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Vendée Globe, France and England Equalise in Latitude

by Philippe Jeantot on 24 Jan 2001
Current Vendée Globe leader, Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB), may only be hardly 1 degree in latitude ahead of Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher), on
the other hand their distance in longitude is much more important. This difference puts the two leading skippers in slightly different
weather systems where either of them could feel the more favourable winds before the other one. The good news is that the wind has at
least returned to the scene of the action. Advancing Northwards still, these two skippers have finally put the centre of the high pressure
zone behind them and have welcomed the wind rotation, navigating on starboard in a light and variable 5 ­ 10 knot breeze.

Ellen hasn¹t breathed out yet, and is still waiting to see if the anticyclone carries on moving North with them, or stops where it is and lets
them go from its clutches. 'We are in the same weather system but Michel is still further in the North and when the wind kicks in he¹ll get
going first. I¹m more to the West of him stillŠwe¹ll see, it¹s going to be tough.' However, Ellen, in her more Westerly position, could
herself get into more favourable conditions first as she is furthest from the centre and thus the calms. Neck and neck, the heat is rising out
on the water between the Frenchman and the English girl.

Ellen is also watching closely the moves behind her from Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) & Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère). Her
two main pursuers are placed more in the West to negotiate the bend round the calm zones, an option which could pay well. Thiercelin is
'pushing it big time' now and has climbed his mast and tightened up the port rigging. Thirsty work for the skipper who has now admitted
to having a problem with his water-maker: 'I still have 25 litres of fresh water in my reserves. I am lacking water at the worst time, when it¹s
warm.'

Roland Jourdain is also making the most of the smoother sea conditions to try and repair his genoa, which had slipped down by 3 metres
from the furler. 'It¹s the only important damage remaining, which once fixed will really get the performance of the boat back up to 100% in
the final sprint.'

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) is anticipating the calmer winds to hit her soon and although she lies roughly 700 miles behind Dominique
Wavre (UBP) and also in front of Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore), she is worrying about the British boys catching her up in the near future. 'If
there are options to take, they¹ll have to be well calculated as behind Josh & Mike are coming back. If there¹s an opening I¹ll go for it.'

The Vendée Globe¹s speedster, Mike Golding (Team Group 4), however is baffled at how he has encountered unexpected light airs just 170
miles from the Falklands coastline, when none of his weather files forecast such a pattern. Barely able to squeeze out more than 5 knots
from his boat, he is 'tweaking the boat the whole time, but it¹s difficult to keep her moving, it¹s difficult to sleep too. As soon as you shut
your eyes things change.' He has finally decided to pass the Islands to the East but remains uncomfortable about the road ahead, given
that the wind predictions are not turning out to be what he expected.

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) is shifting water back in the Pacific Ocean, getting up to 21 knots at points, but getting down to some
draconian rationing at the same time: 'At 0600hrs I have breakfast, a mix of cereal powder and chestnuts. Midday, I make up a freeze-dried
meal of 80 g and a pudding of 28 g with perhaps a tin of tuna or sardines. For dinner it¹s just 80 g again and 27 g for pudding with a slice of
cake & butter.' There won¹t be an ounce of fat on him when he returns to Les Sables d¹Olonne.

Simone Bianchetti (Aquarelle.com) is still 2000 miles from the Horn. 'I¹m averaging 8.5 knots upwind in 30 knots of wind from the NE. I
expect to arrive at Cape Horn for my first ever passage round in 6 days.'

Radio Chat Extracts

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) : 'Since the Falklands I¹m on the WSW side of the anticyclone close reaching. It¹s pretty hard-going and
I¹m still under two reefs and staysail. I¹m making progress slowly to the NNE. The deck is constantly swamped by waves. Not much else to
do except wait for the wind to ease off a little. I¹m still 700 miles from Dominique, so I don¹t think I¹ve made any significant ground on the
fleet ahead, and tomorrow I¹ll start slowing down a bit. If there are options to take, they¹ll have to be well calculated as behind Josh &
Mike are coming back. If there¹s an opening I¹ll go for it.'

Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) : 'I don¹t have a great deal of wind but I¹m heading North and have passed the centre of the anticyclone.
This morning I was caught up in a windless zone for three hours and then the wind returned from the North East. It feels good to know
that Michel got stuck. We are in the same weather system but he is still further in the North and when the wind kicks in he¹ll get going
first. I¹m more to the West of him stillŠwe¹ll see, it¹s going to be tough. I¹m watching everyone¹s moves, they¹re further to the West
behind me and there¹ll be more headwinds nearer the coast than offshore. For the moment they¹re stuck. Anyone could still win this race.
No-one could have imagined the pace and speed of this race before the start. It¹s unprecedented. Suddenly you see how important boat
speed is.'

Mike Golding (Team Group 4): 'Now I find myself in an uncharted weather pattern. I¹m struggling to make 5 knots in very light airs. I¹m
tweaking the boat the whole time, it¹s difficult to keep her moving, it¹s difficult to sleep too. As soon as you shut your eyes things change.
It¹s very difficult conditions. It¹s nothing like the forecast. Both models don¹t show any kind of weakening in the wind like this. I¹m going
to pass the Falkland¹s but have been changing my decision every 5 minutes as my decision must be made on forecasts which I¹m not
comfortable with as they¹re not good. I have decided to go to the East now, I¹m 170 miles or so from the coastline and the wind is coming
directly from the Islands.'

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère): 'Not exactly supersonic conditions but I¹m okay. I had a mini-bubble of high pressure with not
much wind for about 2-3 hours. Not my finest hour. It looks like in the rankings Michel & Ellen have found a bit more speed again. Perhaps
they¹ve escaped the worst of the centre. I¹m well over to the West. To be to leeward of the fleet is not a real drama. We¹ll have to see.
We¹ve been racing for 3 months, sometimes you have to just take stock of it all and rest up. We¹re out here to push the boat and the sport
further. It¹s rather amazing, I think. What we¹ve been through in 3 months, it¹ll be engraved on our memory. I¹ve found this race to be truly
adventurous too.'

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear): 'I have a problem with my water maker. I changed the filter as there might some plankton. I still have 25
litres of fresh water in my reserves. I am lacking water at the worst time, when it¹s warm. I went up the mast yesterday so last night I really
wished I could drink more water. Climbing was a big moment, but going down was a real nightmare. It¹s a real sport to work up there. You
must hang on. My arms muscles got bruised, and they never do. I might be a bit too crazy. I am pushing big time. Sometimes I reduce but
the mast looks strange. And I have no intention whatsoever to give it up. I miss one spinnaker but no other sails unlike Ellen.'

Bernard Gallay (Voilà.fr) : 'Yesterday rounding Horn was quite difficult. I went really near, amazing scenery. This time the sea was difficult,
with bad visibility. And suddenly it appeared to me in the surf at the same time as some rays of sun. It was beautiful. I turn the autopilot
on and drank a glass of champagne.'

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) : 'The wind¹s done a 360 since this morning, now we¹re trucking! The

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