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9 March 2005, 04:27 pm
A Calm Finalé?
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Vendée Globe

For the last two competitors the daily stress, fuelled by sustained wind and very chaotic seas, is now heightened by the concern of negotiating a way to the finish in the very, very light winds forecast.
Karen LEIBOVICI (FRA), 200 miles to the West of Cape Finisterre and Raphaël DINELLI (FRA) abeam of the island of Yeu, are wearing themselves out getting the most out of their boats as they become more and more marked by four months of effort.

These two sailors are picking their way through two very different scenarios. LEIBOVICI is on a direct tack towards the centre of the Bay of Biscay and has made back 100 miles on local Vendée sailor, DINELLI, who is making some difficult tacks under the Breton coast.

LEIBOVICI on Benefic is climbing up to Les Sables d'Olonne on starboard tack with the wind to the southeast. Despite all her physical and technical worries, LEIBOVICI is showing great determination by staying in this vein of wind. Her secondary pilot is holding out, but the skipper is down to her last few drops of diesel. Without power, she is compelled to helm in spite of the pain, in seas which she qualifies as heavy, to the extent that any movement on deck is both dangerous and tiring. By tying off her helm she is able to get a few minutes rest, whilst maintaining an acceptable heading. Her proximity to the shipping lanes is adding to the problems between her and the finish line. At her current speed, Benefic may well make the finish on Sunday afternoon.

Between the light patch in the north and the stagnation in the south, DINELLI is having to decide on the lesser of numerous evils. There is a prevailing south easterly wind systematically pushing Akena Verandas back towards Spain. DINELLI is trying to close in on it by tacking. As soon as he moves too close on the wind, his tired boat slams hopelessly in the chaotic seas. 'I'm battling like never before,' he says. 'There are heavy seas and I have to preserve the boat. I broke the first reef last night and I have to repair it in order to have a storm sail. Added to the look out for cargo ships is that of fishing boats. I hope to make it to the channel in Les Sables on Saturday afternoon.'

For both sailors this last stretch will be the most laborious. However, the countdown to the finish finally seems to have begun as they draw ever closer to picking up the final two places in the Vendée Globe 2004/2005.

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Akena Vérandas:© Raphael Dinelli/Akena/Vendée Globe
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