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28 April 2005, 03:36 pm
So Close
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Trophée BPE

Leader, Eric DROUGLAZET (FRA) is within 30 miles of the finish at Cienfuegos de Cuba, but is creeping along at just over four knots. Twenty miles behind him Charles CAUDRELIER (FRA) is two and a half knots faster but seemingly just too far back to catch the long time leader.
After a painfully slow morning with the majority of boats averaging no more than 2.5 knots, speeds across the fleet have increased. At the 1400 hours GMT poll just DROUGLAZET, Sam DAVIES (GBR) and last place, Anotonio PEDRO DA CRUZ (CPR) were sailing at less than five knots.

In the early hours of this morning DAVIES on Skandia was finally fast reaching with the asymmetric spinnaker but this did not last long. The whole fleet came to a virtual standstill with the leading boats having a boatspeed of no more than 1.5 knots.

Despite this drop in speeds this morning DROUGLAZET, aboard Credit Maritime-Zerotwo, has more or less managed to hang on to the comfortable he established yesterday. At the 1400 poll he was 21.8nm ahead of CAUDRELIER on Bostik, a slight loss on the 25.8nm separating the pair this morning.

CAUDRELIER's closest battle is with third place Gildas MORVAN (FRA) on Circle Vert. The two are just 0.4nm apart although so far CAUDRELIER seems to have been able to hold off the attentions of the pre-race favourite. Dominic VITTET (FRA) on ATAO Audio System is looking comfortable in fourth, but it has been another bad 24 hours for DAVIES who is now sixth having dropped behind Marc EMIG's (FRA) Total. Just a mile and a half back at the 1400 poll, Yannick BESTAVEN (FRA) and Armel TRIPON (FRA) are breathing down DAVIES' neck.

The light conditions are making it very difficult to predict an ETA for the fleet and middle-table finishing order, 'My weather forecast says we should finish in 24 hours. There is a little bit of wind coming which is due to die again this afternoon, and it looks like it will stay light going into this evening.'

Before arriving in Cienfuegos, the fleet have to sail six miles up a narrow channel, to the bay 'Bahia de Cienfuegos'. The only thing that looks certain is that DROUGLAZET is likely to enter the channel first, which at it's narrowest is just 100 metres wide - great for spectators but stressful for skippers! If it looks like the wind will remain light for this passage, the race organizers have the option of moving the finish outside the channel.

The Trophée BPE race organizers had an ETA for DROUGLAZET between 1500-1800 GMT today - but only if the wind improves.

Offshore Challenge (As Amended By ISAF). Image, DROUGLAZET is expected across the finish line tonight:© Benoit Stichelbaut/DPPI
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