The ‘big purring cat’ of the Roaring Forties is starting to waken gently. Barometers are rising and increasingly wet, windy cold conditions have teams believing they really are now in the Southern Ocean.

Dependent on the team’s position in the fleet, which is spread out over 500 nautical miles, the barometer is fluctuating between Force 4 winds (11 to 16 knots) to a rather gusty Force 8 (34 to 40 knots), providing around 10 knots boat speed for the front seven teams.

The building conditions are currently allowing LMAX Exchange to maintain its lead and is no longer losing so many miles to nearest rivals Qingdao and Derry~Londonderry~Doire which are now neck and neck in sight of each other, approximately 80 nautical miles behind.

Derry~Londonderry~Doire Skipper Dan Smith, just over half a mile behind Qingdao at the time of reporting, explains: “I went down for some sleep knowing that I'd left the boat in capable hands waiting for the wind to return. It did and with it, it brought Qingdao from the north where it had filled in from. Coming down in the good wind they got the initial advantage and snuck in front. This is a blessing however, we always sail faster when we can see who we are chasing or being chased by and a light or a white sail on the horizon will keep us fast.

“The temperature has dropped and with the wind building we are starting to feel like we are in the Southern Ocean, fingers crossed for some great sailing.”

Clustered some 70 nautical miles behind them is GREAT Britain, Mission Performance and Garmin. Whilst the three teams may be focused on closing down the lead boats, behind them IchorCoal has its own ambitions.

Up to seventh after vastly improving its eleventh place position from two days ago, IchorCoal Skipper Darren Ladd continues to look higher up the leaderboard as he states: “We are around 100 nautical miles behind Garmin and chasing hard, our nearest rival behind us about the same distance, but we're not looking back. We only go one way, and that's forward.”

PSP Logistics Skipper Max Stunell, in ninth place is relishing the building conditions as he reports: “In the past few hours we've gone from blasting along in the utter pitch black and heavy rain at 10 to gusting 50 knots plus wind, a fully reefed mainsail and staysail. All quite exciting stuff.

“I did feel a little for the guys on the foredeck getting the Yankee down with waves breaking over them at least until they returned to the cockpit with big grins on their faces.”

At the end of the first week of racing, teams have now covered their first 1000 nautical miles but with progress having been frustrating for much of the week, it is hoped this change in conditions is a sign that the big Southern Ocean waves and winds are on their way which will help draw the warm sunny Australian climes closer, quicker.

Stay tuned to the Race Viewer to see if the big cat wakes up fully and starts to finally roar.

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