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Vendee Globe- Leader on the Date Line, Ground Hog Day!!

by Philippe Jeantot on 29 Dec 2000


In the Vendée Globe, each skipper has his own landmarks, but rather than birthdays, Christmas or New Year,
they tend to be geographical, such as the Equator, the Roaring Forties and passing the longitude of Cape of
Good Hope or Leeuwin. Today, fleet leader Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) will cross the International Date Line,
in effect he will live through the 28th December twice. To be precise, he will pass from 179°59¹59¹¹ East to
179°59¹59¹¹ West, or from 28th December GMT + 12hrs to 28th December GMT ­ 12hrs.

Significant for the skippers is that their longitude will stop elongating to the East, and start diminishing from
the West, a sign that that they are truly on their way home to Les Sables d¹Olonne at 1°47 West. At this
point, 5845 miles separate leader Desjoyeaux from the rear of the fleet, Fedor Konyoukhov (Modern
University for the Humanities), which translates to one month of sailing for the Russian. When the first boat
arrives mid-February, he may still be in mid-Pacific Ocean, two months away from the finish line.

Thankfully for Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère), his immediate rival, the wind has filled in and he
is back on the chase. Behind Jourdain by just under 200 miles lies the young British skipper Ellen
MacArthur (Kingfisher), still coming up with the goods. Ellen has got to the point where ŒKingfisher¹ was
launched from New Zealand in February, and the two have sailed the rest of the Vendée Globe course from
here. It is no doubt a psychologically reassuring factor for her to have got to this point in third place, from
which she can now attack the leaders instead of defend her position from those behind.

Faced with a 200 mile gap behind Ellen to make up still, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) vented his frustration
this morning: 'I¹d really come back, worked so hard and now I¹ve lost it all! I was behind Ellen, when the
wind eased off for us both. She managed to get away but I didn¹t. I climbed North to avoid the centre of the
depression and there I lost out again. My Finot boat is a demon downwind but I don¹t know, I just can¹t
seem to catch Ellen.' Thiercelin is impatient to reach Cape Horn ahead of MacArthur.

Two other skippers also longing to get into the Atlantic leg to be able to push their boats more
competitively again are Josh Hall (EBP-Gartmore) and Italian Simone Bianchetti ( Hall
describes below how it is 10 times more difficult to achieve anything on board on this 'Disney Land ride'.
He recalls in the 1990 BOC Challenge 'the ecstasy of rounding The Horn and almost instantly losing this
big swell and the fear dissipating hourly - it is that ecstasy I seek now.' All that Bianchetti wants is for this
same 3 ­ 4 metre swell to smooth out so that he can climb the mast in safety and check his rig, which will for
him now be after passing below the longitude of New Zealand.

Now that the first ten boats have escaped the effects of the magnetic South Pole, the autopilots are working
coherently again. Skippers, such as Thomas Coville (Sodebo), can now recuperate from hours at the helm
and constant anxiety, sailing at no more than 10 knots for fear of repeated knockdowns. Thomas himself has
slept for a good 4 ­ 5 hours 'without putting the alarm on', which gives you an idea of how desperately
short of rest he must have been in recent days.

The overall impression given by the Vendée skippers is that now is the time for all to start attacking again.

Radio Chat Extracts

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) : 'I¹d really come back, worked so hard and now I¹ve lost it all! I was behind
Ellen, when the wind eased off for us both. She managed to get away but I didn¹t. I climbed North to avoid
the centre of the depression and there I lost out again. I tried the Northern option to get into stronger winds
and I have 15 knots. Mich Desj has really flown the coop. That has added misery to my disappointment. Our
Finot boats really drive well downwind but I don¹t know, I just can¹t seem to catch Ellen.'

Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) in a telex: 'No longer in quite the same weather as those ahead - or behind, I
feel - for the want of a better phrase - a little freer! We are just sailing under the most western part of New
Zealand as I type, and in just over 24 hours time we shall be on the same longitude as Auckland. I think
Kingfisher is feeling she¹s close to home right now, though we¹ve had a talk, and I¹ve told her that we might
stop off the next time round.'

Josh Hall (EBP-Gartmore) in a telex: 'What¹s hard is the difficulty in performing the simplest tasks. I was
desperate for some better food so, with much balancing and struggle, I cooked some spaghetti and chilli con
carne, onions and garlic. I poured it into my dog bowl and settled down at the chart table for the feast. It
needed some salt so I wedged the bowl on the chart table, and leaned back to grab it. In that 2 seconds we
lurched on a big wave and when I turned back my dog bowl was upside down on my seat. In the 1990 BOC I
well remember the ecstasy of rounding The Horn and almost instantly losing this big swell and the fear
dissipating hourly - it is that ecstasy I seek now. Once round I will celebrate by leaving a bowl of spaghetti
on the chart table for a whole day!'

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines et La Potagère) : 'The wind has dropped regularly and is more steady. So now
the sea is better. With 20 to 25 knots of wind, I am faster than with the 25/40 knots I had yesterday evening.
I still have three to four metres of swell so we can do some good surfing. It¹s warmer. The air temperature is
9° and the water is 7. I don¹t understand what Mich is going to do in the North, may be he is trying to avoid
some low pressure centres, just like the one I was stuck in yesterday. Myself I am trying to find the best
wind angle to go as fast as possible. The weather forecast for the next days seems to uncertain to make

Patrice Carpentier (VM Matériaux) : 'The weather was superb yesterday and so I decided to climb up the
mast. When I got up there, I had to take off my gloves and so I put them in the trouser pocket of my
oilskins. When I got down and back inside the cabin, could I find my gloves? Impossible! So I took off my
deck boots to put on my Œhouse¹ boots and voilaŠ I found my gloves: the left one in the left boot, the right
one in the right boot! Really, they have a mind of their own!

Bernard Gallay ( : 'There is absolutely no wind! The anticyclone is going at the same speed as we
are. It starts to be tiring as ahead they take 80 miles a day on us. It was funny yesterday, during a
conversation with Patrice Carpentier, he told me to read a book he had for Christmas and I was just finishing

Simone Bianchetti ( 'I¹m playing some local music, it was in a Christmas parcel. A bit like
Breton music! It¹s nice, I feel like I¹m at home when I play this music. I don¹t want to climb the mast in this
sea ­ there¹s a 3/4 metre swell, not a wise move. Perhaps I¹ll wait until after New Zealand. I want to get to
Cape Horn in one piece ­ I¹m sailing safely all the way there.'

Latest Ranking* polled at 0900hrs (UT):

Psn Boat Skipper Lat Long Headg Av. Speed** DTF*** Miles from leader

1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 53°58'S 179°37'W 81 11.8 10839 0
2 Sill Matines & La Potagère Roland Jourdain 55°11'S 174°48'E 101 14.2 10993 154
3 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 53°54'S 169°54'E 108 14.1 11180 341
4 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin 52°44'S 164°11'E 69 10.9 11395 556
5 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville 55°13'S 159°30'E 38 8.52 11491 652
6 Union Bancaire Privée Dominique Wavre 53°01'S 155°35'E 83 13.5 11667 828
7 Whirlpool Catherine

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