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Vendee Globe turns in the battle of the Atlantic

by Philippe Jeantot on 16 Jan 2001


The return to Atlantic waters has been quite a shock for those Vendée Globe skippers who have already rounded Cape Horn. The fifth skipper was Thomas Coville (Sodebo) at around
2200hrs French time on Sunday evening, his third passage but first in solo mode. The sea has changed dramatically from the sweeping Southern swell to choppy, roughed up waves,
thanks to the opposing winds dominant in that part of the world.

For third placed Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear), this isn¹t good news as his port side rigging remains slightly loose, and yet it is the tack on which he is forced to sail upwind right now.
He is still within a threatening 200 mile range of his main target, Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher), and yet admitted that 'her boat is a little more adapted to upwind sailing than mine'. One
advantage he pointed out was his experience of managing himself and the boat during this final third stage of the race. 'I¹ll still push the boat hard but not like four years ago where it
stressed me out. I think I¹m less fatigued than Ellen, whereas it¹s her first Globe.'

Fourth placed Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère) has finally set off again after a stop-over totalling 17 - 19 hours to fix his track back on the mast. A bit of a harsh time penalty for
a job that took just 3 ­ 4 hours to complete. His humour hadn¹t failed him though, as he joked about how 'surreal' it was to realise that he was 'stuck up the mast at the end of the world,
with only seals and birds looking curiously on'. Back into the unwelcoming boat-bashing upwind conditions, will Jourdain come back with the same kind of performance in the Atlantic
leg that he has been capable of in the last two Transat races?

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) has come through 'the hardest 48 hours since the start', namely a strong depression with winds of up to 45 knots, nearly throwing her off the boat when
she was trying to move along the deck. She is savouring her very last Southern Ocean moments before reaching Cape Horn in a couple of days, knowing that she will not return to that
part of the world¹s oceans again alone.

Two degrees North of Chabaud in pursuit is Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore), who has also found the last few days his worst in the race so far, but for very opposite reasons. 'An unexpected
trough formed behind the strong depression that passed us on Friday and left me with big seas and absolutely no wind...it has been worse than the Doldrums and I have been
desperately making manoeuvres to achieve 1 or 2 knots of speed.' His gain on Whirlpool in the last week now crumbling before his eyes, Hall is due to arrive at Cape Horn himself on
Friday, with 1150 miles to go until he reaches this gateway to the Atlantic Ocean.

Two boats in sight of each other below 50 degrees South in the great Pacific Ocean ­ could this be imaginable? Mike Golding (Team Group 4) actually filmed himself passing the Œred
cigar¹ yacht of Joé Seeten (Nd Pas de Calais/Chocs du Monde) yesterday just 3 miles apart! Golding is in 11th place now and within 200 miles of the next two boats, Bernard Gallay
(Voila.fr) and Patrice Carpentier (VM Materiaux), clocking slightly faster speeds in the hope of passing them soon as well.

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) has successfully completed his operation to build an 18 metre mast. However, the announced force 8 ­ 9 storm force winds are now his main worry, if
he is to safely cast off from his anchorage. 'I¹m in my survival suit inside the boat. It¹s night time. I¹ve plunged in up to my waist to tie a second line around a huge rock. There¹s a way I
can get the boat out of the inlet under bare poles. I¹ll set off tomorrow night and I can set the storm jib and staysail immediately.'

News from the very back of the fleet is not so good. Russian skipper Fedor Konyoukhov has reported in with a litany of problems, which beset him over the weekend. His electric pilot
burned out, and while he was switching to the hydraulic pilot, the boat went into an accidental gybe. This has resulted in his backstays and lazy jacks twisting, and his halyard also
caught at the top spreader. Then his generator broke down and he has complained of kidney pains. He confirmed later that if his pain worsens without relief, then he may head towards
Tasmania.

After thirty days sailing downwind, the leading boats are now braving the Atlantic against the prevailing winds and seas. The best averages were achieved by Titouan Lamazou and
Alan Gautier in 34 days, or 210 miles a day at an average of 8.7 knots. Using this mean, leader Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) would arrive in Les Sables d¹Olonne on February 13th. The virtual
battle between the 2001 leader with the previous Vendée Globe winners to establish the time record for this section of the race has been waged for five days already and yet is still neck
and neck.

Radio Chat Extracts

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) : 'I¹m sailing on the slack side of the rig, which is worrying me. I hope nothing happens but we¹ve got to sail through this upwind stuff. I¹m going to
launch a counter-attack on Ellen. PRB has such a big lead, so not a great deal of hope in catching him right now. Ellen is within my reach but her boat is a little more adapted to upwind
sailing than mine. Since Australia, the port rigging has been slack. I¹m holding the rig with the runner, and in lighter conditions I¹ll climb the mast, ideally I don¹t want to have to stop. I
still push the boat hard but not like four years ago where it stressed me out. I think I¹m less fatigued than someone like Ellen, where it¹s her first Globe.'

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) : 'I am going slowly to the Horn, I hope that was my last storm but on the satellite photo, there are two low pressure systems, I must look out for that. In
the last two days, I was South of this low, I had 40 knots upwind. It was the hardest 48 hours since the start. When I was doing the manoeuvres in the cockpit I nearly fell off. I was being
thrown around inside the boat. Impossible to type on the computer keyboard . The only nice place was my bunk. I hope to pass cape Horn on Wednesday 17th and leave Josh Hall quite
far behind. I will round the rock with a boat in excellent shape. I have a very good upwind boat with sails in perfect state.'

Bilou (Sill Matines la Potagère): 'I tried to climb the mast this morning, but it was too windy & rainy, impossible. So at midday I finally managed to climb up with my portable workshop
and there and then I fixed the mast track and even managed to cobble a repair on the gennaker clew. I left at 1700hrs (French time). I must have spent 19 hours in total for the stop-over, to
do a 3 ­4 hour repair job. It¹s true, the Vendée Globe is an incredible raceŠyesterday up the mast in the creek, I was saying to myself 'What am I doing up here?!?' at the end of the world,
with seals and birds in this beautiful inletŠit was surreal! I now find myself back in Atlantic waters with the familiar chop and upwind conditions ­ not really a welcome sight for me. I hope
the Atlantic doesn¹t have anything else in store for me. Marc & Ellen aren¹t that far awayŠand Michel could even catch scarlet fever and have to stay in quarantine at sea!'

Simone Bianchetti (Aquarelle.com) : 'I have a South/South-West wind, not steady at all, lots of squalls yesterday. I am steering a lot to support Mario (his autopilot), I don¹t want him to
be too tired. As the wind is very shifty it¹s difficult to find a good sail configuration. I reduced for the night, I have two reefs and a staysail, so that I can stay a little in my bunk, I haven¹t
slept much in the last couple of days. I am doing 10-11 knots of speed average. My idea is to look after the boat up to Cape Horn, to keep her in good shape. After I will see what the
possibilities are, and may be try to win a few positions in the ranking... I don¹t think I can do more...'

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) : 'The middle se

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