The Saint Helena high pressure system that dominates the South Atlantic is cut by a cold front which is now splitting the top half of the Vendée Globe fleet.
More and more solo skippers are deciding to opt for the southerly route, first working through the front, then making slow, soggy miles in light, variable winds near the centre of the high. They are searching for the eastbound fast lane – ‘the real wind’ – as Briton Sam Davies calls it this morning
Other than for runaway leaders Charlie Dalin and Thomas Ruyant, fighting south eastwards – on the rhumb line (direct shortest) course – appears to be heading to a much less certain future. Dalin is now over 80 nautical miles ahead of Ruyant.
Britain’s Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS) and now the group of three, 11th to 13t,h Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group), Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) and Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA-Water Family) have all elected to go south. Davies and Burton were first to make this move 36 hours ago and this morning are just two miles apart.
“I think I chose the right moment to go south and get through the front which is cutting the South Atlantic in half. I have managed to use some really good wind in the rain squalls in the front to come south and at times yesterday I was the fastest boat in the fleet yesterday afternoon and I was even foiling at 20kts some of the time, and so that is great as I have managed to catch up with Louis Burton a bit. Right now he is just two miles to leeward of me. We are sailing beside each other and I can see his little red light to leeward. It is nice to have another boat to be able to speed test against in the South Atlantic. It is great to be in this group, it is really exciting because there are lots of options and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the next 24 hours. I am convinced this is the only option that I had was to dive south and get around this second high and try and find the real wind.” the British skipper of Initiatives Coeur reported on this morning’s 0400hrs TU radio call.
They have Alex Thomson some 50 miles to their NE, the HUGO BOSS skipper now eighth.
As third placed Jean Le Cam carries on SE, always looking to the shortest miles and most direct route as he has since the start Kevin Escoffier (PRB) is on the horns of his dilemma. Typically for this area of the South Atlantic the different weather modelling applications don’t agree. The skipper from Saint Malo points out, “ It will go soggy today if I head south. But I could still go east … I have a (weather) file that tells me to go 100 °, due east, and the other which tells me to go due south. It’s not easy. Maybe I have to ask Jean for advice, he seems to know. In this case I think you have to favor speed, which I did all night, with four sail changes. I’m trying to just keep the boat going fast forwards.”