The Vendée Globe arrival schedule has been drawn out longer than expected, thanks to largely unco-operative winds in the North Atlantic.
Although it is always difficult to make precise ETA's with sailing, however, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) must be asking himself why he has had such a bad run of weather. The real conditions have effectively kept him from being able to head on the direct route to Les Sables and retarded his arrival by a few days.
The depression, which Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère) caught straight in to the finish at record breaking speeds, didn't pick Marc up on the way in, and following behind was unfortunately a windless abyss. When the wind kicked in it was from the ESE, which forced Thiercelin to stay on a tack pushing him towards England. "I am North of Brittany - can you change the finish line! I shall hopefully tack in an hour and nearer the Brittany coastline reach the NE wind to get me home." Now it is most likely that he will arrive on Monday in the early morning instead of Sunday. Despite the jokey humour, Thiercelin knows the meaning of frustration, considering that he was up with Jourdain at the Equator.
Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée) & Thomas Coville (Sodebo) are at last moving at more than 10 knots, the former simply delighted to see a wake coming out of the back of his boat after 15 days of struggling in weak and shifting winds. Coville makes every kind of analogy to express his feelings about the situation: "It was like my Calvary the day before yesterday. I spent 4 hours going at 0 knots. Thinking about the weather I've had since the Horn just brings out the greatest frustration and sense of injustice in me. It's like being in a prison when you're on a boat with zero wind."
There is still another calm zone waiting for them off the Bay of Biscay, before they reach the North Easterly breeze to bring them home. However, Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool), who has crossed the Azores without a single traffic light along the way, is worrying Coville as they sail in upwind conditions, which his boat is not made for. "She's 300 miles from us now and moving quickly in comparison. She has such a good boat upwind. She'll keep up the pressure right to the end."
Bernard Gallay (Voilà.fr) as well has not been caught up by the calms and is only 10 miles behind the beleaguered Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore): "My position to the West hopefully means I'm not the worst off. It would be nice to pass Josh. Even with Mike the competition is still open, but saying that there's a big gap in longitude between us."
Hall and Mike Golding (Team Group 4) are now mute, neither have enough fuel for the luxury of talking to the outside world anymore. Golding has evidently no wind at all caught in the centre of a small depression at the Azores, whilst Hall & Chabaud are moving either side of him. This is no doubt adding to the stress in this final battle just to get home. After starting 8 days and 4 hours after the rest of the fleet, Golding has astounded the race fleet with his remarkable comeback to 8th place.
Two skippers who are taking pleasure from their circumnavigation are Joé Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du monde) & Simone Bianchetti (Aquarelle.com). The Frenchman is eating meals of cooked flying fish with mustard, whilst 'tip-toeing' up the Atlantic in his 'red cigarette' boat. The Italian, on the other hand, explained that: "Each morning I eat 4 - 5 fish raw with oil, olives and spices. I call it exotic sushi!" Despite repairing a broken genoa tack, the eloquent skipper spends his time helming during the night under starry skies, "talking to Mario (his autopilot) a lot - we tell each other stories from our lives."
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 9.3 243
5 Union Bancaire Privee Dominique Wavre 7.2 594
6 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville 8.42 633