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8 March 2001, 11:09 pm
Vendée Globe
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The Vendée Globe is not over and Les Sables d'Olonne is preparing for the arrival of the first Italian skipper, Simone Bianchetti aboard
Situated a few miles off Cape Finisterre and 460 miles from the finish itself, Bianchetti is due in this weekend.

When he does cross the line, Bianchetti will become the first Italian skipper to have accomplished a solo, non-stop circumnavigation. Simone has had to slow his pace up recently because of a problem with longitudinal movements from his keel. He prefers to bring his boat home safely: "A few days from the finish, it doesn't bare thinking about, having to abandon the race so close to achieving my dream."

Half of Italy is decamping to Les Sables d'Olonne tomorrow to welcome Simone in on Saturday afternoon - including inhabitants from his home town of Cervio. "I'm not really thinking about the finish, for me it's the end of one story and I shall start from zero again. It will be like a new start. I have so many things I want to do! But I have cut my hair and shaved - for my mother! I'm starting to tidy the boat up too."

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) is bending round the Azores anticyclone, between Madeira and the Canaries right now. "Beautiful weather out here, summer temperatures, blue sky, puffy white clouds." This has given him time to reflect on the important things in life: "I've come up with a dream menu for my arrival: foie gras with a glass of Sauternes, steak and chips with a fine drop of Saint Emilion or Medoc, a green salad, cheese platter, summer fruit, some fondant fancies, and then one bar of Lindt chocolate and one of Côte d'Or with hazelnuts."

Dr. Chauve, the Vendée Globe's official Doctor, however, advised Yves on the radio chat to start with a more dietetic meal in order to rehabilitate his stomach from that of a 'castaway' to a normal digestive state. Parlier didn't want to listen to the good Doctor, however, and he promised that he would describe in detail his daily menus of fish and seaweed from the last few weeks, whilst eating the menu of his choice to all who could stomach it.

The other Italian still racing, Pasquale de Gregorio (Wind) should take secondary honours in a couple of weeks, as second Italian and second Open 50 to finish. Unable to sail on the direct route yet, he is making steady progress, but tacking his boat at the mercy of the shifting winds: "Today the option was to go about the eastward possible until I would have found favorable winds. By noontime though, the dying NE wind forced me to tack back, squeezing us into a bare 0 degrees heading."
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