British sailor Alex Thomson has revealed he has been banking all the sleep he possibly can as he prepares to enter the final battle for Vendée Globe glory.
Thomson had this morning reduced the gap to frontrunner Armel Le Cléac’h of France to 123 nautical miles as the leading pair reach the latitude of the Canary Islands.
Now within 1,700nm of the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne in western France, Thomson said he was prepared to push man and boat to the limit in a last-ditch attempt to overhaul Le Cléac’h.
Talking to his team last night Thomson said he had been resting as much as possible in preparation for several days of fickle breeze before better winds fill in from the south-east to take the pair almost all the way to Les Sables.
“I feel physically exhausted – I’ve been trying to sleep as much as possible over the last few days to be ready for the light wind, but because of the sheer length of the race it does exhaust you,” said Thomson, who has been practically neck and neck with two-time Vendee Globe runner-up Le Cléac’h ever since the solo round the world race began in Les Sables on November 6.
“My body is getting close to what it can take before needing a serious amount of rest. I don’t feel as fit as I did before the race, at times I feel a bit weak. I remain positive though, I’m competing in this race for the fourth time which has been my dream all my life. My first goal was, number one, to finish, second to finish on the podium and third to win the race. To be less than 2,000 miles from the finish and still be I contention to reach all my goals is great.”
Both skippers were matched on speed at the 0400 UTC rankings, each making nine knots, with Thomson’s Hugo Boss positioned around 100nm south-west of Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire VIII.
Jérémie Beyou in third remains 600nm adrift of the leaders, posing them little threat, but his podium spot is seemingly secure for now with Jean-Pierre Dick in fourth more than 500 miles behind him. Meanwhile Yann Elies and Jean Le Cam were picking a path through the Doldrums, their headings of around 300 degrees proof of the challenge its unpredictable winds poses.
Seventh-placed Louis Burton has been able to tack north above the St Helena High, the French skipper of Bureau Vallee finally enjoying steady tradewind sailing.
“I almost went right into the centre of the St Helena High to hunt down the wind shift and that was badly thought out: it’s certainly still a bit light but things began to pick up a bit in the middle of the night. Right now, it’s not bad at all with a nice moon and tradewinds that are beginning to establish themselves at 14 to15 knots: as Jean-Pierre Dick says, it’s ‘easy sailing’! The Doldrums should be in my line of sight in around three or four days.”
Eighth-placed Nandor Fa looks to have made his escape from a violent South Atlantic depression that hit the Hungarian with winds of up to 50 knots but it now blocks the path north for Eric Bellion and Conrad Colman, some 750nm behind.
The foursome approaching Cape Horn remain split west to east by 200nm, although Fabrice Amedeo has overtaken Arnaud Boissières to move into 11th place after Boissières gambled on a dive to the south which didn’t pay off. 100nm back Alan Roura has managed to put some distance between him and Rich Wilson. The 23-year-old Swiss sailor this morning revealed he was heading slightly north to avoid the worst of the weather on the approach to the Horn, which is still some 700 miles away.
“I’m keen to make the most of my last few miles in the Pacific whilst sparing my boat and her sails,” he said. “As a result, I’m going to hunt down a lighter band of breeze so I can zigzag my way along that until I hit the last of the rough weather just as I round the Horn. I’m trying to rest but I’m really listening out for the boat. I really don’t want anything to break and given the sea and wind state, these are good conditions for folding a mast in two!”
Didac Costa and Romain Attanasio were today being hit by an icy Antarctic blast, the bitter southerly winds due to remain with them for some days yet.
Pieter Heerema, in 17th on the latest-generation IMOCA No Way Back, was this morning the quickest boat in the fleet, making 16 knots as he heads east through the Southern Ocean around 2,500nm from Cape Horn. The Dutch sailor has managed to stem the bleed of miles to 18th placed Sebastien Destremau, who is some 900nm behind.
see the detailed ranking here