"Jean and Mike have the faster boats, but it's not yet time for radical maneuvers, it would be too risky." The last assessment of the situation by Vincent Riou ("PRB") illustrates how tense the skippers at the front of the field are likely to be at the moment.
The three boats sail only 50 miles apart to the northeast of the Falklands and slowly move towards a complex, changing, low-wind area. The Frenchman has the oldest boat, and at least on paper, his two competitors should be a bit faster in such conditions. But in the last few weeks there was seldom any sign of this, apart from the upwind section just beyond New Zealand.
In fact, leaders Le Cam, Riou and Golding are on the lookout for each other, and everyone seems to prefer to stay with their opponents right now than to take a risk with a different weather tactic. The big question is how close to the Brazilian coast you should position yourself in order to begin the ascent north in the Atlantic as quickly as possible. If you lose touch with your opponent now, you could very likely have lost your chance of victory.
Unaffected by such tactical games, the fourth-placed sailor in the field - the French Sebastien Josse - rounded off Cape Horn with his "VMI" last night. He is more than three days behind the leading trio after sailing so spectacularly in third place as far as Cape Leeuwin. But a collision with a growler cost him his bowsprit and connection to the leading group.
Just like Conrad Humphreys, who had fallen back to the end of the midfield due to a rudder repair off South Africa. But slowly but surely the Brit works his way through the field with his "Hellomoto" (Mike Golding's old "Ecover"). Yesterday after a long duel he finally overtook the American Bruce Schwab with "Ocean Planet" and is now in 9th place in the 15-strong field.
The Frenchman Jean-Pierre Dick, who has been sixth with his "Virbac" for weeks, is very unlucky. He has just reported on board that his boom has broken for the last three meters aft and that he can only sail with a fourth reef.