"I'm doing good. Rounding Cape Horn solo for the first time in my career also brought very different conditions, much milder. I haven't had a chance to clean up a bit or to shave yet, though. I've had hydro-generators issues for the past month and hopefully, I'll get a chance to work hard on them in the near future. I really need to because I don't have enough fuel to finish the race if I don't so I'm focusing on sailing the boat in a way that will allow me to make it to the finish line, I don't get to look at the others' routes, positions ad choices too much."
Thomson sounded determined but slightly hollow, a sociable and gregarious individual, the prolonged and enforced additional isolation must be wearing him down. It's a testimony to his seamanship and tenacity that he has sailed a remarkable race in the face of such great adversity. The Vendée Globe is in itself a race of human endeavour when its all systems go but to race for over a month in a power blackout and hold onto fourth position is an achievement to be admired.
Thomson explained today that he had laminated the hydro and was expecting to complete the repairs in the next few days. The situation has now become race critical and we await further information regarding his progress.
At the back of the fleet it was a very jolly, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) who spoke by Visio video link up to the French language version of Vendée Globe LIVE celebrating his 42nd birthday at sea.
"I've just opened my gifts and eaten foie gras to celebrate my birthday, with salt I had with me, and, also, salt from the ocean. I really appreciated the messages I received. I may have celebrated my birthday twice because of the antemeridian, but I swear I only drank once!"
Despite his high spirits he too is experiencing challenging conditions.
"I have 40 knots of wind and I've just crossed the New Zealand gate, I'm now heading to the West Pacific gate. It's shaking a lot here on board, there are strong gusts. I hope I don't cross paths with a 6.5-metre boat like the one I sailed around the world on, because I would crush it! It's part of my past, really." He joked.
Life onboard is about constant maintenance and repairs. "I considered sailing closer to the coast to take shelter and fix a piece of rope stuck in my rudder, but I decided to repair at sea instead. Bernard's case showed situations like that are always tricky. I'm also having engine troubles, it's really not working at the moment, I'm not sure why yet."
Over the half waypoint, the Italian skipper is more than 5,000 miles behind the leaders and approaching the gate of New Zealand.
Situated 630 miles in the north-east of the Falklands, on the edge of the St. Helena High, the unshaven Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire) begins his attack on race leader François Gabart (MACIF). Throughout the race he has demonstrated that he prefers to sail the shortest and most direct route to the fastest one. This was the route he chose on the way down passed the St Helena High and also at the Crozet Gate. This strategy has always paid dividends for him and so therefore, is there any reason to change it? If he elects again for the shortest route then he could soon gain the advantage as the winds build to 25-30 knots in a depression building from Uruguay.
Sailing his own race, François Gabart (MACIF) is pursuing his course towards the east. "We will meet in Brazil", declared Le Cléac'h today on the Vendée Globe LIVE. Life onboard gives little respite, less the one day of rest after Cape Horn, the conditions have never abated. Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire) has not shaved for 30 days and sports dark, rugged, furry beard.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) and to a lesser extent Alex Thomson(Hugo Boss) may benefit from the less arduous climb experienced by the front two boats and could regain some miles. Jean-Pierre Dick has already reduced the gap by 81 miles in the last 24 hours.
Dreams of flat seas
Meanwhile, the five boats rumbling through the deep south are experiencing cold, unpleasant, inconsistent conditions and are all holding onto the same hope that finally they will in lighter winds and flat seas. Jean Le Cam(SynerCiel) is preparing for war against the weather as battles in the next 48 hours towards Cape Horn, his ETA Monday 7th November. He will encounter a deep depression and it's going to be unstable, dark, bumpy, cold and very wet.
In this group, Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) is by far the fastest for 48 hours. After overtaking Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas), he made short work of Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered). This morning, the jury received the report from the captain of the Russian ship, which was moored alongside Cheminées Poujoulat during his stopover in Auckland Island. It is currently being reviewed before a decision will be made on reopening the file.