The anticyclone centred over Ireland may be bringing the North Easterly breeze and good weather over the Atlantic coastline, but is not bringing the right conditions to the skippers still on the race course in their final stage of the Vendée Globe.
Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) has been heavily penalised, forced to tack square to the wind offshore. He has even passed to the North the latitude of Les Sables d'Olonne, and as the wind shifts back to the South East, he is approaching Les Sables at more than 10 knots speed but 40 degrees from the direct route. "At the moment I'm heading for England! I'm waiting for the North Easterly shift, which will allow me to finish on the direct route to Les Sables d'Olonne. I won't get there for Saturday though - I've gone through my period of mourning for the 100 day record. It felt bad."
Marc Thiercelin is expected in during Sunday, however it is impossible to predict an exact timing. Depending on the wind, his home run could be either direct or a long winding road. The same goes for the next too competitors, Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privee) & Thomas Coville (Sodebo), both just under the 1000 mile mark today.
Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) on the other hand, is profiting from better winds and on a more direct heading. She is happy to see that this wind of change has been kind to her. "My Westerly position should be an advantage. I hope I'll hold on to the wind but I risk being becalmed for a day or two. It's motivating me to see the miles I'm gaining." Thanks to a problem with her water-maker, all the freeze-dried food she eats tastes too salty, and the rainwater she has collected through her synthetic sails also has a peculiar palette. Instead of the requisite champagne bottle at the finish Catherine admitted, "what I really dream of is a bottle of mineral water!"
Mike Golding (Team Group 4) is no longer lacking water, but like Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore), is running short of fuel. It is certain that these last days in the Vendée Globe will be no less laborious for Mike, who has been having to helm a lot to economise on the autopilot power consumption. Golding didn't appreciate the 40 knot blow on his nose last night. "I was sailing under 3 reefs, staysail, trying to slow the boat up so that nothing would break. Now there's 9 - 10 knots, but we'll see a big breeze coming in again in 36 hours, Josh and I. The wind is still variable, the sea quite rough so it won't be a smooth ride at all. The Atlantic is a never-ending road!"
Didier Munduteguy (DDP - 60eme Sud), a skipper in the Vendée Globe for a longer haul than those ahead of him, has managed to catch up on his sleep after his arduous Southern Ocean experience. "I'm getting more pleasure out of this trip again, the stress of the Southern Ocean has disappeared. I've been able to air the boat out and am just wearing a light layer of thermal clothing now. It's a radical change, the sea and air temperature rising quickly. I intend to enjoy the next month of sailing and hope to bring the boat in around the 20th March."
Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) was the fastest boat in the fleet this morning, at nearly 15 knots whilst everyone else was sailing at no more than 10 knots. Impressive performance under jury rig by our Castaway skipper, Parlier, who joked: "It's a jury rig, but still a racing one!"
Ranking polled at 0900UTC 16/2/01
Boat Skipper Speed DTF
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 10.3 543
5 Union Bancaire Privee Dominique Wavre 6.19 994
6 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville 4.91 1080