After Thomas Ruyant suffered water ingress into his bow compartment and had to stop LinkedOut yesterday night (French time, Thursday morning local time) Yannick Bestaven now has a clear lead on Maître CoQ IV as the leaders passed under Tasmania and across what is generally considered to be the western boundary of the Pacific Ocean.

Bestaven made his passage across the longitude 146 ° 49 East, the gateway to the South Pacific around 0030hrs UTC having now lead for nearly 24 hours. At nearly the same time Ruyant was getting back into race mode, LinkedOut is back up to pace this morning but is 127 nautical miles behind Bestaven and now only 36 miles ahead of Charlie Dalin.

As the three leaders race along the exclusion zone they are enjoying excellent conditions averaging 19-20kts on port gybe. The gap back to fourth placed Jean Le Cam is now close to 330 nautical miles and the top trio are still faster and extending miles into the Pacific.

And the world’s largest ocean is opening up the 4000 miles passage to Cape Horn and the final exit door to the Atlantic. On the theoretical route of 24,410 nautical miles the skippers are just over half way.  The passage into the Pacific is a key morale booster, as is the passage under New Zealand and then the Antimeridian just after New Zealand when the skippers' longitude starts falling from 180 deg East,  is another important mental milestone.

But the course is long and feels long now and the Pacific, while generally considered to offer longer, rolling swells to surf  - as compared to the disorderly Indian - it is still strewn with pitfalls despite its name given by Magellan exactly 500 years ago. The Portuguese navigator who was heading to Indonesia found the sailing conditions peaceful, hence the name he gave it. But for all of its name the South Pacific is often punctuated by strong depressions generating a huge swell and it can be cold, very cold in the Howling Fifties especially when the wind blows off the Antarctic's icy wastes from the south.

The top eleven are sailing ahead of a front in good conditions to make miles. Louis Burton, who had just gybed this morning  when he spoke on the radio call was happy: “We have 20 knots of wind ahead of the front, the sea is smoother, I didn't think I’d have such conditions here and to now sail in a group, it is amazing and exciting! ".

This posse of five had a bit of a restart Tuesday, the IMOCAs lined up side by side over 100 miles north south separation Jean Le Cam in the north to Benjamin Dutreux in the south. “It is like racing in the bay of Quiberon" adds the skipper of Bureau Vallée 2 who is handicapped by small problems damages (J2 is unusable, big spinnaker torn, hook and mainsail track and headboard car broken) but he is determined more than ever to keep pace with the competition and not complain.

Behind them Clarisse Cremer and Romain Attanasio, who passed Cape Leeuwin last night, Armel Tripon brushes along the ice barrier to avoid the tentacles of the Mascarene high pressure which is getting on the nerves of the competitors. "We're not going to complain, the Indian could be horrible and boat-breaking. But it is true that we are not able to go fast consistently and close distance, the weather is incredibly changeable this year " said Arnaud Boissières early this morning. The skipper from Les Sables d’Olonne who is taking part in his fourth Vendée Globe is an unfailing optimist. This whole group back to Manu Cousin, Pip Hare and Didac Costa should soon benefit from the north-westerly wind flow generated by the low pressure which descends on the Kerguelen Islands. Jérémie Beyou is getting back into the match after an incredible comeback. The skipper of Charal is baring his teeth a bit catching six IMOCAs in 6 days and it is certainly not over yet!
"I sail better when I have some rivals around. Obviously when you're all alone, you can't measure yourself. There, it's nice, especially since they are all sailing really well "explained Beyou this morning.

A complicated night for Sébastien Destremau who managed to repair his helm problems and reconnect the two rudders together. Merci has returned to racing mode!