Welsh sailor Alex Thomson was 100 nautical miles ahead of key rivals as the epic Vendee Globe yacht race was poised to head into the notorious waters known as the doldrums some time on Tuesday after eight days on the high seas since leaving France.
Thomson’s 60-foot Hugo Boss is one of eight of 33 competitors whose craft are fitted with a state-of-the-art foil that lifts it partly out of the water and can hit record speeds.
The solo round-the-world race is approaching the feared waters known as the doldrums either side of the equator where clashing headwinds from the two hemispheres can cause either dead calm or storms.
“On our way to the doldrums. Looking forward to them. They say it’s not too bad right now, but I’ve heard that one before,” Thomson joked on a YouTube video with the wind howling around him late on Monday.
A reminder of what can happen in high seas caused drama overnight as seventh-placed Corum L’Epargne lost its mast with the team scrambling to salvage their recently-built multi-million dollar yacht.
“We lost the mast off Cape Verde,” the team announced as 45-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Troussel became the first skipper to pull out.
Conversely the Jeremie Beyou-skippered Charal is about to re-embark on the race after returning to port in France on Wednesday for lengthy repairs.
“It’s madness but I’m going back. We had ideas about winning. It’ll be another race now,” said Beyou.
Technically he may target the fastest time of 74 days 3 hours and 46 seconds set by Armel Le Le Cleac’h in the last edition four years ago.
Frenchman Jean Le Cam on his old style Yes We Cam, was in second place followed closely by Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut.
Race standings as of Monday 1700GMT:
1. Alex Thomson (GBR/Hugo Boss) 21.956,2 nautical miles to race
2. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam !) at 98.5
3. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 112.2
4. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) 171.9
5. Kevin Escoffier (FRA/PRB) 18.9
6. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 235.8
7. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) 261.3
8. Samantha Davies (GBR/Initiatives-Coeur) 273.5
9. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) 280.7
10. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 281.7