach that he is the ‘everyman’ racer.

The dramas and personal loss, the long held ambitions cruelly washed in seconds by a rogue wave or gust, may in time become the race’s legacy.
The raw human emotion has very few equals on the global sporting stage – from Yann Eliès’ injury and rescue to Mike Golding’s triumph of gaining the lead and then six hours later suffering a cruel dismasting. There were many more incidents.

Sam Davies aboard Roxy, now in 6th place, says: ” I have a little bottle of champagne lined up for after I have done my sail change. I have to put my big gennaker up and it is the middle of the night, so I said to myself it is probably not wise to drink the champagne until it is up in the air.”

“Things are calming down a little bit, it was a fantastic day’s sailing and obviously it is night for me now, but it was one of those days that everyone tells you about, big beautiful easy waves to surf, 20 knots of wind, a little bit of sunshine and Roxy just going easily and effortlessly. It is great, just really nice sailing and hitting 25 knots at times. Now it is calming down and we are doing 25 knots at times just on the bigger surfs, but there is a little bit less wind.”

‘I am touching wood and hoping the second half of the race is going to be as good as the first half.’