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8 December 2003, 11:45 am
Ecover Reclaims Lead
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Le Defi Atlantique
Salvador de Bahia - La Rochelle

ECOVER has made steady gains over the last 24 hours and claims back the lead of the Defi Atlantique.
The fleet is separated into two by hundreds of miles, but the front-runners are separated by a matter of miles and places are changing almost hourly. Watching the developing weather ahead, we will probably see the divided fleet staying divided and the next 24 hours will be crucial to the outcome of the race, as the boats position themselves for tackling the depression north of the Cape Verdes.

Latest Results - 0500 UTC

Position Skipper Competitor Latitude Longitude Dist. to first Dist. to finish
1 Mike GOLDING N140308 W0293698 0 2446.7
2 Vincent RIOU N135560 W0293652 6.5 2453.2
3 Sébastien JOSSE N132612 W0294596 37 2483.7
4 Nick MOLONEY N130956 W0300272 59.1 2505.8
5 Jean Pierre DICK N142192 W0322756 62.2 2508.9
6 Alex THOMSON N143840 W0330636 66.9 2513.6
7 Benoît LEQUIN N104012 W0294712 186.9 2633.6
8 Joe SEETEN N115720 W0322764 188.7 2635.4
9 Benoît PARNAUDEAU N102512 W0325684 283.4 2730.1
10 Anne LIARDET N090828 W0324332 345.5 2792.2

Golding described his recent duel with Vincent Riou. "Until this evening PRB had become another part of the scenery around ECOVER, no matter what time of the day or night it seems that she lurked close by - sometimes in front and some times behind. I have, until now, been unable to find the groove to get away from her. The ballasting on the new ECOVER seems to work in a completely different way to that of the previous boat and - up until now I just haven't found the right combination of sails and ballast which works in these conditions. This is all a part of the learning process but I had begun to feel that I had, had enough of it - it's highly stressful to know that a rival is so close and not to be able to do something about it. The effect is that we push sails a little harder than we might otherwise or make sail changes where we may have been more conservative otherwise. It will be the same for Vincent on PRB, I think during the past days we each made moves which at some level we hoped would separate the boats - it's not worked until today when I found the right gear and was able to move past and away. I don't expect it's the last I will see of PRB but for tonight at least it's welcome break from the tension."

"Yesterday morning we finally cleared the Doldrums and moved into a steady but gentle beat to windward in flat seas, the vicious squalls have gone and are replaced with relative stability. This has allowed me the luxury of three consecutive 40 minute sleeps which felt like a full night and certainly recharged the batteries. This together with a brunch comprising of cereal, fresh fruit, bacon and eggs all washed down with a Vitamin drink (slightly pointless) and a glass of wine (not at all pointless) and I was feeling like a million dollars. Next was to bleed the fuel system on the engine, which ran out of fuel in the last charging session. This turned out to be more difficult than expected as access to the necessary parts of the engine bay is tight to say the least and working in the engine bay at temperature of well over 45C completely wiped me out until I had drunk more than 2 litres of water and rested for a time. Furthermore contact with the diesel has further aggravated the skin on my hands, which have always caused me a problem with the long-term exposure to the corrosive effects of salt water. I wash them with fresh water several times a day but within minutes touching any part of the boat on deck covers them with salt all over again. When my hands are wet now, they look like I have been in the bath for a week, when dry they begin to claw up as the skin dries and drags the fingers closed. I apply all the creams and have even tried "Bag Balm" but the best cure seems to be staying ashore."

"The stability of the current weather does not mean that we are not all constantly making sail changes, even a change as small as one knot of breeze can warrant a sail change. When this happens on an hourly basis the workload can remain very intense. Missing a change will certainly lose miles against the opposition. Getting the change timing perfect will at best hold your position."

"Running the routing from Virbac to Finisterre, I see a difference of just hours, running this on one weather model we are ahead whilst on another we are behind - so it's close. But given where we were a few days ago we have to be pleased to be back fully in the game. If I were to choose where I would prefer to be then I would want to be here, the only uncertainty is the next 24/48 hours where the models are showing a developing depression North of the Cape Verdes but some light, even very light weather as we make the transition across to the better breeze - this is a worry but seems unavoidable. Positioning now to make the best play of it is all I can do, Virbac and AT Racing should enjoy more consistent conditions than us but we shall see."

"The Defi Atlantique may be a Vendee Globe qualifier event for many, but the racing is as good as it gets and the event is proving to be both competitively tough and rewarding in terms of the experience it is affording us all with our respective boats. Putting time on the water like this is the most valuable thing possible for any Vendee project, those who for one reason or another are not here on this race course - they will have a tougher time of it on the build up to the Vendee Globe. One thing is now very clear to me, the best of the well developed last generation boats in the IMOCA fleet are still very, very fast and for those of us blessed with new boats for the Vendee, we cannot expect to get it easy against the best of the current generation of 60's."
Mike Golding and Event Media
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