The three leading boats are to the South of a large anticyclone, in a very complex low pressure system, which is evolving quickly in changeable winds.
It's not proving easy to find the best route in this system. Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) and Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagere) have come off worse, but British skipper Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) has manoeuvred herself through exceptionally well, and has slashed the distances ahead to just 50 miles behind Jourdain and 163 behind Desjoyeaux. She explained, "I followed the low pressure to get the Southerly winds. Thomas did the same but was less lucky and lost a few miles. I was also lucky that the two ahead were stuck by a little ridge."
In the second group of four boats, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) has taken the most Northerly option and should thus be the first to reach the new low pressure arriving from New Zealand. He is heading North East to try and get into good following winds. In comparison, the three leaders more to the South should see the centre of this depression pass them to the North and hand them some less favourable wind for a more uncomfortable point of sail. Thiercelin commented, "I'm counting on this system to come back on the leaders. I hope it's my jackpot and I'm lying in wait in these lighter airs knowing that soon I'll get going again."
Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privee) is in the same pack as Thiercelin, but this skipper, known for his weather strategy, lies in the South West of the playing field, and like Whirlpool & Sodebo, is nearly becalmed. Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr), has also been yearning for stronger weather to arrive. "I remember much harder conditions in the Indian Ocean 8 years ago. It's comfortable sailing, ten days of moderate North Westerly winds but it's costing me dearly - Josh Hall has taken 500 miles." He has even been surpassed in the rankings by the leading Open 50 VM Materiaux, the 'yellow boat' skippered by Patrice Carpentier.
The one skipper not complaining of the lack of muscling conditions is Brit Josh Hall (EBP-Gartmore), who was just yesterday still in 40 knots, albeit on an uncomfortable angle, escaping from the chasing high pressure, and consequently gaining on everyone ahead. "I have been pushing to stay in this air stream since Christmas Eve. We are travelling east at nearly the same speed as the system but an embedded cold front is really kicking my ass".
The other Brit profiting from the weather situation is Mike Golding (Team Group 4), who was briefly reported to be feeling very motivated with the news of the boats slowing ahead. He is cracking along at nearly 15 knots and sorting out the technical problems with his water-maker and generator.
Thierry Dubois (Solidaires) is due to reach Bluff, New Zealand, at 0800 hrs (NZ time) on the 31st December, and all his replacement parts have arrived in time for his stop-over to remain within its 48 hour time frame. The Race HQ has not communicated an updated ranking for Russian Fedor Konyoukhov, as his positioning beacon has not been located by Argos in the last 24 hours. As soon as we receive his position we will update the official website.
Ranking polled at 1000 UTC 30/12/00
Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 13.7 10398 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 10.2 10510 112
3 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 12.7 10561 163