The Brits battle it out in the South AtlanticWhile Ellen MacArthur and Kingfisher continue to dominate the headlines in the Vendee Globe, let's not forget two other British heroes, still battling it out for the minor places in this classic single-handed contest.
Josh Hall in EBP/Gartmore has experienced one of the strangest Southern Ocean passages in the race with long periods of calm in an area of the world noted for the ferocity of its weather. Hall has been plugging on, trying to catch Catherine Chabaud in Whirlpool in seventh place but aware that behind him, Mike Golding in Team Group 4, has been catching him all the time.
Since overtaking Bernard Gallay in Voila.fr last week, Golding has rounded Cape Horn and reduced his deficit on Hall from 700 miles to 300 miles. It is going to be an interesting battle between two men with almost identical sails as they climb up the South American coast and, at this stage, you would have to back Golding to get the better of his countryman.
The former BT Global Challenge skipper has shown immense character and courage to get his race back on track after the first night dismasting and his determination now to finish as high up the rankings as possible is limitless. Despite sailing with his "second" rig and endless problems with his watermaker and other systems on board Team Group 4, Golding has never stopped racing.
Earlier today (January 22) he was going upwind to the east of Estadus Island and told the race office he was trying to solve the dilemma of which way to pass the Falkland Islands. Among those who sent the Team Group 4 skipper messages of congratulation after his rounding of the Horn - the fifth time he has passed that landmark in his career - was Sir Michael Jay, the British ambassador in Paris. "As you round the Horn congratulations from all of us here at the embassy on a terrific race after your second start," Sir Michael wrote, "and good luck for the final stages back to France," he added.
Hall, 20 miles south of the Falklands, could only reflect on more frustration as he sat through yet more calms. "The last two weeks or so have been really unbelievable," said the man who was dismasted at the start of the third leg of the last Around Alone race. "My last two weeks in the Pacific were notable for being becalmed twice for two days each time. Then, despite having 70 knots of wind during the morning of my approach to the Horn, I sat completely becalmed for eight hours just 20 miles from it. Since rounding, things have been even worse....on Saturday I was in a parking lot for 12 hours east of Staten Island where I was even going backwards for a while in a strong current. Then, on Sunday, the strongest wind I had was six knots."
Hall added that he was virtually in a state of shock as Chabaud got away ahead of him - she is now 660 miles in front - and Golding came steaming up from behind. "I am looking in the rear-view mirror. I am sure Michel (Desjoyeaux) feels the same at the front of the fleet. However, Mike had such bad luck dismasting, he deserves to have good fortune now," Hall added sportingly.
So it's all to play for with Golding the hunter and Hall, very much the hunted and around 7,000 miles to sail with the South Atlantic High still to be negotiated and after that the dreaded Doldrums.