Gosport’s Alex Thomson was the early leader of the 2016/17 Vendee Globe.

Thomson’s Hugo Boss was a mile clear of his nearest rival, Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) yesterday afternoon.

After leaving Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, the only Brit in a race dominated by Frenchmen was out in front as the leading trio made its way across the Bay of Biscay.

Thomson, Dick and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) soon built up a lead of 14 miles over fourth-placed Safran skippered by Morgan Lagravière.

Speeds varyied, as did the wind strength, but occasionally they reached speeds worthy of multihulls of around 23 knots.

With these variable northerlies gusting from 12 to 30 knots, the skippers are having to work hard. But the favourites are coping particularly well.

The fleet has separated into three groups. All the foilers except No Way Back are in the leading group (Pieter Heerema said from the outset that he would determine his own pace).

In addition to the trio out in front, Morgan Lagravière’s Safran, Jérémie Beyou’s Maître CoQ and Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild are fourth, sixth and seventh respectively.

The second group is some 60 miles from the leaders. They include Fabrice Amedeo, Kito de Pavant (who lost a lot of time last night sorting out a sail problem), Arnaud Boissières, Stéphane Le Diraison, the Japanese sailor Kojiro Shiraishi and Conrad Colman.

In the third group at the rear of the fleet are the adventurers whose main goal is to complete the round-the-world voyage. They are now between 70 and 120 miles behind the frontrunners, quite a large gap after 20 hours’ racing.