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16 February 2005, 04:34 pm
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Vendée Globe

Conrad HUMPHREYS took back the controls in the Bay of Biscay yesterday night and has since stretched out his lead to 25.3 miles at 1500 GMT today, the intrigue and intensity of their duel as exhilarating as ever after 101 days at sea.
Unable to contact the Plymouth skipper once again it is impossible to say for sure the mindset aboard Hellomoto, but clearly Joé SEETEN is feeling the pressure to the NW of him in the clutches of a vast sprawling anticyclone. He has a very rough ETA of Saturday night or Sunday. American Bruce SCHWAB is making good headway to the West of the Canaries already setting himself up for when he heads round Cape Finisterre. At the tail of the fleet nearing the horn of Brazil, Karen LEIBOVICI is more optimistic about her energy problems aboard Benefic today. She is 4184.4 miles from the finish.
Unable to get through to Conrad HUMPHREYS aboard Hellomoto once again today, Joé SEETEN (Arcelor Dunkerque) joked of propaganda aboard the British boat. The French skipper has lost his lead overnight, Conrad streaking 25 miles into the lead with more air pressure as the Joé continues to hold out for a NE'ly windshift, slowed dramatically by a high pressure system. He has made just 82.3 miles over the past 24 hours, while Conrad has made 121.3 miles with about 3 knots better VMG. "I have been completely slowed by the anticyclone and I can't get out of it. I've had some very shifty winds that have been making things very difficult so I've been zigging and zagging. The seas aren't very big as there is no wind. I have no more than 4 to 12 knots and it's irregular both in strength and direction. It's difficult to anticipate the upcoming wind shift and I zigzagged 3 /4 times yesterday. I'm working the wind right now and keeping an eye on the information from the wand and the autopilot. I have a good pilot which does my job for me so I can spend some time on trimming my sails correctly. As the wind isn't stable at all I have to calculate and react to the shifts to correct my trajectory. I feel a bit tense. I'm not someone that gets worked up about things and there's no point as I there's nothing I can do about it."
Less than 600 miles behind the duo, American skipper Bruce SCHWAB on Ocean Planet is enjoying the favourable downwind conditions off the Canaries making good 10 knot averages with the best VMG of the fleet. "It's sunny now and it was an interesting night. I had many squalls but they weren't too strong. Conditions were very shifty but I had wind all night which was good. I hope I don't get stuck now. There looks to be a NE'ly wind kicking in tomorrow and then I'll be beating. There have been some pretty rainbows and light rain and there was a beautiful sunrise. I'm an opportunist and I was given the gift of this low. I needed a break from the upwind anyway." Already looking at the situation ahead Bruce seems to have got things mapped out for the next few days. He is longing to get to Les Sables d'Olonne and is still hoping that an American sponsor is going to jump in and finance his ecological and educational Ocean Planet project. "The boat's ok I think - there's nothing in any trouble which is a good thing as it looks like I've got several days of upwind ahead. I don't think I'll have anything more than 25 knots though. I'm hoping for a better wind angle to get past Cape Finisterre and am not keen to go as far North as Joé and Conrad. I'll definitely be closer to the continent it depends on what conditions I get in 4/ 5 days time as to whether I point or foot off when heading NE. I'll either be close-hauled or foot off and then there's a front to negotiate on the 20th or 21st. If I'm close to the coast I'll definitely be upwind."
Kate Jennings (As Amended by ISAF)
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