Class40 positions at 1030 GMT (click on image to enlarge)
The end is in sight now for the leaders in the Transat Jacques Vabre's IMOCA 60 class. Leader Jean Pierre Dick and Jeremie Beyou on Virbac Paprec 3 passed the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic yesterday morning at around 0500 followed by Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill on Hugo Boss at 1000, Francois Gabart and Seb Col on MACIF at 2100, Banque Populaire at 0100 this morning and since then all but Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois on Gamesa have passed through.
At the moment the finish line off Porto Limon, Costa Rica is pretty much dead downwind and with 541 miles to run, Virbac Paprec 3's ETA is early on Friday morning UTC. Hugo Boss put in a hitch to the north this morning and is currently laying Porto Limon although an area of high pressure is forecast to develop over the Caribbean Sea on Thursday night, so there will be one last hurdle for the crews to jump.
In the Multi50 match race, Yves le Blevec and Sam Manuard aboard Actual flew down the Caribbean chain to round Barbados at 1100 UTC yesterday, the multihulls having to sail a longer course because of their superior boat speed. They are now half way across the Caribbean Sea heading for the finish line from a totally different angle to the 60s.
Over the last 48 hours the Class40 crews have enjoyed fast running conditions. Potentially benefitting most from these should have been 40 Degrees and Solo who due to their northerly position were first to pick up the strong northeasterlies. However they have managed to make little inroads into the leaders, Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet on Aquarelle.com, who remain resolutely in front, 237 miles ahead of third placed 40 Degrees with Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme on ERDF Des pieds et des mains still second and still furthest south.
The high pressure to their north, generating the present welcome easterly winds, looks set to be replaced by another giant area of high pressure originating from the east coast of the USA over the weekend. Generally favourable conditions are forecast to remain until Tuesday next week when the front runners should be passing the eastern end of the Dominican Republic.