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6 February 2001, 11:28 am
MacArthur Closes - But For How Long?
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The two leading boats in the Vendée Globe have been slowed up by the light airs associated with the Azores anticyclone since Sunday evening. Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB), 1 degree further North, was nearer to the exit door than his direct rival, Ellen MacA...
At one point Ellen had come back to 15 miles behind the leader according to distance to finish, but was positioned in his South East and had not caught the good winds. "I've got no wind. I spent the whole of last night in these light airs. I tried to get the boat moving, what else can I say really. I expect Michel is well placed in the North because there is better wind in the NE, but I'm just doing the best I can." She managed to change her daggerboard over last night to the good side, and now on port tack to the finish in following winds, she should not be hampered by this problem too much. Moreover, her gennaker, although admittedly not 100% effective, is back up, after spending 18 hours repairing it some time ago.

Unfortunately for Ellen the gap will start stretching out again, now that Desjoyeaux has caught his train home. The distance created between them is likely to increase and then hold until the finish. Only now can Desjoyeaux, after 89 days racing, seriously think about taking the crown. The weather seems to be stable enough from here to the finish in theory. In the low pressure systems the wind blows essentially from the South West, building steadily. Expect 40 to 50 knots at the finish line itself.

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) was the fastest boat this morning, signs that he has benefited from steady trade winds, but he can't have his cake and eat it. He lies still in the wake of Roland Jourdain (Sill Matine la Potagere), whom he had hoped to gain an advantage over in terms of longitude to the East. "The boat is moving quickly now but I can't go in the direction I want - it's either one or the other! I hope to come back on Bilou, something has to happen there, I have about 20 hours delay on him in terms of latitude."

Jourdain informed the Race HQ that a temporary glitch with his autopilot caused his boat to swerve violently and the resulting tear in the main sail from a batten piercing the cloth took him 3 hours to repair on deck. He then discovered a ton of water in his forward hold and lost more time and energy trying to pump it dry and source the origin of the leak. Damaged equipment is certainly paying a heavy price as the pace doesn't slack for a moment with all the close battles being waged throughout the fleet.

Mike Golding (Team Group 4) had a big scare when he realised that he was extremely close to dismasting for the second time two days ago. On a casual inspection of the rig he said "I was very shocked to find that the cap shroud was at 10% of the original thickness and I was scared that it would break in my hands." Mike immediately set up a jury rig, using a vectran strop and gennaker halyard to stabilise the rig and allow him to tack back on to starboard and get back into the fight. After a delayed start of 8 days and 4 hours after the rest of the fleet, Golding has sailed a remarkable race, lying in 9th place overall and still threatening fellow Brit Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore).

Hall's biggest fear in this non-stop oceanic race is, strangely enough, the coast of Brazil. "I'm hoping that the wind will turn to the East as I'm trapped here. I'm looking at the weather predictions, one says yes it will go round for me, the other says no! I'll have to go on a bad tack tomorrow and probably lose 100 miles on Mike."

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) has been slowed up by light, fickle winds as well. Two days from Cape Horn he is despairing a little on how many days lie ahead of him. "Even if I'm not making progress on boatspeed, I still have to eat, especially if it's cold. With the strict diet I'm following at the moment I should last up to Les Sables if I eat fish during 8 days. I haven't done any fishing yet."

Ranking Poled at 06.00 UTC 6/02/01

Boat Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB (Desjoyeaux) 15.7 1528 0
2 Kingfisher (MacArthur) 13.1 1650 122
3 SILL Matines La Potagere (Jourdain) 9.38 1946 418
By Philippe Jeantot
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