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A HARD DAY'S NIGHT- LACK OF RHYTHM AND SLEEP SOUTHERLY GROUP GAIN ADVANTAGE AFTER FRONT PASSES

by Philippe Jeantot on 13 Nov 2000







Although the first two days of racing has been relatively comfortable with 15 ­ 20 knot Southwesterly winds,
plus a few downpours, the notorious reputation of the Bay of Biscay didn¹t fail to deliver the usual
combination of high winds and nasty seas overnight. The skippers were all impatient to see the front pass,
and the new Northwest winds arrive in place of the head on blow from the Southwest. However, the group
of competitors interviewed this morning related one of the hardest nights they have ever known at sea.

Eric Dumont (Euroka ­ Un Univers de Services) spoke of a real battlefield, with 50 knot gusts sweeping in
and whipping the sea up into a nasty, cut up state, which is so harmful for the boats. 'The banging is
relentless' complained Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear). 'Every time the hull slams into the next wave I fear
that something has broken'. Despite undergoing a kind of baptism of fire the fleet suffered little. The
skippers all recall that this moment 'is like a rite of passage to gain confidence in your boat before the long
descent down the Atlantic, which will lead us to the threshold of the 40th degree parallel, the home of
permanently bad weather.'

These hard conditions seemed to have disrupted all the skippers from finding a good rhythm on board yet.
Most of the skippers speak of how little sleep they have had still, and how queasy they feel. It has been
evidently much harder to leave their habitual routines on land. Still a few more days until they get in phase
with their boats. The front has toughened them up a little. 'We¹ve had to sail right through the middle of it
and both skipper and boat have had a thorough washing,' as Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère)
put it.

For Dominique Wavre (UBP), being unable to sleep in wet oilskins proves that he has not fully broken from
his terrestrial routine. The Southerly option taken by Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations), Michel
Desjoyeaux (PRB) and Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) definitely paid off. Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher),
Bernard Stamm (Armor Lux ­ Foie Gras Bizac), Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) and Thomas Coville (Sodebo
savourons la vie) turned into the new favourable winds just in time to start the charge South. These are the
Vendée Globe¹s current leaders.

Now, a steady Northwest wind has moved in over the area and the fleet is now heading towards the Canary
Islands, a further 1000 miles. The leaders should reach there in 3 ­ 5 days. The weather may still spring some
surprises, not because of its strength, but because of the shifts and calm patches, which force the skippers
to remain longer on the helm. Now is the time for the weather gurus to come into the fore. Expect Yves
Parlier and Michel Desjoyeaux, both veritable experts, to indulge in a merciless duel.

For the majority of the fleet coming out of the hard conditions, their time is spent on some boat maintenance
and a thorough check up for damage on board. As the new favourable winds will accelerate the fleet, the
skippers will get themselves completely in tune with the race.

The most tactical part of the Vendée Globe is about to begin.


Radio Chat Extracts

Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher): 'I'm pretty exhausted, and soaked through. Last night when the front passed
through I was sailing upwind with storm jib and 2 reefs in 45 knots and the sea was huge and horrible. the
wind turned from 200° all the way round to 00° , direct from the North! I did get two 10 minute naps but the
boat didn't get a break - banging through the waves all night. But I've kept up a good speed: 12 knots.

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool): 'The last 24 hours wasn't too bad but I managed to sort out one problem
which I realised was happening at 3am. My keel was swinging freely and I found that I had to pump 3-4
litres of oil into the right side of the keel. So I spent the day pouring oil back into the circuit and tacking
quite a few times.'

Raphael Dinelli (Sogal Extenso): ' It was a hard night. I have a rip in my kevlar staysail, and I twisted my
ankle sorting out the sail. I had 50-52 knots of wind, and I am keeping a close watch on my spare staysail.
The banging motion didn't stop all night and as my boat is made out of glass fibre I have been checking the
hull all over! Just hoping to hit the good weather soon!

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear): 'We had 50 knots blowing hard on our route and I stuck my bow into it
head on, through a rough sea. I am offshore from Cap Finisterre and just starting the descent! One anxiety
with the rig after twenty or so bad slams off the waves after the wind relented a little and I hate that. I dread
to think of the reverberations throughout the hull!

Eric Dumont (Euroka Un Univers de Services): 'Laborious night pushing the boat in 47 - 50 knots of wind,
slaloming between the cargo ships under three reefs and staysail - pretty hard-going. I went to get my bow
into the NW breeze and now its destination sunshine! This weather is similar to that during the Transat in
June when I dismasted...bad memories returning.'

Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB): 'I have a small problem with my electrics and I have just a little time to wait
before I can bury my nose into the mechanical issues on board and let the pilots take over. The boat has
been performing well upwind overnight and when the front passed through we turned downwind and I have
been at the helm since. I'd like to stick up more sail but I can't leave the cockpit yet!' (After this Mich rang
back to add: 'I think it's the electric current running between the command centre and the motor which had
stopped working' and he is back on autopilot now).

Bernard Stamm (Armor Lux - Bizac Foie Gras): 'I'm 4th! Great! The boat is going well with only 2 or three
breakages, including the BLU radio antenna and the downhaul, for which I had to climb up the mast at the
third reefing point. I must reinforce the downhaul track fixation as it's no longer watertight. The hardest
thing is to get my head around the fact that I have still 23000 miles to go and I have to pace myself!

Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée): 'I am far off the Portugese coast in 30-35 knots of wind behind
me and the rain has come back. Last night I had a problem with my working jib which I will repair in better
weather. I am reaching 22-23 knots on a broad reach so you could say things are going well! I went West
but the good winds came later than I had anticipated. Perhaps my option hasn't paid for now but I haven't
lost out much.

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagères): 'What a comeback I've had! 45 knots last night - a little bit of a
blow! This morning I managed to go to the office (Nav table for weather and positions). It took some guts to
go back and I've had to push twice as hard to get back into the race. I have to stop and remember I am in a
different rhythm than a transat or Figaro race and have to start moderating my engine! The thought that I am
actually on this adventure has finally hit me. No time to get 'cold feet' though!


Latest Ranking* at 1200hrs (UT):

No. Boat Skipper Latitude Longitude **Average Speed ***DTF

1 Aquitaine Innovations Yves Parlier 42°36'N 11°41'W 7.885 23437
2 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 42°42'N 11°43'W 8.244 23441
3 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 42°50'N 10°28'W 7.524 23468
4 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin 42°56'N 11°16'W 7.706 23473
5 Armor Lux - Bizac Foie Gras Bernard Stamm 42°46'N 11°09'W 7.666 23475
6 Whirlpool Catherine Chabaud 43°12'N 11°56'W 8.026 23477
7 EBP - Esprit PME - Gartmore Josh Hall 43°07'N 10°55'W 7.582 23485
8 Euroka - Un univers de services Eric Dumont 43°21'N 10°37'W 7.369 23501
9 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville 43°39'N 11°14'W 7.100 23502
10 Si

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