Three competitors in the Vendée Globe 2000, will have the unique privilege of not only celebrating the New Year twice, but of actually being the first people in the world, perhaps, to see the sunrise of the next millennium.
Coville was struck by the thought this morning. "It's something else other than sport or worrying about rankings, and for that it's a privilege to do the Vendée Globe. Perhaps I'll be the first man on this planet to see the new sunrise." On the other hand, Coville also stated that he couldn't have been more unlucky in this race so far, as he has lost 600 miles on his rivals in the last six days after his succession of disasters.
Next will be Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privee) and 9 hours later Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool), will live through this historical change in time twice in the same life. Chabaud was amused, "We'll be the first and the last to celebrate it actually, as we'll go back to the 31st again!"
Far from occupying their lives with this monumental occasion, the fleet has been concentrating rather on navigating in a very complex weather system, which has dealt them a tricky, softer breeze. None of the competitors can head directly east on the optimum route. So the following options have been unfolding on the water: Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) in the centre, ahead, and further behind, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) in the North. The latter is reaching the best average boat speed, 14.8 knots, and as he predicted yesterday, is counting on this depression for his jackpot to come back into the top three rankings.
Further South, Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines - La Potagere) has not succeeded in closing the gap on Michel Desjoyeaux. Third place Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher), is gradually biting off the miles between her and these two ahead and yet is having to sail at an uncomfortable 90 degrees from the route, much further South, thanks to the wind turning earlier than hoped. The leader himself admitted: "I wouldn't want to be in my friends' places! Sill & Kingfisher are pretty low! I'm going to gain more where I am - fantastic!" We shall soon see whether Ellen's brave tactical decision is going to win or lose in this case.
Catherine noted that she has strangely never had more than 45 knots of wind, Josh Hall (EBP-Gartmore) has had quite the opposite, or really more normal, Southern Ocean experience: never less than 35 knots and up to 50 at times. Unable to shoot directly east in the SSW flow, he has ended up quite far North, just 140 miles off the coast of New Zealand. Despite an earlier anxiety, he is certain that this was a smart move in the end in view of the weather to come: "The wind will turn to the South West and West. I should find a good, comfortable wind angle to get South East." He may not be dreaming of winning the race anymore, but he has caught up considerably on the pack ahead and is intent on getting into the top six.
Mike Golding (Team Group 4) continues to keep on the pace, but has suffered too much gear failure for his liking. Not only does the ongoing problem with his water-maker often leave him quite dehydrated, despite a rain water catch of 50 litres yesterday, but now his battery is not giving enough voltage. So he needs to run the generator when using the systems on board - ie: most of the time. Thus his fuel consumption is the next issue. "It's clear that my chances of a record are very small and what with these technical problems I'll be content to finish. It's a shame, but it was always difficult coming from behind, as you had no gauge on how hard to push and so I've pushed hard and that leads to gear failure."
Thierry Dubois (Solidaires) arrived in Bluff (new Zealand) at 1600hrs local time (0300 UT), where the electrician was already waiting, tools in hand. Now officially racing outside the rules, Dubois is still confident that he made the right decision : "I was probably near to total breakdown and I couldn't have envisaged myself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in that state."
Ranking polled at 0955UTC 31/12/00
Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 10.4 10159 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 10.9 10275 116
3 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 10.3 10315 156