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13 November 2001, 12:14 pm
Multihulls Restart On Threshold To Equator
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Transat Jacques Vabre

At last, the South East Trade winds have lured the leading multihulls out of the Doldrums’ sticky grip.
Still, the sky is full of large cumulo-nimbus, rain clouds, which disturb the smooth descent of these giant carbon speed machines towards the Ascension islands.

The modern capacities of these multi's have meant that in light airs they are not so handicapped, and this has borne out here, leading to a re-launch of the race for the top 6 boats on the threshold of the Equator.

"We've finally got into the SE Trades but the effects of the Doldrums are still plaguing us" confirms the leading skipper, Franck Cammas (Groupama). "Yet another night without sleep and lots of manoeuvring on deck. We are keeping a close eye on the whole fleet on both sides, and feel well placed to windward on port tack, with the occasional tack onto starboard to gain to the East."

At 0900hrs GMT, Groupama was holding the thinnest lead of 2.4 miles, as their neighbouring rival, Kingfisher-Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur) also got free just one degree to the West. A breathable gap of 50 miles behind lies 3rd placed Fujifilm (Peyron/Le Mignon), still not out of the woods. "There's still not a puff of wind and we're exhausted from spending the whole time manoeuvring on deck…"trailed off the thin voice of skipper Peyron.

It seems that the boats near the rum line to the East of 20 degrees West have suffered a predictably longer imprisonment. Yvan Bourgnon (Nautica), a skipper who has passed this way many a time, even commented, "I don't think I've ever experienced such a long period of totally zero winds and we're longing for the breeze, the Trades must come soon!"

Belgacom (Nélias/Desjoyeaux) is furthest South in latitude, but 70 miles from the leader in terms of the direct route. Even Banque Populaire (Roucayrol/Parlier) and Bonduelle (Le Cam/Caraes) are waiting in the wings, in Belgacom & Kingfisher-Foncia's wake, praying for the leaders now to make a slip from fatigue, or for some technical failure to fall upon them first. These unpredictable effects after 3,000 miles of non-stop, ocean racing are unfortunately only too likely.

Mary Ambler/News Editor
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