French skipper Yannick Bestaven took advantage of some generous winds to extend his lead to 430 nautical miles in the solo round-the-world Vendee Globe on Thursday.
Bestaven accelerated north into the Atlantic, often at 20 knots overnight, after connecting with the strong south-easterly on Wednesday, while his pursuers were struggling to hit 10 knots.
AT 1700GMT Thursday, the skipper of Maitre Coq IV was around 550 miles east of Buenos Aires, well clear of the chasing group which is headed by Charlie Dalin onboard Apivia who retook second place ahead of Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut.
"It's great to have been able to pass the high-pressure zone," said the 48-year-old Bestaven.
"I was able to gain some miles and then make good speed, it hasn’t been bad at all. I am satisfied with that but... I feel like the bungee cord is going to snap back and those behind me will start closing the gap.
"I hope there will be enough wind, as I only have a few tens of miles of advantage left. But I can’t let it stress me, I’m going to have to keep a cool head because I am going to lose a lot of ground again."
The race began at Les Sables d'Olonne in north-west France on November 8 and the winner is not expected to cross the line there until the end of January.
"I don't know who has been in charge of the weather during this Vendee Globe, but I'm telling you, we need a new meteorologist!" said Bestaven.
"It looks like everything has been working against us being able to arrive quickly back in Les Sables d'Olonne. The situation is very complicated. Forming a strategy is difficult because different models are showing different things.
"I don't think that anyone really knows how it's going to play out."
- 'Far from over' -
While Dalin and Ruyant took an easterly route, Damien Seguin, whose Groupe Apicil is a further 45nm behind in fourth, is sailing on a westerly course.
"The race is far from over," said Dalin.
"So much the better for my position. In terms of how long still remains on the race, I wouldn’t be surprised if we arrive in February."
British skipper Pip Hare, who is still in the South Pacific, has stepped out of racing mode in order to replace a cracked port rudder on Medallia.
"I have no choice but to change the port rudder," said Hare.
"I am completely devastated about this failure and what it means to my race but the only thing to do right now is to put the racing on hold and focus on solving this problem to keep both me and Medallia safe."
Leading race standings as of 1700 GMT, January 7
1. Yannick Bestaven (FRA/Maitre Coq IV) 5,530.1 nautical miles from finish, 2. Charlie Dalin (FRA/Apivia) at 429.1nm, 3. Thomas Ruyant (FRA/LinkedOut) 435.4, 4. Damien Seguin (FRA/Groupe Apicil) 481.0, 5. Louis Burton (FRA/Bureau Vallee 2) 559.8, 6. Benjamin Dutreux (FRA/OMIA-Water Family) 616.6, 7. Jean Le Cam (FRA/Yes we Cam !) 630.6, 8. Giancarlo Pedote (ITA/Prysmian Group) 686.5, 9. Boris Herrmann (GER/Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 742.6, 10. Maxime Sorel (FRA/V And B Mayenne) 752.3