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9 January 2005, 06:39 pm
Fasten Your Belts! It´S A Real Head-Spinner!
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Vendée Globe

Slowly but surely, the Solent-based yachtsman Mike GOLDING (Ecover) advances and is more likely than ever to seize first place in the rankings in the next few hours. On Sunday, 5th December 2004, while he was sailing south of the tip of South Africa, he was some 811 miles behind.
At the Horn, 31 days later, he was only 250 miles from the leader, who was still Jean LE CAM (Bonduelle). An impressive comeback, which is really livening up this Vendée Globe. In spite of four exciting editions, never have we felt such suspense after 62 days and 18000 miles under their belts. Early this morning the leading trio were only separated by 5.4 miles in the rankings. Listening to them, you get the feeling that it could happen again. All three are ready to go though an incredible scenario: the possibility that they will enter the Bay of Biscay together before the end of the month. Between now and then, we look like we're in for a whole lot of surprises and developments. Fasten your belts. We're on a head-spinner of a journey!

Vincent RIOU (PRB) had a great birthday, but the immediate outcome is clear for him. With a 20-knot wind forcing him to sail upwind at least until tomorrow, his boat cannot compete with Mike GOLDING'S brand new Ecover. The latter does not hide the fact that his boat was designed and built with the Vendée Globe in mind. For Mike this race will be won in the final stretch between Cape Horn and Les Sables d'Olonne.

'I'm not going to go on and on about it, but before the start, I predicted we would find ourselves in this type of scenario. Recent history and other races have shown us that. We're just missing VMI and Bilou (Roland JOURDAIN on Sill et Veolia -edotor's note). They both should be here with us now. Today, it's a new start.'

Jean LE CAM (Bonduelle) isn't really surprised, even if it's a bitter pill to swallow. What he had predicted has not come about.

'They picked up the wind before me. I could see it coming. Since Cape Horn, things have been very one-sided. It's clear they are going to increase their lead shortly. It's in the long term you have to look.'

The long term is the horn of Brazil 2100 miles ahead that they should pass in about a week.

48 hours ago, Joé SEETEN (Arcelor Dunkerque) experienced a deep depression, which until now has been the deepest encountered by the competitors in the Vendée Globe. To avoid getting too close to its centre with winds reaching 80 knots, Joé did not hesitate to head north for 140 miles or so to escape this wild storm. The wind nevertheless got up to above 50 knots with mountainous seas, even in Joé's words, and he is not one to exaggerate.

'Nowadays, thanks to modern communications, you can avoid the worst. It's amazing how things have progressed. 8 years ago, with less efficient weather charts, we ended up with Tony BULLIMORE, Raphaël DINELLI, Thierry DUBOIS (the three shipwrecked victims in the 96 edition). I wouldn't like to imagine what it must have been like closer to the centre.'

So with the storm jib and 4 reefs in the mainsail, the skipper of Arcelor Dunkerque weathered out the storm. For thirty hours almost, he didn't go outside, offering himself two snoozes of 8h30 one after the other.

'The boat was on its trajectory. Inside you're safe. There's no reason why you shouldn't stay calm. Boats and pilots have made considerable progress.'

Joé Seeten sees himself rounding the Horn alongside Nick MOLONEY (Skandia) next Saturday, even if 559 miles separate them today. Like everyone else, he is following with interest what's happening at the front.

'It's fascinating. They are on the same wavelength and having an extraordinary race. It's after the tip of Brazil that the battle is likely to be raging.'

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