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ridge and they needed to fi nd speed to stay ahead of it.

Gabart has gotten to within 12 miles

of Le Cléac’h. These two are near identical designs (VPLP/Verdier) coming out of the same moulding so it is no surprise that their speeds are nearly identical. 6 December: New leader is Gabart as Le Cléac’h, was paying the price for his direct rhumb line strategy. Le Cléac’h was the fi rst to pass through the Crozet ice gate, but this had forced him to sail on the edge of the high pressure area. Once through he headed back south and was doing a mere fi ve to six knots. His problem was Gabart, who was going at least 10 knots faster and was now 12 miles in the lead. 7 December, Day 26: A new leader, Stamm, took a more southerly course and this has allowed him to gain on those ahead of him.

After going through the gate Le Cléac’h has only made 120 miles. At midnight he was registering just one knot. He was now 106 miles back of the leader, but better wind should fi nd him within eight hours. 8 December: The leading pack was still close after approximately going one-third of the way round the world. The big news was Le Cléac’h was again in the lead and moving well in a 15 knot nor’westly breeze. Also to his benefi t was the high pressure area that moved a little further south of the gate slowing his competitors. 9 December: Just 127 miles separated

fi rst from fi fth place. Le Cléac’h was still in the lead as he sailed further south than the others and was maintaining a speed of over 14 knots. Staying right on his stern was Gabart 34 miles behind and 67 miles back further was Dick in third place. 10 December, Day 29 plus 18h, 473

miles to the Amsterdam gate: Dick, who holds two 24-hour speed records, was av- eraging 226. Knots and gained 30 miles on the leader. Gabart was still shadowing Le Cléa’c’h and was 23.1 miles back. The

leading two had separated themselves from Dick, Stamm and Thomson by 65 miles. Thomson chose to stay further north and this caused him to slow.

Later in the day the 24-hour sailing record fell once again, this time it was Gabart, who sailed 545.3 miles, with an average speed 22.3. He also took over the lead. Gabart is the youngest skipper in the race and also a rookie at sailing solo in the Southern Ocean. This is impressive even compared to the crewed monohull record of 596.6 miles, which was set in the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race by Ericsson, and is only 21 miles shy of the best 24 hour run on the last Volvo Ocean Race. 11 December, Day 29: Thomson’s HUGO BOSS was in fi fth place, 160 miles behind the leader, when doing about 19 knots he hit an unidentifi ed. This damaged a rudder mechanism and a hydrogenerator. This forced him to slow to make repairs. 12 December, Day 31 plus 18 hours.

700 miles to Australia West Gate: Gabart had gained some separation over Le Cléac’h and was averaging 15 knots. With 1000 miles to sail to the longitude of Cape Leeu- win on the SW corner of Australia speeds have slowed slightly for the leading pair as they close towards the Australia South gate. Dick was back 80 miles and was match- ing the speeds of the leaders. 13 December, Day 32 plus 18 hours at 285 milles to the Australia West: The sun was shining and the wind was blowing 20 knots from the sou’west. Le Cléac’h had regained the lead and was just 1.9 miles ahead of Gabart. He was also sailing a bit faster. Third place Dick was falling further back and was now 99 miles away. 14 December, Day 34, 340 miles to Cape Leeuwin, Australia: Gabart and Le Cléac’h were just 360 miles from Cape Leeuwin and 1,450 miles from the Australia East gate. The pair are now 220 miles ahead of Dick and that gap was widening. Others behind Dick were also losing ground. Over


72 hours Golding and Wavre had lost close to 700 miles.

Around midnight the leaders will pass Cape Leeuwin. Gabart is 26 miles ahead of Le Cléach. Technically the two IMOCA Open 60s, are identical but Gabart highlights one difference. He explained, “We don’t have the same keels. His fi n is made of car- bon, which may be lighter, but it is thicker and when averaging 20 knots or more the hydrodynamic aspect means it gives more drag.” These two have now put 329 miles between them and third place Dick. With different conditions the two leaders are put- ting a lot of miles between them and all the other competitors. 15 December, 35 days, 3 hours; 500 miles to the East Australia gate: The leaders were still outpacing the rest and they needed to brace themselves for the cold as they both dove for the Screaming Fifties, just less than a 1,000 miles south of Australia. “It is exhausting,” Le Cléac’h said. “The sea is bad, it’s not easy in these conditions,” added Gabart. “I’m trying to show you the sunset I can see from here, it’s beautiful.” Gabard is calm and could be a little psychological warfare demoralizing the competitors.

Dick was holding on, but he said that it was getting bone chilling cold at 48 degrees. He also had escaped the anticyclone and had found some wind. He was now making 14 knots.

