For the two leaders in the Vendée Globe 2000, Michel Dejsoyeaux (PRB) & Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagere), an unexpected Christmas present will be given to them this afternoon. Father Christmas will place at the foot of their mast their certi...
Until now, these two were sailing away from Les Sables d'Olonne, but at around 1545 hrs (French time) Desjoyeaux will have officially crossed this point and be on his way back towards the home port, with Jourdain not far behind. They have covered 11948 miles, and the same distance to the finish remains.
The whole of the Pacific Ocean lies open ahead of them, and even though in general this ocean is renowned for its clement weather, as soon as you sail below the 40th degree parallel in the South, it is certainly not the case. Low pressure systems follow one another, legendary waves give the boats a rough ride and the freezing temperatures paralyse the skippers. So far the fleet has remained between the 40th and 50th degree parallel throughout the Indian Ocean. On the other hand, in the Pacific the centres of these depressions are further South. The route will be shortened if they descend lower, however, this brings the obvious risk of icebergs and opposing winds.
Cape Horn is at 56 degrees South, so they will all have to descend at some point. The leading 10 boats are all across into the 50's and are gently slipping further into the deserted wastes of the Southern Ocean. Their only bitter companions, the freezing cold and the strong winds, have not stopped them from finding the time to celebrate Christmas.
Michel Desjoyeaux described his special Christmas meal of foie gras and duck, but stayed off the champagne. "No-one else to drive the boat so I think I'll stay sober." Ellen MacArthur, despite having to climb the mast to replace the gennaker halyard yesterday, was delighted this morning to discover that she was in third place on Christmas Day, and added, "The best present has been a fantastic weather forecast."
It seems that the Brits were definitely the most festive. Both Ellen and Josh Hall (EBP-Gartmore) had decorated their cabins to cheer themselves on a day when they admittedly would prefer to be with family. Ellen set fire to her Grandmother's Christmas pudding with rum, while Josh had opened a bottle of whisky and was about to settle down to watch his new DVD film of 'Independence Day'. Mike Golding (Team Group 4), relieved to have his genoa up and working, was listening to Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' when he was called by the Race HQ, as he celebrated his 5th Christmas at sea. On a more serious note, though, some 400 mile behind the position required to set a course record, Golding's New Year resolution seems to have been decided early, "I have to push and if the boat breaks it's over. It's not meant to sound 'Gung-Ho' but it's best just to get on with it."
In the next few days the fleet will have a 40 knot Westerly wind with violent gusts. These are strong but normal conditions. Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) has yet again succeeded in improving his jury rig sail configuration. This morning he was clocked at 11.2 knots, the same speed as the other boats nearby, confirming that in such strong weather the fully rigged boats will have reduced their sail area to the same as Aquitaine Innovations, thus giving similar performances. The worse the weather is, the better the chance for Yves to stay in touch with the fleet.
Ranking polled at 1000 UTC 25/12/00
Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 13.4 11716 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 13.5 11788 72
3 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 13.4 11994 278
More information from: www.Vendeeglobe.com
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