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14 February 2001, 11:59 am
Desjoyeaux Closes In On Ultimate Victory
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Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) appeared overjoyed on this morning's radio chat with the Vendée Globe Race HQ. The favourable weather conditions indicate a rapid approach to the finish line. PRB is going to benefit from 20 - 30 knot Southerly winds. Making a ...
Desjoyeaux, sailing his first Vendée Globe, has sailed a faultless race. Always up in the top pack, he has controlled the fleet, calmly waiting for his hour. After sitting in Yves Parlier's (Aquitaine Innovations ) wake for a long time, he slipped into first place in the Indian Ocean after negotiating a good option on the weather. He only then lost his command for two brief instances, and by Cape Horn he had managed to put himself ahead by what was thought to be an irreversible 640 miles. The worse effects of the Saint Helena high pressure phenomenon allowed his nearest rivals to dissolve this gap, Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) even taking the lead from him for a day at the Equator. However, he succeeded in escaping the Doldrums first and since has managed to create a sufficiently comfortable gap for him to sail more serenely to the finish.

This morning Desjoyeaux was 499 miles from the finish, with 237 miles over Ellen in second place. Looking forward to the victory that awaits him, Desjoyeaux commented. "80% of the result was done before the start. The technical choices, the preparation of PRB, the knowledge of the boat were all determining factors, even if I could have sailed much better. The turning point was in the Indian Ocean. I think we've smashed the record because we've had good conditions on the whole of the course. We had the biggest storm the day before yesterday."

Ellen MacArthur herself was low in moral again after suffering yet another setback in the final run to the finish. "I don't have a boat which works at 100% because I've broken the genoa stay. It happened two days ago: the stay broke when I was furling in the sails to head closer to the wind. Yesterday I sailed with one reef and the solent nearly all day, which explains why I've dropped back in miles behind Michel. I couldn't put up full main sail, because if there had been any further problems it could affect the stability of the mast. In just these last three weeks I've hit a container, broken a rudder, and now the stay!"

This has of course put a small delay on her ETA in Les Sables d'Olonne, and she is now hoping to be in late on Sunday or even very early on Monday morning. Already waiting for her on shore in Les Sables d'Olonne are an unprecedented number of international media, who have descended on this French coastal town just to witness her finish, her own story over the last 3 months inspiring thousands worldwide.

The race is far from over for those behind. Two skippers are still in the Pacific Ocean, rapidly approaching Cape Horn. The majority of the fleet are scattered over the South & North Atlantic. All the skippers have been speaking of race leader Michel Desjoyeaux with a great deal of respect for his performance and talent. The Vendée Globe is, as Ellen phrased it this morning, "the biggest, most beautiful and extraordinary thing" a sailor could ever experience. For all, just crossing the finish line is, in its own right, a personal victory. To finish first is heroic, but then to pulverise the existing record of 105 days and 20 hours and under the 100 day barrier is to become a legend. Michel Desjoyeaux has assuredly become the first sailor in the history of navigation to have won a solo round the world yacht race under 100 days. If he is to cross the line at 1600hrs tomorrow, he will have completed his course in 92 days, 23 hours and 49 minutes.

Ranking polled at 06.00 UTC 10/02/01

Rank Boat Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB (Desjoyeaux) 11.2 117 0
2 Kingfisher (MacArthur) 14.7 412 295
3 SILL Matines La Potagere (Jourdain) 18.2 1125 1008
Philippe Jeantot
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