Goosebumps for Vendee Globe leader Bestaven

Paris (AFP) –


French skipper Yannick Bestaven extended his lead in the round-the-world Vendee Globe on Wednesday but admitted he was getting goosebumps with the changing weather patterns potentially giving his two main rivals a chance to close up the gap.

Bestaven, skippering the foiled Maitre Coq, was 97.8 nautical miles ahead of Charlie Dalin on Apivia at 1100GMT Wednesday and 177.7 nm in front of Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut.

These three, all on craft with foils, which allow them to rise on top of the water and 'fly' across the waves, remain the main contenders.

The trio have been ahead since the exits of Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss and Kevin Escoffier whose yacht snapped and folded at a right angle then sank in seconds in the Roaring 40s, prompting a tense night-time rescue.

Now in the South Pacific, the race leader is negotiating a high pressure system with light winds as he leads the fleet towards Cape Horn.

"Right now I have 13 knots of wind and flat seas, I am sliding along under spinnaker, it's 16 degrees in the boat, I'm thinking about getting out my swimming trunks," said Bestaven.

"I have everything open, the air is dry, the sun is heating up behind my back because I'm heading east, it's great, it feels good to get things dry."

The head of the fleet, who is almost midway between the longitudes of New Zealand and Point Nemo, an invisible spot in the vast Southern Ocean furthest from land in any direction, is wary of the more northerly course taken by Ruyant.

"I'm watching Thomas out the corner of my left eye as he is further north," he said.

"Thomas is moving well and hasn't stopped and Charlie is a bit slower. I'm getting goose bumps. You have to just cross your fingers now.

"I don't touch anything, the sheets are cleated, the spinnaker is full and we are going straight!”

The high pressure is likely to last until the end of the week at which point they will hit an easterly wind.

"After the calm, we will go upwind," said Bestaven who turns 48 on December 28.

"Of course this is a crucial moment, because if I don't stop, I can go far and get away. On the other hand, if we stop, it will be a new re-start.

"The end of this week will be interesting to follow. May the best one win, the die is cast!"

Ruyant, meanwhile, is keeping his fingers crossed that his gamble to head further north pays off.

"I hope the rubber band doesn't stretch out in front," he said. "I'm in ambush mode, I'm hanging in here."

Standings at 1100GMT Wednesday

1. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) 10,120.6 nautical miles from finish, 2. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) at 97.8nm, 3. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 177.6nm, 4. Boris Herrmann (GER/Sea explorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 343.3nm, 5. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 353nm, 6. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes We Cam!) 358.7, 7. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 369.7nm, 8. Isabelle Joschke (GER/MACSF) 381.6, 9. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 412.3nm, 10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V&B-Mayenne) 546.5nm