For the leading boats in the Vendée Globe 2000, there is no doubt that this race is a planetary regatta with the hellish rhythm of a transatlantic.
Not a moment to breath, not a single error allowed without paying dearly for it. Each day the skippers eagerly await the position reports to know if their strenuous efforts from just the last few hours have paid off, or if the time, in which they have snatched some precious sleep and reduced sail a little, has not lost them too many hard fought miles.
In the lead still, Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) has worked his way well ahead of the worst effects of a small low pressure bubble, which emerged much to the surprise of his main rival Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagere). He has become temporarily trapped in its centre, and at the last set of positions was still crawling along at 6 knots this morning. In 24 hours Desjoyeaux has pulled out a 165 mile lead over 'Bilou', and third placed Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) is now roughly the same distance behind him. Behind these three, the gaps are extending progressively, and the top 8 boats now count 1000 miles between them.
Will the Pacific Ocean turn the standings around? Anything could happen with 50 days remaining and 12,000 miles to go. Desjoyeaux who is now comfortably ahead will be pleased to know that the others are falling into line behind him, and thus giving him the chance to maintain a loose control of the fleet without risking any dramatic options.
Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) revealed over the radio chat that he has worked out a plan to get his boat past Cape Horn under a further modified jury rig, in order to face the upwind conditions in the Atlantic. In around 8 days he will stop at Auckland Island, 280 miles south of New Zealand, to get some shelter and carry out an operation to join the other end of his mast on top of the current rig and extend it to 18 metres in total. "After 10 days I should be able to set off again with a boat which can reach good average speeds and face the Atlantic. If I don't break the 18 metre mast, I could still add the 10 metre boom that I have. In my head I was programmed to make it all the way round so psychologically, it's some way to keep up my moral, if I'd abandoned, that would have been the final straw for me."
For Thierry Dubois (Solidaires), his main alternator broke down 15 days ago and despite a draconian reduction of his fuel consumption, the battery, which is the power source for all his communications, autopilots and electrics, is no longer charging properly. Thierry is left with having to keep his engine on permanently to charge the one battery left. He did not want to risk that battery failing, which would mean total shutdown on board. "To speak of electronic failure means that to sleep I have to heavily reduce the sail area, even bring the boat to a halt and when the weather's bad that isn't a good idea. From four years ago, I know how a boat travelling at less than normal speed can become vulnerable in these waves. The safest thing is to keep up a good speed and not stop the boat." He is going to put into the fishing port of Bluf in New Zealand for no more than 48 hours to get a new battery and alternator, and set off again, albeit outside the rankings. A solid decision, in terms of safety, and yet a sad one for such a strong competitor in the race.
Mike Golding (Team Group 4) endured one of the worst storms he had been in, with 58 knot winds from the South West screaming in across the deck, coupled with ugly cross waves rearing up in his path and knocking the boat over on its side several times. "It was about as out of control as it can get. I had just the storm sail up and on the surf was still hitting 20 knots! It must sound stressful but I just stuck the pilot on and went to bed - I even had a good night's sleep!"
Pasquale De Gregorio (Wind) informed the Race HQ that after the D1 fitting (bottom left shroud) had broken at the rod inside the shroud bottlescrew, he has spent almost the whole of yesterday fixing it with a replacement spare stay in Kevlar.
Ranking polled at 1000 UTC 27/12/00
Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 13.7 11110 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 6.7 11275 165
3 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 9.84 11453 343