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by Philippe Jeantot on 28 Dec 2000
For the leading boats in the Vendée Globe 2000, there is no doubt that this race is a planetary regatta with a
hellish rhythm of a transatlantic. Not a moment to breath, not a single error allowed without paying dearly
for it. Each day the skippers eagerly await the position reports to know if their strenuous efforts from just
the last few hours have paid off, or if the time, in which they have snatched some precious sleep and
reduced sail a little, has not lost them too many hard fought miles.

In the lead still, Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) has worked his way well ahead of the worst effects of a small low
pressure bubble, which emerged much to the surprise of his main rival Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La
Potagere). He has become temporarily encaged in its centre, and at the last set of positions was still crawling
along at 6 knots this morning. In 24 hours Desjoyeaux has pulled out a 165 mile lead over ŒBilou¹, and third
placed Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) is now roughly the same distance behind him. Behind these three, the
gaps are extending progressively, and the top 8 boats now count 1000 miles between them.

Will the Pacific Ocean turn the standings around? Anything could happen with 50 days remaining and
12,000 miles to go still. However, to be comfortably ahead here for Desjoyeaux, who was pleased to know
that the others are falling into line behind him, is giving him the chance to maintain a loose control of the
fleet without risking any dramatic options.

For the second half of the fleet, the regatta mentality is secondary now to that of survival. Some skippers
have had their race abruptly transformed into an adventure, where this circumnavigation has rudely
changed their horizons and forced them to find other motivations than victory.

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) revealed over the radio chat that he has worked out a plan to get his
boat past Cape Horn under a further modified jury rig, in order to face the upwind conditions in the Atlantic.
In around 8 days he will stop at Auckland Island, 280 miles south of New Zealand, to get into shelter and
carry out an operation to join the other end of his mast on top of the current rig and extend it to 18 metres in
total. 'After 10 days I should be able to set off again with a boat which can reach good average speed and
face the Atlantic. If I don't break the 18 metre mast, I could still add the 10 metre boom that I have. In my
head I was programmed to make it all the way round so psychologically, it's some way to keep up my moral,
if I'd abandoned, that would have been the final straw for me.'

For Thierry Dubois (Solidaires), his main alternator broke down 15 days ago and despite a draconian
reduction of his fuel consumption, the battery, which is the power source for all his communications,
autopilots and electrics, is no longer charging properly. Thierry is left with having to keep his engine on
permanently to charge the one battery left. He did not want to risk that battery failing, which would mean
total shutdown on board. 'To speak of electronic failure means that to sleep I have to heavily reduce the
sail area, even bring the boat to a halt and when the weather's bad that isn't a good idea. From four years
ago, I know how a boat travelling at less than normal speed can become vulnerable in these waves. The
safest thing is to keep up a good speed and not stop the boat.' He is going to put into the fishing port of
Bluf in New Zealand for no more than 48 hours to get a new battery and alternator, and set off again, albeit
outside the rankings. A solid decision, in terms of safety, and yet a sad one for such a strong competitor in
the race.

Last night Mike Golding (Team Group 4) endured one of the worst storms he had been in, with 58 knot
winds from the South West screaming in across the deck, coupled with ugly cross waves rearing up in his
path and knocking the boat over on its side several times. 'It was about as out of control as it can get. I had
just the storm sail up and on the surf was still hitting 20 knots! It must sound stressful but I just stuck the
pilot on and went to bed - I even had a good night's sleep!'

Pasquale De Gregorio (Wind) informed the Race HQ that after the diamond 1 fitting (bottom left shroud) had
ruptured in the rod inside the shroud bottlescrew, he has spent almost the whole of yesterday fixing it with a
replacement spare stay in Kevlar. He still wants to work out a way to restore the original piece and reassured
us that things were better and he is soldiering on.

The second part of the Vendée Globe looks to test these skippers right to the limits of all their abilities.

Radio Chat Extracts

Joé Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du monde): 'The Mini M will be in range for a few days. Summer
is very somber, cold and foggy. Happily, the heating on board is giving me some comfort for Christmas and
I have plenty of fuel. The boat is coping with the conditions brilliantly, and I have only minor maintenance
to keep up. I have managed to get the weather forecasts from New Zealand, which will be the case for
another 15 days.'

Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) : 'I have 3 reefs in the main and the small staysail. There's 38, 39 and even 51, 52
knots. The boat gets pushed into a surf by the swell behind and we're speeding along at 20 knots when the
boat was averaging 12-13. That stresses the rig. I'm inside, under autopilot, ready at any moment to jump
into my wet weather gear and climb on deck. I haven't gone to get the weather files, I broke the hard drive on
one computer, so I have to fetch the weather with the other machine. The passage underneath New Zealand
is going to be tricky, with several tiny depressions to negotiate.'

Thierry Dubois (Solidaires) 'A few days ago, the batteries showed signs of weakness. The battery lost
power and I have had to keep the generator going in permanence. There is still the hydrogenerator but I'd
have to slow the boat down and I'm not keen to spend half of the race like that. I don't want the rest of my
circumnavigation to become a nightmare effort to battle my way round under constant risk.'

Mike Golding (Team Group 4) : 'I was bringing the mainsail down and one of the flying battens dropped
out. There was 58 knots at one point. I had some cross waves, three big ones took the boat on its beam end.
It was good to be able to fix the mainsail this morning. High speed sailing is great, as long as the boat stays
in one piece. I want to manage the jobs list on board as well, which is impossible when you're just managing
the boat's performance. All in all I think I've made a net gain after making ground yesterday, and slowing up
a little overnight.'

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère) : 'I am in the centre of a low pressure, and we¹re not going very
fast. Mich slipped under it or was ahead. It¹s horrible because with variable winds in these seas, there is still
some swell and it¹s choppy. Downwind, the annoying thing is when you broach and bear off. But now, the
gear is suffering a lot, when a carbon boat falls from a wave, you can imagine... it¹s the chaos theory: if you
break only one small fitting it can lead to a major drama.'

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) : 'It¹s nothing like four years ago! It was a difficult period with all the
capsizes. Now I think it¹s amusing to see that Carpentier and Joé Seeten speak to each other via BLU. Us,
we were talking to Pete Goss and Raphaël and we were explaining what was happening ahead. This year I
am doing my own race, I am sailing my boat in the way I believe it has to be done. I am quite impressed to
see some pushing their boats so much. I wonder how long it will last - and if it lasts it will prove how much
we have progressed. Four years ago, it was like Cape Horn was really very, very far away! Now, I can see
how long it¹s going to take me to arrive there.'

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine

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