The British contingent is back in Les Sables d'Olonne, as Mike Golding (Team Group 4) is the next skipper in the Vendée Globe race rankings expected to arrive mid-week.
Not forgetting that Golding originally left 8 days and 4 hours after the rest of the fleet, the big question is whether or not he will arrive before 1548hrs and 49 seconds, on Wednesday 28th February. Only then will he succeed in his goal to record the fourth fastest time overall, ahead of 4th placed Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear), which would be some consolation for this formidable skipper, who was originally considered a favourite to win.
Golding's gradual progress Northwards is by no means effortless in the flukey, upwind conditions prevailing offshore near Cape Finisterre. Just a few degrees further in latitude, he anticipates a better wind to bring him straight home, but meanwhile is finding these last few days ultimately the hardest part of the race. "The times I do get to sail on the direct route are short and sweet. I have no fuel and am left with only pasta to eat for breakfast, lunch & dinner! I'm going at 9.5 - 10 knots on port tack. I changed from genoa to staysail 3 times last night, it's a real nightmare to have to sail through these conditions."
Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) holds a tenuous 20 mile lead over Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore), bizarrely in sight of each other for a while over the weekend. "It was quite amusing, and we spoke over the VHF. Moreover, Josh and I learned to sail with Robin Knox-Johnston, two old pupils neck and neck!" Hall himself has confidence in the upwind performance of his boat, so that when the wind does return, he hopes to pull ahead of Gallay again in the final stretch. To be witnessing such a close match, with still an unpredictable outcome after more than 100 days of racing, is keeping the edge of this Vendée Globe sharp.
Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool), in view of the 40 - 50 storm force winds and big seas expected tonight, has taken refuge in La Coruna until the cold front has swept through. "With an under-canvassed boat and a jury rig, which is not a hundred percent tenable, it seemed a sensible idea to stop again. We shall definitely get off again on Wednesday morning." She hopes to get to Les Sables d'Olonne by Friday.
Meanwhile on land, everyone is now preparing for Thierry Dubois (Solidaires) to arrive tonight before the tide bars him from entering the port after 2130hrs local time. He is optimistic about this latest ETA, sailing at an average speed of 13 knots right now.
Predicted Arrival Times
Thierry Dubois (Solidaires) - Monday 26th - 2030hrs local time
Mike Golding (Team Group 4) - Wednesday - midnight
Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) and Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore) - Thursday
Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) - Friday
1 PRB Desjoyeaux Arrive - 93d 3h 57m 32s
2 Kingfisher MacArthur Arrive - 94d 4h 25m 40s (+ 1d 0h 28m 8s)
3 SILL Matines La Potagere Jourdain Arrive - 96d 1h 2m 33s (+ 2d 22h 5m)
4 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin Arrive - 102d 20h 37m 49s (+9d 16h 40m 17s)
5 Union Bancaire Privee Dominique Wavre Arrive - 105d 2h 45m 12s (+11d 22h 49m 17s)
6 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville Arrive - 105d 7h 24m (+12d 3h 26m 28s)
Ranking at 08.00 UTC 26/2/01
Boat Skipper Speed DTF
7 Team Group 4 Mike Golding 9.01 579
8 Voila.fr Bernard Gallay 6.29 835
9 EBP - Defi PME - Gartmore Josh Hall 1.61 857
10 Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du Monde Joe Seeten 7.43 1309
More information from: www.Vendeeglobe.com Great finish line pictures from: Giles Martin-Raget
Live webcast of all the finishing line action from: www.vizzavivendeeglobe.com