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11 December 2004, 03:25 pm
Gales And Waves For Starters
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Vendée Globe

Strong winds and giant seas have been the order of play for the leading boats in the Vendee Globe 2004. Vincent Riou on PRB held on to his lead overnight, now just under 50 miles over Jean Le Cam on Bonduelle. The severe gusts pounded Le Cam and Riou last night, reaching 55 knots has abated to some 30 to 35 giving them an average 15 knots boat speed.
The Southern Ocean is giving its fair share of uncomfortable damp and cold conditions on board. After a stressful departure from Simonstown bay, South Africa, yesterday Conrad Humphrey's is looking forward to catching up with the fleet.

Gusts of 55 knots, 8m waves and confused seas made for some uncomfortable sailing for Jean Le Cam and Vincent Riou last night. The wind is changeable and whilst Jean has enjoyed surfs of up to 22 knots, the wind has dropped for Vincent from 45 knots one minute down to 30 the next. Vincent is keeping an eye on his radar, with sea temperatures at 3ºC he is keeping clear of icebergs, steering clear is "more than a theory it is a religion" he added. A more humorous Jean, likened the helming conditions to arm wrestling a 200kg man.

Further down the fleet Roland Jourdain, Sébastien Josse and Mike Golding avoided the worst of the depression by keeping further South. Keeping them on a more Southerly route, the anticyclone above, should not hamper their progress as they head gradually North East in order to pass the third waypoint off South Africa situated at 47ºS.

Like most of the other sailors, Mike Golding reported today that conditions were pretty rough and that everything was getting wet on board, but fortunately he hasn't had any major problems with his electronic equipment, which is always under threat in such circumstances. During his radio report broadcast live at the Paris Boat Show, he talked about the low pressure they have just experienced. "This is a serious one, but it is moving off. The one coming up behind doesn't look too bad. You make good progress before and after the bad weather, but I wouldn't have wanted to be PRB or Bonduelle last night. Steering is quite difficult in this tough weather and the pilot can do a better job, especially at night, so I'm only steering for about two hours a day. What is good is we've ratcheted back mileage on PRB and Bonduelle. With luck, we'll ratchet back some more, then have a fine battle in the Atlantic on the way back up".

For Nick Moloney on Skandia, the humidity on board has rendered life quite uncomfortable. The combination of dampness and seasalt ensures the humidity is constant in the Southern Ocean. Nick has some small leaks from the forward hatch and where the Solent is attached to the foredeck. Any repair work will have to wait for better conditions. Keeping North, with the wind, Nick is waiting for the wind shift before he gybes. Sailing with two reefs and a staysail this morning with some 36 knots of wind, he questioned some of his early tactical decisions in the race. Skandia was some 900 miles miles behind the leader on the latest rankings.

For Conrad Humphrey's it is catch up time after his astounding rudder repair in South Africa. Dolphins and seals sent him off to round Cape Good Hope as he attempts to cross the high-pressure ridge in order to reach the Easterly wind flux in order to catch up on the rest of the fleet. Conrad is currently lying some 300 miles behind Raphael Dinelli on Akena Verandas. Conrad encountered some minor teething problems with the rudder this morning, which had not been towed properly, so he was able to disconnect the starboard rudder and realign it to then do a couple of times to change the pilot.

The leading skippers should reach the third waypoint tomorrow and the next 48 hours will throw up some gales and rough seas for the majority of the fleet.

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