Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) holds onto his fresh lead over the 20 skippers in the Vendée Globe fleet, enhancing it by just a few miles from Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagere) in the last few hours.
Admitting that such a lead can sometimes be more of a burden, Desjoyeaux nevertheless described unusually beautiful sailing conditions. Along with his immediate rival, he is navigating between the Crozet Islands (the archipelago belonging to the Southern French Territories), an experience which is both refreshing and challenging. As well as the sight of land, the skippers are enjoying a temporary pause as they are positioned between two low pressure systems, however, this is equally a very tricky weather zone to negotiate.
Despite the fact that the fleet haven't experienced really extreme conditions yet since crossing the 40th parallel, they all seem ecstatic to be under clear, bright skies, in a lighter wind with an insignificant swell and surrounded by any number of birds. A chance to dry out their sleeping bags, boots and clothing, open the hatches up, after putting up with both the wet and humidity for several days Ð this opportunity won't present itself again in the near future.
The weather is a bit of a headache, as four depressions at around 50 degrees East are blocking the route like a line of badly behaved misfits, and several different ways to get past them are presenting themselves to the fleet. Whether to take the direct route, with light airs, or a route around to the North, which adds on more miles? Each skipper is weighing up the pro's and con's of the different possibilities.
Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations), who is still smarting from his recent calamitous error in weather strategy, can at least hand over the stress ball to Desjoyeaux, who confessed today to be monitoring constantly the boats behind, notably all sailing faster than him, and only able to control Jourdain at the very best. One can well ask what risks and options are the other skippers now prepared to take to supercede the new leader? Interestingly, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) commented, "The thing to have done was to either go South like Dubois or North, but everyone seems to be sticking to the middle road. It's a Figaro sailor's mentality." After seeing Parlier's huge loss, it seems that the fleet prefer each other's company more than they thought.
However, Josh Hall (EBP-Gartmore) has braved it a little further South, and had the mixed blessing of missing 2 icebergs at 48°30 South, and yet marvelling at their breathtaking beauty. His radar was programmed to set off an alarm at 4 miles from any berg, and so he passed 1 mile North of the first one, which he reckoned was 1 km long and 300 metres high. "It was just incredible to see this island of ice, to see the waves breaking against the white cliff face. One hour later I saw another one, the same size. The water was 2°C."
Raphael Dinelli (Sogal Extenso) arrived in Cape Town this morning. The boat is just waiting for the crane to lift it onto a cradle and the countdown begins to get him back on the water in a few days. He is now officially out of the official rankings according the Vendée Globe rules.
Ranking polled 12/12/00
Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 12.9 15553 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 8.15 15649 96
3 Aquitaine Innovations Yves Parlier 11.8 15751 198