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6 November 2001, 12:36 pm
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Belgacom

Transat Jacques Vabre

The multihull fleet, which left Le Havre, France yesterday at 1250hrs, had already reached the gateway to the Atlantic by 1500hrs yesterday.
Belgacom (Nelias/Desjoyeaux) had taken the lead - incredible that this brand new trimaran, on which Jean-Luc Nelias has sailed for just 11 days since its launch, has covered the English Channel in just 11 hours.

Behind, the pack is chasing hard, and Fujifilm (Peyron/Le Mignon) trails by just 0.4 miles. Back up in third place earlier this morning was Sergio Tacchini (Fauconnier/Proffit). The new generation multihulls are dominating the leading group, however the proven trimaran Kingfisher-Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur) has been match-racing fiercely with Sergio Tacchini, and by mid-morning had pulled ahead. The gap between the leader and 14th placed Pindar Systems (Richards/Von Koskull) is around 97 miles.

In the monohull fleet, the trio of Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain/Le Cleach), Casto-Darty-But (Moloney/Turner) and Voila.fr (Gallay/De Pavant) have been within 2 miles of each other after round Ushant and keeping up similar speeds at around 15 - 16 knots, the top spot changing between them every two hours. Ecover (Golding /Hutchinson) is furthest to the West of the fleet but reaching speeds on a par with the leaders, if not fractionally better.

The battle between old and new boats wages at the top of the Open 50 fleet as well, with One Dream, One Mission (Bennett/Larsen) gaining a 9 mile advantage over the new 50 footer Saving (Le Youdec/Bacave).

The high pressure system dominates the Atlantic at 50 degrees parallel, prolonged by a dorsal which stretches over the Channel. The fleet will benefit from a North Easterly breeze under this ridge, but it should descend towards the Bay of Biscay at the same pace. The multi's will stay ahead, but those boats at the tail end will see a wind shift to the Northwest. The wind strength should reach 15 - 20 knots for the leaders, and we'll start to see the trimaran fleet separating in longitude as they begin to gybe in the Northeasterly breeze.

Top five positions, 1500 GMT November 5 (after the report above was filed, Fujifilm took the lead from Belgacom)

Multihulls:

Fujifilm - 4735.1 (distance to finish)
Belgacom - 4735.2
Sergio Tacchini - 4736.7
Bonduelle - 4738.1
Groupama - 4747.6

Monohulls:

Sill Plein Fruit - 3750.1
Casto-Darty-But - 3753.2
Voila.fr - 3754.6
Ecover - 3769.4
Sollac - 3799.1
Mary Ambler/News Editor
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