Now 600 miles from Les Sables d'Olonne, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) should be the Vendée Globe's fourth skipper to finish, although the prevailing weather conditions are not on his side.
The sea may be smooth, but as he explained: "If the heading's not 3 degrees it's 120 degrees. The direct route is 70 degrees! The wind's coming right from the North East. With no genoa I have to tack squarely to the wind almost.. The most frustrating thing is that only 4 days before, Jourdain was cruising at 20 knots directly towards home and breaking speed records." If Thiercelin wants to enter the under a 100 day hall of fame, he has to arrive before 1611hrs French time on Saturday.
Thomas Coville (Sodebo - Savourons la vie) & Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privee) are still finding the wind rather uncooperative. Their close match throughout the Atlantic, has been capturing everyone's attention. Wavre is ever philosophical, admiring beautiful sunsets, even if he is regretting, like Coville, the string of five calm weather systems they have both encountered to keep them from anticipating their finish sooner. The differences between the arrival times for all these top boats will not mark a great difference in performance, more a result of the wind lottery, in which none of the skippers still on the water had the winning number.
Dominique Wavre, knowing that the top three skippers are in, nevertheless paid tribute to those at the back of the fleet: "I think a lot about the skippers behind us too, who won't finish until much later and will go through more hardship than us - hat's off to them."
Thomas Coville, off the coast-line of Santa Maria (Archipelago in the Azores), should tack to avoid the island itself. The wind is heading him as he approaches, and Coville again laments his bad fortune with the weather in this last leg of the race. "You have to realise that Dominique & I have covered 170 miles in 3 days. While Bilou has been breaking the 24 hour record for speed, we are breaking it for slowness."
Mike Golding (Team Group 4), Josh Hall (EBP - Defi PME - Gartmore) & Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) are huddled together, with only 120 odd miles separating them now. They are all in the same weather system, which should prove an exciting final stretch home. Hall explained what's in store ahead. "For us it's a good sign that the anticyclone over the UK, France and the Azores is there now. It should mean a change by the time we get to that region. The extended forecasts show a lot of low pressure activity for next week and we may just have a fast ride in for the final 1500 miles. We will have to wait and see but I am optimistic, like ALL sailors!"
Joe Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du Monde), although just a bit more to the South than Patrice Carpentier (VM Materiaux), has overtaken him in the rankings as his position is more to the East. The upwind conditions suit his narrow 60 footer, but Seeten remains cautious about pushing the boat. "Upwind in the trades, I try not to sail her too hard, but to let her advance as comfortably as possible. I'm enjoying a pleasant regatta with Patrice, we've been crossing each other since the Canaries."
Pasquale de Gregorio (Wind) indicated that he would pass Cape Horn at the end of the day. He will be the last skipper to leave the Pacific and enter the more hospitable seas of the Atlantic.
Ranking polled at 07.00 UTC 15/02/01
Rank Boat DTF DTL Speed
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)