The frontrunner, who had a lead of up to two days, has seen this melt away. Armel Le Cléac’h has very few tactical options to defend himself from Alex Thomson, as he has to cross a high-pressure cell… An opportunity for third-placed Jérémie Beyou who is still being pushed along by a southern low. In the middle of the Pacific, conditions are very rough for Conrad Colman and to the south of Australia, the situation is not that much better.
Passing Patagonia, Armel Le Cléac’h had a lead of almost 820 miles over Alex Thomson and 1620 miles over Jérémie Beyou. Four and a half days later, the gap is down to 277 miles between Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss, and 1245 miles to Maître CoQ. This upheaval has been caused by the weather patterns off Argentina. For the three leaders, who were nevertheless a long way from Cape Horn, the wind holes being generated in the Andes have not allowed them to take the direct route involving leaving the Falklands to starboard and sailing close to the coast of South America. The only solution was to sail much further out to sea heading towards the NE on the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, which goes up as far as 45°S because of the presence of icebergs off South Georgia.
While the British sailor was able to sail at high speed towards the Horn, the leader was unable to catch the southern low and got trapped in light airs, which can sometimes be found in this region. The only option was to head east a long way off the coast after passing south of the Falklands. While the Breton sailor was only making ten knots in the light winds, Thomson was speeding along at twenty knots behind a low as he made his way around the Horn. Meanwhile, Beyou was also at high speed being pushed along ahead of another low. Since Jérémie Beyou passed the Cape at 1344 UTC on Tuesday after 51 days 01 hour and 42 minutes (or 4d 01hr 10 mins after Armel Le Cléac’h and 2d 02hrs 02 mins after Alex Thomson), while the weather conditions have not been so bad for the leader, they have been better for the two chasing him. The danger is coming up from behind for the leader, but also for the skipper in second place. Still in a moderate westerly air stream, Le Cléac’h has to cross a high-pressure cell blocking his way north towards Cape Frio (Brazil).
It is impossible to round it via the east, as this area of high pressure is stretching out from Uruguay to 25° W over the next 24 hours. Tonight, the blue boat will find herself in very light winds and is set to slow down considerably, while the black rocket will still benefit from a decent westerly air stream, before also getting into the calms… We can expect the gap between the two frontrunners to drop to around a hundred miles. This strip of light and variable winds is around 150 miles wide and should allow third-placed Beyou to make his comeback. While he is struggling in light breezes this morning off Staten Island, the situation is set to change around midday with a 25-knot westerly developing. This should allow him a quick passage to the Falklands and over the next 48 hours Maître CoQ may get back to less than 800 miles from the two leaders.
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