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1 February 2001, 01:09 pm
Fedor Konyukhov Retires
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Vendée Globe fleet leader, Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB),now has less than 4000 milese remaining to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne. At an average of 10 knots, he should arrive in the Vendéen port in 16 days, which means around the 10th February. Between ...
After Desjoyeaux and second placed Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) yesterday, the Saint Helena high pressure system has released a few more prisoners. The following four boats have felt the North Easterly breeze building, enabling them to head North at last. No great boat speeds are being clocked, but every mile gained to the North is invaluable now for them.

The two leaders are reaching 13 and 12 knots, fairly impressive speeds considering that the wind has barely stabilised in direction or strength. However, it's not a cruise in these irregular Easterly winds. Ellen remarked briefly, "Life's not at all easy. Right now I've got a lot of work on deck to do", and at that had to excuse herself to get back up and fine tune the sails to the shifting breeze.

Third placed Mark Thiercelin (Active Wear) regards both Kingfisher and the boat of his nearest rival, Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines la Potagere), as "atomic on pure boat speed". No wonder then that Jourdain today was puzzled as to how Thiercelin has got further ahead of him, 86 miles to be exact. The average boat speed of this pair as they struggled through the recent light airs however has not matched that of the leader as they slip further behind him by over 500 miles. Thiercelin had worked it out. "We haven't slowed up for as long as Michel, but he was always managing 6 knots as an average and for us it's more like 4 knots."

As soon as a skipper leaves the cold and humidity of the high latitudes and the first rays of sun beat down, the first desire is to air out the boat, dry off all the clothing and of course have a head to toe shower! In the Southern Ocean life was lived cramped up inside the cabin, but now the temperatures are rising, they are spending most of their time on deck as it becomes too stuffy to remain inside. Consequently, their bodies have had to rapidly adapt to the effects of yet another sharp change of season, during their circumnavigation of the planet.

Ellen has washed and cut her hair, while "Bilou" (Jourdain) cheekily admitted: "I had 4 or 5 showers yesterday, the water was about 26 degrees, turquoise blue. It's quite refreshing to be naked under the sun!" He hastened to add: "the smell coming from the food boxes locked inside the cabin after 3 months at sea had started to become a little overpowering." Mike Golding (Team Group 4) finds that life has improved enormously for one simple reason. " I can sleep with the velcro hatch cover open now to air out the boat properly."

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) is alone 'doing time' in the calm airs of the anticyclone. "I have hardly slept. I was looking for the wind last night. I did a lot of manoeuvres last night and was looking for the wind with the auto pilot." She will miss out on a low pressure system to the East and will have to cross another high pressure zone ahead, "in total it will be 3 or 4 slow days including today," she concludes.

Mike Golding is loosely keeping to the East of the pitch to avoid a high pressure zone heading over from the South American coast and has fellow Brit Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore) in his sights, cutting down his distance behind to a mere 197 miles now. Hall likewise is looking ahead at gaining serious ground before the North Atlantic on Chabaud. "If I can lose 1000 miles in 2 weeks due to the weather, so can she!"

On a sadder note, Russian skipper Fedor Konyukhov (Modern University for the Humanities) has officially announced his retirement from the Vendée Globe. He sent a letter to the Vendée Globe race office to say that, 10 days after his first kidney troubles and serious technical problems, he has decided to stop in Sydney, Australia. "I endured very bad storm, the third one in the last 10 days, which completely destroyed everything that I had repaired before. It was a test storm for myself and the boat. Now I am sailing under staysail, heading to Sydney. Due to my health problem and sail damage, I will have to stop in the port to repair the boat and receive medical attention."

When he reaches port in Sydney, Fedor will officially be retiring from the race, the rules clearly stating that it is 'non-stop, without assistance'. Fedor added that he would not continue the Vendée route back to Les Sables d'Olonne afterwards. Taking into account the length of time he is behind the fleet, he knows that most of the skippers racing would all be in the North Atlantic by the time he reaches Sydney. Fedor is the 8th skipper to announce his retirement from the Vendée Globe. A true adventurer in spirit and life, Fedor was the first Russian competitor to participate in the Vendée Globe and has had many followers throughout the world marking his progress during the race with admiration.

Ranking polled at 0850UTC 25/01/01

Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 13 3949 0
2 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 12 4045 96
3 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin 10.9 4461 512

By Philippe Jeantot
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