It seems that at sea as well as on land, the peaceful break of Christmas is being respected by practically everyone.
The Vendée Globe race HQ is unusually quiet and as for the radio chat, only Dominique Wavre (UBP) responded. Several skippers were on other calls - undoubtedly running up some serious Sat B phone bills to loved ones at home.
Fortunately, the weather conditions are not extreme. Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) was talking about 44 - 55 knots, a good strong Westerly. The leaders are in more pressure as they are at the front of the depression. At the back, the wind is slightly variable. The elements themselves are so far giving the skippers everything they wanted for Christmas, a relatively uneventful time.
It isn't so much the wind, but the magnetic fluctuations, which are effecting the boats, due to the proximity of the magnetic pole. The compass in turn feeds incorrect information to the autopilot, and it becomes impossible to steer the boat without throwing her off course up and downwind. This was the lot of Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear). Thierry Dubois (Solidaires), by fax this morning, indicated to us that he couldn't pick up the telephone because he has had to helm for hours to stop these magnetic disturbances from veering the boat off its set course.
Mike Golding (Team Group 4) has finally found the respite in conditions to climb the mast and effect the repair on his genoa furler. He spent an hour up on high, drifting off the coast of the Kerguelen Islands, during which he saw penguins diving near the boat and it even started snowing. Golding was pleased to have got the boat back on course and sailing to her full potential with the Genoa in operation once again.
Dominique Wavre described the beautiful sailing conditions. "Even if I would like to have more wind, it's so pleasant to have the sun shining with a steady 20 knot blow. All the sails are up, main and gennaker, and the boat's maintaining 11 - 15 knots. I'm using this time to go up front and re-sew the staysail, which has got a bit tattered."
Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations), although still not in contact by telephone, is reaching 8.65 knots. He is no doubt working intensively to improve on his jury rig and this speed is surely some resulting indication.
Ranking polled at 0955UTC 24/12/00
Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 15.4 12053 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 7.99 12092 39
3 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 16.3 12307 254