Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) & Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) have finally escaped from the Saint Helena high. Although they are still feeling its influence, the conditions have stabilised more.
The game was to successfully cross the ridge, and get to the North of its centre in order to reach a regular wind flow. Desjoyeaux was finally relieved to have got going again, after a frustrating week watching Ellen eat his lead up from 650 miles at Cape Horn to a mere 88 miles today. However, he admitted that his slim advantage over Ellen could go either way. "She's got going again too! If the weather looks simple, even if I'm leading by 1 mile or 20 metres, that'll be enough. If it looks complex, we'll have a new start." The two leaders are right now in the North West sector of a low pressure zone and have recovered a good average boat speed and heading. Propelled along by a 10 knot Easterly breeze, these two are heading offshore, with Ellen just to the East.
The four in pursuit are now clearly grouped into two pairs: Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) / Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagere), and Dominique Wavre (UBP) / Thomas Coville (Sodebo). Wavre remarked on this turn of events: "It looks like we'll be match-racing in pairs all the way home!" They are putting everything they have into fighting through the different anticyclonic zones on their route, while the two leaders start stretching their legs and pushing more water in front of their rivals. Wavre concluded that this was the only area where the significant gains were to be made, if any, and that they may be stuck for another two days. Coville, a man with his "hand on the sheet" the whole time, supported this opinion: "The anticyclone is re-forming again. The only boat which passed through successfully is Kingfisher. Ellen has sailed a perfect route."
Looking ahead on the route home to Les Sables d'Olonne, the leading boats, after crossing the Equator, will traverse the Doldrums to the West, which Desjoyeaux analysed as looking "harmless Ð no big surprises there" for them. Then the Northeasterly winds and roughed up, short seas they face head on from the Azores anticyclone to the finish will be the most stressful for the boats, which will have by that stage covered 20000 miles.
Yesterday Patrice Carpentier (VM Materiaux) & Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) passed Cape Horn. Carpentier, on his fourth and last rounding, passed around 2010 UT, just 8 miles away. "It was beautiful and the sky was charged with lightning. It was the one day in the Southern Ocean where I ended up having the most wind!"
Joe Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du monde) passed the legendary cape at 0435hrs UT, but unfortunately for his first time, never saw it: ". I sensed it though. It was full on last night, I had 43 knots of wind. I passed 6 miles from the lighthouse and could vaguely make it out. We were racing downwind in a big sea."
Ranking polled at 0950 UTC 24/01/01
Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 11.6 4241 0
2 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 12.3 4329 88
3 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin 4.87 4628 387