Just seven miles apart at the front of the Vendee Globe fleet after two weeks and thousands of open ocean miles of intense racing racing, leading duo Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and second placed Charlie Dalin (Apivia) are today gybing in step with each other as they pick their way down a corridor of unstable breeze between two evolving zones of lighter airs.
The narrow gap between the high pressure systems forms an 800 nautical mile stairway south to the stronger winds of the Southern Ocean.
The leading duo – both racing similar Guillaume Verdier designs – are making around 17-20 knots this morning and gybing to stay in the strongest pressure in the middle of this lane of wind.
Meanwhile Britain’s Alex Thomson has become disconnected from this duel, languishing 270 miles behind the leaders as he repairs a damaged longitudinal near the bow of his Hugo Boss IMOCA 60. Thomson has been making slow speeds, no more than six knots, in light airs in a south easterly direction overnight but has dropped to fourth behind French veteran Jean Le Cam.
Despite this Thomson has vowed to do everything required to stay in the race.
Amidst the group of seven chasing the leaders eighth placed Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) maybe smarting from a loss of 40 miles to fifth placed Kevin Escoffier (PRB) as the leader of this pack emerged into stronger winds to now lead Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) by seventy miles.
But the German skipper, sage as ever, expects opportunities to come his way during a challenging week ahead as they too try to break south to the Southern Ocean as efficiently and painlessly as possible.
“It has been very light winds since yesterday midday,” Herrmann said. “I was going at a good speed even with my jib top at times and then going to the Code Zero and from midday to midnight I really dropped from 20 knots to three knots of boat speed.
“During sunset I was smiling but before that I was biting my nails hoping I would not stop completely, which I didn’t. I had just enough speed to keep the boat pointing in the right direction much more than I had hoped.
“Tonight I have not had the best of luck going through here, I don’t know why but I lost 40 miles on PRB, he could extend he hit the wind before me and when I was around five knots he was doing 11 for these hours.
“But is nice to sail along in this group, our race is with this group and it is a nice race. I have lost a few places in this group but I try to make them back each day.
“This has been a bit like the Doldrums with changes in wind direction of 30 degrees and big changes in wind strength, but last night it is was completely stable. But I am good, the route is long and there will be many opportunities, it is great to be at sea. There is just this challenge to get through this week with this weather situation to get to the ‘Big South’ but soon we will be there.”