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5 February 2001, 10:57 am
A Race to the Finish
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The two leaders still have two days to go against the Nor'Easterly trade winds. Tomorrow the breeze should start decreasing, and slowing them down, as they negotiate the Azores high pressure system, which is currently around Madeira.
After that they will be able to catch the low pressures in the bay of Biscay. After having crossed the Atlantic Ocean from West to East, the skippers will have to cross a small area of light and shifty winds - the famous ridge between the two weather systems . On the latest files, the South Westerly winds are a bit further North than Madeira. If the conditions remain the same until the passage of the competitors , the acceleration will be rapid. From being upwind against 25 knots of wind they will then sail downwind in 25 knots. The conditions will be ideal to cover 400 miles per day at 16 knot average, and they could keep those conditions up to the finish line. This would mean going up along the Spanish and Portuguese coast, and a crossing of the Bay of Biscay at high speeds. In two days we'll know if that scenario will happen or not.

For the time being, the boats are still coming up, and to Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) and Roland Jourdain's (Sill Matines et La Potagere) opinion it is even boring, but laborious for Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) who is tired after hitting a container. "I still have a lot of work to achieve. I am exhausted. Before I can rest I will have to tack after the trade winds. I will be penalized. With only one daggerboard I will have to move from one side to the other at each tack. It's a huge work. I am still racing 100% but I must rest before I arrive in the anticyclone as there will surely be lots of manoeuvres to do".

The three leading boats seems to be the three best upwind boats in the fleet. Even if they are slamming a lot against the waves, they are heading really close to the wind at surprising speeds. Marc Thiercelin's (Active Wear) boat is better downwind and he is suffering, but knowing this lack of performance, he had decided to sail further in the East a long time before crossing the Equator line in order to keep the windward advantage to the fleet. Unfortunately his daggerboards cause serious weather helm and he cannot use them and is making more leeway than the others. "My swing keel and the fact that I can't use my daggerboards make me lose a lot of heading. Sill Matines et La Potagere is faster, and is doing a better heading, I have tried everything but I can't go faster. This situation will be the same until 30° North. I am hoping a lot after that point. When I will be able to sail downwind I will try to catch up."

Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and Dominique (UBP) needs to keep their spirits up . "I spoke to Dominique Wavre last night on the phone. At the end of the day we were both going at 2 knots! We have the same opinions about this system which has blocked us and let the others ahead go free. I must have gybed 40 odd times last night! I've gone 40 miles in more than 2 days! I'm averaging less than a knot. The swell is unbearable and stresses the boat a lot."

Josh Hall (EBP Gartmore) is racing against Mike Golding (Team group 4) and Thierry Dubois (Solidaires) (out of the race since he stopped in New Zealand), as they are on the same latitude. He is making good progress without meeting any problems with his boat. Hearing of Ellen's collision with a container he remembered his own collision during the BOC 94. "I hit a container and it broke the hull, I lost the boat. There are so many containers lost each year, it's a really major problem, but there's nothing we can do "

Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) has also just touched the Saint Helena high pressure system winds. He is racing with Patrice Carpentier (VM Materiaux) and Joe Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du Monde). Italian skipper, Simone Bianchetti (Aquarelle.com) has some good news. "I did well last night. It was nice to pass cape Horn, I was just 60 miles away, and I could see it perfectly. The clouds left a place to the sun to shine, it gave a very beautiful light. It was an important moment and I thought back to when I was 14 years old. It was a liberating moment, because it's not easy to set up a project for the Vendée Globe, especially in Italy where sailing races are not very important. I can't think of a more important moment in my life in my last 10 years than rounding Cape Horn."

Ranking polled at 0855 UTC 2/02/01

Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 11.7 2103 0
2 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 10.8 2174 71
3 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 11.4 2481 378

Philippe Jeantot
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