16 December, 20 hours, 320 miles

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to the East Australia Gate: After 36 days and 13,000 miles at sea there was just 40.2 miles separating Le Cléac’h from the leader Gabart. They had slowed to 15-16 knots and Dick hoped to gain on them. Two days before Golding was enjoying 20 knots of breeze when he snapped the line used to furl his code zero headsail. He dumped his boat on her side, which took the pressure off the rig and he was able to haul down the sail onto the foredeck. This brought back memories from four years ago, almost to the day and about 300 miles from the spot where he was dismasted in the last Vendée Globe. 17 December, 36 days, 20 hours, 100 miles to the East Australia Gate: Fourth- placed Thomson was heading south and Stamm decided to take the same course. Before this they had been on a northerly course. A little later in the day Gabart had just a 15.8 mile lead over Le Cléac’h. However, Le Cléac’h was slowly eating into Gabart’s lead.

19 December, 38 days, 20 hours, 470

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miles to the Auckland Islands: Gabar- tre-took his lead 15 hours after losing it to Le Cléac’h. They both passed the halfway mark on the theoretical mileage for the race and seem destined to play cat and mouse round the world. Gabart is just 5.3 miles ahead of Le Cléac’h and only 20 miles to the north as they race in the direction of the Auckland Islands, south of New Zealand. After the various modifi cations to the gates the theoretical distance of the Vendée Globe, on Wednesday, December 19 is 24,394 miles. The mid-point is 12,197 miles from Les Sables d’Olonne and at 0400hrs UTC, Gabart and Le Cléac’h had, 12,173.7 and 12,179 miles respectively to the fi nish. The reality is they will sail a lot more miles than 12,197 home. Gabart has already sailed 14,606.85 miles and even the more direct Le Cléac’h 14,042.61 miles thus far. 20 December: Le Cléac’h is 2.5 miles ahead and just two miles northeast of Gab- art and could see each other. Le Cléac’h was slightly faster averaging 19.3 knots to Gabart’s 17.8 knots over the last hour. The wind is 30 knots out of the north, but the

seas were only four metres. Unfortunately the seas will increase as they near Campbell Plateau. The chances of the others catching them, is getting less likely. 21 December: Gabart was back in the lead and Le Cléac’h was still just seven miles north of him and only 2.7 miles back. They are both heading to the sixth ice gate of the race, the New Zealand gate, 120 miles due east.

Nearly 1,000 miles west Stamm had

overtaken Thomson and was ahead of him by 1.1 miles. A problem persisted on Stamm’s racer with the central winch’s broken column. He also has issues with his hydrogenerators. 22 December, 41 days, 20 hours, 1050 miles to the Pacifi c West Gate: Golding and Le Cam were in a tight battle and Le Cam had dove south. They were both doing about the same speed, and Le Cam was going to reach the better wind fi rst. What is interest- ing is that Le Cam is 1,755 miles behind the leaders. Golding is 195 miles and about ten hours behind him. He added, “I am going to get caught by (the ridge of the high pressure). Whether Jean will get caught I don’t know, his routing looks pretty straight.” 23 December, 42 days, 20 hours, 1050 miles to the Pacifi c West Gate: Stamm found shelter in the Auckland Islands, 250 miles south of New Zealandto try to make repairs to his boat. He is moored in Sandy Bay, south of Enderby Island. This was the last place to moor and repair ahead of the 4,000 miles crossing of the Pacifi c to Cape Horn. Unfortunately he was forced to use his engine to get to a mooring, which is allowed under the rules because it was exceptional circumstances. He hopes to make the repairs and be gone in two days. 24 December, 43 days, 16 hours, 360 miles to the western end of the Pacifi c West Gate: Stamm was still trying to make repairs to his hydrogenerators. The stop has already cost him at least 600 miles and has fallen 1,481 miles behind the leaders. Le Cam may also take over his fi fth place position. He is back 290 miles and is going 14.6 knots. Le Cam is in a different weather system and fl ying away – 408 miles ahead of Golding, 475 miles ahead of Wavre and 703 miles ahead of Sansó.

Later in the day it was learned that Stamm was forced to sail to New Zealand due to a storm. His only company at Auck- land Island was sea lions and orca and on 23 December the Russian scientifi c vessel, PROFESSOR KHROMOV came to anchor in the same bay. As the winds increased Stamm’s anchor began dragging and he tied up to the Russian vessel. 25 December, Day 44 + 18 hours: Le Cléac’h and Gabart were still close. Le Cléac’h was consistently faster, by nearly two knots. With 2,860 miles to Cape Horn, Le Cléac’h was once again in the lead. The conditions were perfect for fast reaching, 25 knots sou’westerly. For the last 11 days, 4,000 miles, the leaders have had the best of conditions. There is a problem as a low pressure system is developing in front of them. Dick hopes he will be able to decrease his 478 miles defi cit. 26 December, Day 45 +18hours, 2200 miles to Cape Horn: Stamm is now anchored close to a secluded beach north of Dunedin’s Tairoa Head and has light winds, partial sunshine with the threat of some light rain. This is Stamm’s third Vendée Globe and has yet to fi nish one. He was also the talk of New Zealand as people came to see the racer and was covered by local television. Sanso has to climb his mast again after

fi nding his mainsail track damaged and he cannot hoist his mainsail all the way to the top. He said, “It is stuck at the fi rst reef

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