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28 November 2004, 10:47 am
Tough At The Top
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Vendée Globe

The Vendée fleet can be split in four parts: the two leaders are entering the low-pressure areas in the Deep South, a second group with Ecover and Hugo Boss is located in a transitionary zone between the high and the southern lows, a third group with Hellomoto and Ocean Planet is still in the anticyclone, and finally the last group with Brother is sailing in the easterly trades.

While they are all going on the same route, the sailing conditions they are facing are extremely varied. Vincent Riou (PRB) et Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle), the present leaders, are continuing to increase their lead with each check-in. 3 or 4 knots extra speed per hour is enough to lead to 96 miles extra on the mileage gauge after 24 hours. Vincent Riou (PRB) currently has at 3 p.m. a lead of 13 miles over Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle). A drop in the ocean compared to the gap that they have established over Roland Jourdain (Sill et Veolia) in third place, who is currently 398,1 miles from the leader. In a few hours, they will be entering the series of lows, which turn around the Antarctic, which marks a turning point with cold weather, a large swell, ice and storms.

Behind, the hunt is on. Mike Golding (Ecover) is part of the first group of chasers, including Sill et Veolia and VMI. He is finding it tough to get out of the St. Helena high and today at 3 p.m. was 551,4 miles behind the leader. Like those in front, he is firstly finding a 10-knot west-north-westerly generated on the southern edge of the high. As he makes his way south, the stronger the wind will become, until he also enters the low- pressure systems. While Mike seems to be out of trouble, he is going to struggle to regain the miles he has lost, which have been increasing steadily with each position chart. Alex Thomson is facing the same conditions (Hugo Boss). He is currently gliding along in a 12-knot wind with the spinnaker and full mainsail. Alex finally made it out of hell after a terrible day yesterday. At 3 p.m. he was 751,8 miles behind the race leader. Further to the west than the others, he is sailing in a wind three-quarters aft and was making faster headway than Mike (Ecover) according to the latest positions. 200,4 miles currently separate the two British yachtsmen.

Behind, while the situation is, and will be, less and less difficult, the miles they have lost are nevertheless still increasing. The speed of the boats is crucial and most of the fleet is making very hard work of it. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) has escaped and soon it will be the turn of Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec), Dominique Wavre (Temenos), and finally Bruce Schwab (Ocean Planet). Moving off gradually to the east, the St. Helena high will let go firstly those, who were furthest west. The situation is likely to be trickier for Marc Thiercelin (Pro-Form), Joé Seeten (Arcelor Dunkerque) and Conrad Humphreys (Hellomoto), who was 837,9 miles behind at 3 p.m. today, off to the west of the fleet. For the moment, they are still struggling with the high and its wind holes. Crossing a high is such a risky business that it is impossible to know whether the aforementioned will find the way out.

Finally, the group at the tail end including Norbert Sedlacek on Brother (1701,6 miles from the leader) is continuing to sail in easterly trades along the Brazilian coast. With a 10-15 knot wind on the beam, which should accompany them around the St. Helena high, which is gradually moving off to the east and the African coast as the days go by. Those bringing up the rear will be able to catch up a little with the rest of the fleet, which will have struggled for five days or so in this anticyclone trap.

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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