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18 February 2005, 03:45 pm
Conrad Just 400 miles From The Finish
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Vendée Globe

British sailor Conrad HUMPHREYS (Hellomoto) has seen his speed shoot up since dawn as he and Joé SEETEN (Arcelor Dunkerque) finally escape the clutches of the anticyclone as it moves off to the West. The duo will see the wind lift from the NE to the NW as the day goes on and they will continue to make good speed.
What may well make the difference in these closing stages of the race is the latitudinal separation of the pair with Conrad now further to the North. The have recently made an average speed of nearly ten knots towards the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne, a line they are set to cross on Sunday. Contrary to the charts, Joé spoke of continuing upwind conditions today, both skippers normally in line for reaching in 15 to 20 knots of N'ly.

Back in eleventh place, Anne LIARDET has successfully managed to free her trapped port daggerboard that has suffered damage to its trailing edge. She has been able to go someway to fixing a leak in the casing and after slowing to just three knots of boat speed over ten hours yesterday whilst hove to, she is back on course again, keen to make up the ground lost on Benoît PARNAUDEAU. Twelfth placed Raphael DINELLI crossed the equator at 0945 GMT this morning, leaving just one competitor, Karen LEIBOVICI in the Southern hemisphere with 3726.1 miles to the finish.

With 410.8 miles to go, the Plymouth-based skipper Conrad HUMPHREYS, unable to be contacted once again as a result of severe energy problems aboard Hellomoto, still has a lead of around 45 miles over the Dunkirk skipper who has chosen to glide along to the South of his rival. Doubtless the two strategies continue to be motivated by the relative failings in their boats. Arcelor Dunkerque is deprived of a solent as well as a trinquette now after it blew out last night in the N'ly air flow in the Bay of Biscay. Hellomoto is sailing with his keel definitively blocked in the centreline and lacking energy for his automatic pilots. A Sunday finish in the middle of the day will be just rewards for their tenacity.

'Things aren't going too badly', said Joé SEETEN (Arcelor Dunkerque) earlier today. 'At least I'm going in the right direction which is good. I am not far from home now. Conditions aren't great right now as despite what the files say we've still got upwind, well I have, I don't know about Conrad. The seas are quite short as the winds have been established for a while. The boat is making good speed. I'd prefer a bigger trinquette right now but I had a squall last night. The wind suddenly got up to 20 knots and blew the sail out. I'm not sure if it's possible to repair it but at the moment I've got 44m2 of sail area up front and could do with about 80. I am nonetheless cheered knowing that there are supporters at the finish from both Dunkirk and Les Sables and if Conrad does get the better of me then that's all part of the game. He's having a hard slog at the moment. It's still a pleasure to be sailing. I think we should arrive during Sunday. The wind should lift a bit before then but for now I'm not on a good heading and there are still lots of unknown elements ahead.'

For Bruce SCHWAB (Ocean Planet), the luxury of his downwind sailing under the sunny skies of the Canaries is over and he is now faced with a NE'ly wind blowing against him off Morocco. He is trying to nurse his boat along as it's been tough going for Ocean Planet after 23000 miles of sailing. His ultimate goal is to be the first American to complete the Vendée Globe and he is now just 935.9 miles from achieving that.

Anne LIARDET (Roxy) has got back on course again in a trade wind that is gradually easing. She has managed to free her damaged port daggerboard and plug the leak in the daggerboard casing. 'I am very proud to have lifted up the daggerboard. I made a type of hook with a karabiner and managed to get hold of it. I then hoisted it out by linking it up with a sheet going round the bow of the boat and the winch. There are two cracks on the front of the casing measuring sixty centimetres and another on the lower part of the rear of the casing where the material had come unstuck. I really had to plug the leaks with a substantial amount of Sikaflex. There's still a little bit of a leak but it's nothing I can't deal with. I'm really looking forward to getting underway on the right tack again as during the 10 hour repair I was hove to making 3 knots of S'ly. I'll finish making the boat watertight when I'm on the favourable tack again but for now I'm still making 9 knots at 45 degrees to the wind and am not having my course penalised too much. I'm in good spirits and as Sir Robin Knox Johnson said: 'If you finish, you're a winner!'

Twelfth placed Raphaël DINELLI crossed the equator at 0945 GMT this morning but is being severely hounded by storms as he trucks slowly through the doldrums. Backrunner Karen LEIBOVICI (Benefic) is 3726.1 miles from Les Sables d'Olonne today and less than 300 miles to the SE of Recife with cracked sheets in the trade winds. Having covered 239.4 miles over the past 24 hours, just about a mile more than Conrad HUMPHREYS, she has made the most distance of the fleet.

Event Media (As Amended by ISAF)
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