As they sail the long dive south east which will take them down to around 51 degrees South, Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam are opening distance again on second placed Neutrogena. Since 0300hrs this morning the Swiss-French pair had regained a further 30 miles to their lead ahead of Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz, mainly as the dividend for being able to makes the slant SE before their rivals who are still held north by the Antarctic Exclusion Zone.
Cheminées Poujoulat were in 23-25kts of W'ly wind today, co skipper Jean Le Cam reaffirming how the combination of big, unruly seas and gusty breezes was making life testing for Stamm and Le Cam:
Le Cam said today: "Last night was not easy and now it is not easy either. The seas a big with a lot of waves. If you hear strange noises that is normal. The worst time in the last week was the passage of the depression, the ex cyclone. It was not awful though. The best bit is now, this morning, as we are managing to get down south a bit now that the ice exclusion zone has evolved. The ice exclusion zone is part of the course. It is a little south now and sometimes north. I am not sure it changes much for anyone. We'll see. It is the same for everyone, it depends at time T where you are in relation to your rival. It tends to favour the front or the back. In our case it probably favours the front but as of today i don't know who it is going to benefit. Bernard is asleep. It was a bit of a hard night. We gybed very close to the exclusion zone. And the winds are very unstable. As I speak I have the autopilot remote in my hand and watch the screens avidly. It is up and down all the time. It is not easy!"
The delta between the two leading Farr designed, near identical IMOCA 60s has waxed and waned small miles over the past weeks but as Altadill and Munoz passed their second of the Great Capes together, crossing past Cape Leeuwin this morning at 0500hrs UTC there was still only around 13 hours between the top two boats. On 25th Janaury, 4400 miles ago, when Neutrogena crossed Cape of Good Hope there was about 11 hours or 167 miles between the Barcelona World Race's same two leaders.
Consider that in the last edition of the Barcelona World Race at this point 'Under Down Under' the second placed boat was 670 miles behind the leader and eventual winner and went on to compress to being less than 120 miles behind them in the Doldrums. Altadill and Munoz know that that patience and consistency, hour by hour, day by day, will set them in as good stead as any strategic choice - were one to happen their way. Their philosophy is no different to that of most solo and short-handed round the world sailors at this time. Make sure you are in the match, in catching distance for the climb up the South Atlantic and anything can happen. From that viewpoint as the two leaders have the midpoint of the race on next week's horizon, then Altadill and Munoz can reflect that they remain on target. After days of near windless penury, trapped in a high pressure cell, the lose on the swings but win on the roundabouts maxim is now working ou t for AnnaCorbella and Gerard Marín on GAES Centros Auditivos. The Spanish pair who stayed patient and objective when they were slowed to pedestrian single digit speeds for three days are now riding the top of a deep, active low pressure system in 35kts of SW'ly breeze and were convincingly quickest of the fleet this Saturday afternoon. They have big seas, 5-7m of swell, in their favour too and so regaining miles lost to Renault Captur behind them and to the leaders, looks set to continue for the foreseeable future for Corbella and Marín if they can keep up their high speeds.
But patience is required on a whole different level for Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman who have been dealt a tough hand once again, fighting slowly upwind still into a high pressure system, at the tail of the race fleet. Both sailors, the oldest and youngest in the race, share the same passion and simple pleasure for being at sea, enjoying all the ch allenges of being in the Southern Ocean together, but in terms of the learning for their own respective future hoped-for Vendée Globe solo races round the world, there is probably not so much to be gained for them right now.