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12 January 2005, 11:26 am
Mike GOLDING Takes Pole Position
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Vendée Globe

<b>UPDATE: 15:00GMT</B> After 66 days of racing and over 18000 miles, British skipper Mike GOLDING (Ecover) has taken the lead of the Vendée Globe for the first time in this long sailing career. In doing so he deposes Vincent RIOU (PRB) and Jean LE CAM (Bonduelle) who have been reigning since the start of the race on 7 November. Mike has a lead of 23.2 miles. The first arrivals are expected in Les Sables d'Olonne between 27 and 30 January.
Mike GOLDING is...0.3 miles from the lead in this Vendée Globe, the suspense on land unbearable, the suspense on the water...indescribable; Vincent RIOU fractionally ahead and Jean LE CAM over 100 miles back down the track.

Symbolically, the conditions up front are stormy and very difficult to anticipate, the top duo in southerly winds in the west and Jean in northerly winds in the east ranging from 5/30 knots. Jean Pierre Dick is in the process of rounding Cape Horn right now, the sixth to make it back into the Atlantic Ocean.

Originally at the head of the fleet Jean has been forced into his easterly option since rounding Cape Horn, Mike and Vincent in a different wind system able to get in more westing. Mike has covered the best distance of the whole fleet in the past 24 hours (333.6 miles) and has been making over 3 knots more boat speed than the leader over the past 4 hours.

Whether Jean's oriental option will reap rewards in the long run is debatable, a ridge of high pressure lying in wait above him. For now at least, it looks like the top duo will have a better wind angle in southerly winds and as the threesome exit the depression Jean may well suffer a further knock back.

Around 670 miles behind Jean, Sébastien JOSSE and Dominique WAVRE are running straight into a ridge of high pressure but it looks like there is some wind in the system and they may be able to make up some ground on the front of the fleet. Dominique is back to within 106.6 miles of Sébastien who is still suffering engine failure aboard VMI.

Jean Pierre DICK on Virbac Paprec is about to become a Cape Horner though the deliverance into the Southern Atlantic is likely to prove rather feisty with 50 knots of wind forecast on zone at present. Given the current wind direction he has ended up going in closer to the Cape than he intended yesterday.

Nick MOLONEY is gliding along in the best conditions he's had in a long, long time. He will soon be caught up by a chasing depression which will give him west then north-westerly winds. For him the Horn is likely to be much easier in terms of wind but his wind angle will be slightly less favourable than that of Jean Pierre. Joé SEETEN is in a great wind system, continuing to rack up over 300 mile days though the residual seas may be proving a little taxing. Just behind him Bruce Schwab and Conrad Humphreys will also be able to make good progress today.

The situation for Benoît PARNAUDEAU looks rather more complicated in north north-westerly winds veering north and then north-east, increasing sharply and suddenly in force. He may have to choose between going south-east into the ice or north into the teeth of a depression. Anne LIARDET looks to be in a good, safe position in the north away from shifty winds while Raphael DINELLI will be able to make ground quickly in rather difficult conditions in south-westerly winds. Bringing up the rear of the fleet, Karen LEIBOVICI is very close now to passing into the western hemisphere with strong, rather unfavourable winds set to catch up with her at the end of the week.

Vendée Globe Media. Image: © Mike Golding / Ecover / Vendée Globe
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