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5 December 2004, 09:30 am
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Vendée Globe

Trying to get on a more northerly route, Vincent RIOU (PRB) has given up the lead to Jean Le CAM (Bonduelle) , who is on a more direct route. Roland Jourdain (Sill et Véolia) is third, 376.5 miles behind the leader.

'It could have been predicted, I knew I was going to lose my pole position' exclaimed Vincent Riou (PRB) during his radio report today. 'But as usual, I did what I felt like doing. In practice, when the water is below 5°, it means there may be ice, but when it's below 2°, the presence of ice is obvious. So when the water gets close to 5°, I try to find other solutions.'

Vincent has thus moved back towards the north and in so doing, has left the Prince Edward Islands to his south. Thus, Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) on a more direct route went back into the lead in the rankings at 3 p.m. He is sailing along below the Prince Edward Islands and currently has a 14.4-mile lead over Vincent. However, the speeds have increased sharply for both of them, reaching 17 knots over a 4-hour period. They are currently sailing in a 30-knot north-westerly and heading towards the Crozet Islands, which lie 400 miles ahead of them. The winds puffing out their sails have given them an even wider gap over Roland Jourdain (Sill et Veolia), Sébastien Josse (VMI) and Mike Golding (Ecover). The Englishman admitted during his radio link-up, «I have the impression that I'm always going where I shouldn't, since I haven't been receiving my weather info, following the problems I've been having with my F standard. It's very frustrating. I'm sailing upwind, while my rivals are downwind. I'm going to lose a lot of miles again today.» If Mike is right, the same will be true for Bilou and Sébastien, who are sailing further north than the direct course and finding less wind too. At 3 p.m., Bilou had dropped back 40 miles from the leaders in comparison to the 10 a.m. rankings and Jojo had lost 60 miles.

For the second group, the almost stationary low situated to the south west of South Africa, is still punishing the yachtsmen… Jean-Pierre DICK (Paprec-Virbac) is still in the lead of this second group, but it is Nick MOLONEY (Skandia) and Marc THIERCELIN (Pro-Form), who managed to make good progress around the north. They are benefiting from favourable winds blowing on the northern edge of the low and have gained two or three places in the overall rankings. Nick is in seventh place this evening and Marc ninth, in spite of major problems with his jib boom, foredeck and foresails. But the worst is reserved for the boats crossing through the centre of the low trying to pick up some favourable winds. They have all tried their luck there and particularly Hervé LAURENT (UUDS) last night: 'The low is sticking with us, and it's impossible to head towards the south west. I'm being forced to head back north to go right around. I'm right in the middle of the low, where I really got shaken about last night. 70-knot winds (130 km/h), 10-12 metre high waves.' He really has paid dearly, as Hervé saw his UUDS go over twice in the storm. 'I don't know how much damage was done during the night, but I've already noticed that the steering mechanism has worked lose. One of the pilots has broken down, and if that wasn't enough, two cans of diesel split open inside the boat. Everything is very slippery inside and it really stinks. What worries me the most is the damage to the port rudder. I really believe that it's loose. Given the current sea state, it's too difficult to get a closer look, but I'm not at all happy about it.'

Conrad Humphreys interview from onboard Hellomoto: 'Hellomoto was sailing at 15 knots in a lumpy sea and 35 knots of northerly wind when it happened. I was at the Nav Station and the boat suddenly jerked to a stop. I immediately ran on deck in order to prevent the boat from crash gybing, which I managed to do. I then proceeded to drop the mainsail fully and check the keel first. It was then I found that the bottom ½ metre of the starboard rudder had been smashed, part of which is the protective crash or false tip, but I'm unsure how much of the rudder itself has been damaged. I can see the skin trailing behind in the water but some of the rudder is still there as it is still steering the boat. It could have been anything in the water that hit, I didn't see. There's no leak of water in the back of the boat so that's good news. Right now I'm sailing on port tack heading 050 towards the direction of Cape Town with no mainsail and just the trinquette at 8 knots boat speed. It's a really lumpy sea and I have to get into calmer waters to assess this damage now as well as the rig. I have a full spare rudder on board but will wait until I can see how much of this one has been damaged to work out what I need to do.'

The list of damage continues rather like a welcoming gift from the southern seas. Raphaël DINELLI (Akena Vérandas) announced to the race directors last night that his lower stay was broken. Raphaël immediately lowered the sail and tried to help the mast by raising the storm jib. Benoît Parnaudeau (Max Havelaar/Best Western) experienced some problems with the batten tips in his mainsail in a 60-knot wind and Anne Liardet (Roxy) has some problems with her computer system, lazy-jacks, vacuum pump and generator. This second group is clearly under a lot of strain, and while out of the limelight, they are currently having a difficult time settling into the southern seas.

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