British Vendée Globe competitor just 12 miles behind Barcelona firefighter Didac Costa

Pip Hare should cross the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope early tomorrow, her first of the Vendée Globe’s three Great Capes.

Lying in 20th place, onboard Medallia, she’s just 12 miles behind Spanish rival Didac Costa onboard One Planet – One Ocean, which started life as Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher over 20 years ago.

Ticking off her first Great Cape will be a significant moment for 45-year-old Hare, who is based out of Poole, Dorset, and whose IMOCA is of identical vintage to friend and rival Costa’s. Hers was built as Superbigou by Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm in a shed in Brittany and launched on 11 February 2000, while MacArthur’s Kingfisher was launched within the same fortnight on the other side of the world in New Zealand.

Just as the two IMOCAs are lifelong rivals – although Stamm had to abandon the 2000-2001 Vendée Globe in which MacArthur  finished second – so Hare and Costa previously raced Mini 650s against each other and finished 40 minutes apart in the MiniTransat.

Costa, who finished 14th on the last Vendée Globe, reported last night that he had hit something which he believed to be a whale although there was no damage to the mammal nor to his boat. As well as notifying other competitors via Race HQ, he also made sure Hare – who is sailing in his wake – was aware.

“Didac messaged me yesterday to let me know he had hit something. It is really nice to have him there,” says Pip. “We keep in touch. It is amazing for me to have him here as a pace setter but I have no intention of letting him go. That is for sure. I think Kingfisher (now Didac’s One Planet-One Ocean) is a quicker boat and certainly in the bigger breeze I am pushing hard to keep up.”

Meanwhile, race leaders Charlie Dalin (Apivia) and Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) are finally finding a fast route east on a fast-moving low pressure system, having endured a painful week in the Indian Ocean fighting to keep themselves and their boats intact in choppy seas and winds gusting 40kts. With flat water and strong north westerly winds they are in ideal conditions for challenging Alex Thomson’s  24-hour world-record run of 536 miles, set on the last race. If they can continue to keep pace with the front, which is moving at around 25kts eastwards, they could then catch a moderate wind flow from a high pressure at Cape Leeuwin to complete a dream sequence that could open them a massive lead on their pursuers.

But 600 miles back in the fiery depths of the low pressure system it is very windy with big seas, much more like the Dante-esque vision of the Southern Ocean.

“We have 45 knots and horizontal rain” reports Damien Seguin in a video. Seguin, who is in fourth place, has reported a failure of his main autopilot. His back-up has worked intermittently and he’s looking for a solution with his team.

“It is hideous,” confirms Maxime Sorel, in eleventh place. “I have never seen a sea like this. It is rough, it is very hard to go forwards, it catches the boat, the boat accelerates forwards surging to 29 knots but if you are too slow, the waves will catch up and explode on the transom.

The nine boats sailing in Dalin and Ruyant’s wake were overtaken by the front which had 50 knots in squally gusts. With huge confused seas, racing is on hold and self-preservation becomes the most important challenge.

Top 5 rankings

1. Charlie Dalin – [ APIVIA ] —> 15,281.6 nm from the finish

2. Thomas Ruyant – [ LinkedOut ]—> 184.8 nm from the leader

3. Louis Burton – [ BUREAU VALLEE 2 ] —> 231.5 nm from the leader

4. Yannick Bestaven – [ Maître CoQ IV ] —> 318.13 nm from the leader

5. Damien Seguin – [ Groupe Apicil ] —> 330.86 nm from the leader