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by Philippe Jeantot on 26 Jan 2001
Vendée Globe fleet leader, Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB), has just passed under the 4000 mile barrier, the remaining distance to the finish in Les
Sables d¹Olonne. At an average of 10 knots, he should arrive in the Vendéen port in 16 days, which means around the 10th February.
Between Cape Horn and the finish, Desjoyeaux is keeping up with the time record of 34 days, which Alain Gautier holds.

After Desjoyeaux and second placed Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) yesterday, the Saint Helen high pressure system has released a few
more prisoners. The following four boats have felt the North Easterly breeze building, enabling them to head North at last. No great boat
speeds are being clocked, but every mile gained to the North is invaluable now for them.

The two leaders are reaching 13 and 12 knots, fairly impressive speeds considering that the wind has barely stabilised in direction or
strength. However, it's not a cruise in these irregular Easterly winds. Ellen remarked briefly: 'Life¹s not at all easy. Right now I¹ve got a lot
of work on deck to doŠ' and at that had to excuse herself to get back up and fine tune the sails to the shifting breeze.

Third placed Mark Thiercelin (Active Wear) regards both Kingfisher and the boat of his nearest rival, Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines la
Potagere), as 'atomic on pure boat speed'. No wonder then that Jourdain today was puzzled as to how Thiercelin has got further ahead of
him, 86 miles to be exact. The average boat speed of this pair as they struggled through the recent light airs however has not matched that
of the leader as they slip further behind him by over 500 miles. Thiercelin had worked it out: 'We haven¹t slowed up for as long as Michel,
but he was always managing 6 knots as an average and for us it¹s more like 4 knots.'

As soon as a skipper leaves the cold and humidity of the high latitudes and the first rays of sun beat down, the first desire is to air out the
boat, dry off all the clothing and of course have a head to toe shower! In the Southern Ocean life was lived cramped up inside the cabin,
but now the temperatures are rising, they are spending most of their time on deck as it becomes too stuffy to remain inside. Consequently,
their bodies have had to rapidly adapt to the effects of yet another sharp change of season, during their circumnavigation of the planet.

Ellen has washed and cut her hair, while 'Bilou' (Jourdain) cheekily admitted: 'I had 4 or 5 showers yesterday, the water was about 26
degrees, turquoise blue. It¹s quite refreshing to be naked under the sun!' He hastened to add: 'the smell coming from the food boxes
locked inside the cabin after 3 months at sea had started to become a little overpowering...' Mike Golding (Team Group 4) finds that life
has improved enormously for one simple reason: ' I can sleep with the velcro hatch cover open now to air out the boat properly.'

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) is alone Œdoing time¹ in the calm airs of the anticyclone. 'I have hardly slept. I was looking for the wind
last night. I did a lot of manoeuvres last night and was looking for the wind with the auto pilot.' She will miss out on a low pressure
system to the East and will have to cross another high pressure zone ahead, 'in total it will be 3 or 4 slow days including today,' she

Mike Golding is loosely keeping to the East of the pitch to avoid a high pressure zone heading over from the South American coast and
has fellow Brit Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore) in his sights, cutting down his distance behind to a mere 197 miles now. Hall likewise is looking
ahead at gaining serious ground before the North Atlantic on Chabaud: 'If I can lose 1000 miles in 2 weeks due to the weather, so can

On a sadder note, Russian skipper Fedor Konyukhov (Modern University for the Humanities) has officially announced his retirement from
the Vendée Globe. He sent a letter to the Vendée Globe race office to say that, 10 days after his first kidney troubles and serious technical
problems, he has decided to stop in Sydney, Australia. 'I endured very bad storm, the third one in the last 10 days, which completely
destroyed everything that I had repaired before. It was a test storm for myself and the boat. Now I am sailing under staysail, heading to
Sydney. Due to my health problem and sail damage, I will have to stop in the port to repair the boat and receive medical attention.'

Therefore, when he reaches port in Sydney, Fedor will officially be retiring from the race, the rules clearly stating that it is Œnon-stop,
without assistance¹. Fedor added that he would not continue the Vendée route back to Les Sables d¹Olonne afterwards. Taking into
account the length of time he is behind the fleet, he knows that most of the skippers racing would all be in the North Atlantic by the time
he reaches Sydney. Fedor is the 8th skipper to announce his retirement from the Vendée Globe. A true adventurer in spirit and life, Fedor
was the first Russian competitor to participate in the Vendée Globe and has had many followers throughout the world marking his
progress during the race with admiration.

Radio Chat Extracts

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère): 'I¹ve escaped the Saint Helen system and at last I¹ve caught the breeze! It¹s been like this for
24 hours, yesterday at the end of the day the good Easterly flux arrived. I¹m not sure where I should have passed, perhaps more to the
West. It doesn¹t bother me that Ellen is ahead, she is a formidable competitor with a formidable boat, but for me really the frustration is
more that I¹ve missed my window thanks to my technical problems. I¹m more annoyed about my problems than about Mich being in the
lead. But watch out ­ it¹s not over yet!'

Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher): 'Life¹s not at all easyŠright now I¹ve got a lot of work on deck to do, the wind hasn¹t really stabilised. But at
least there¹s wind, I¹ve got to be happy at that. Of course I¹m happy to be in second place, but it¹s not over yet, still 4000 miles to go. It
would be perfect if I could finish in the top 5! It¹ll be a hard race to the finish. Of course, I¹m watching Mich and he¹s watching me, that¹s
racing. Thanks to the Saint Helen system I caught him up and now the race has changed again, so I have to say a big thank-you to Saint
Helen, she¹s been kind to us!'

Marc Thiercelin(Active Wear): 'The wind may be back but it¹s still not the trades. We haven¹t slowed up for as long as Michel, but he
was always managing 6 knots as an average and for us it¹s more like 4 knots. We¹ve done well to come back but they¹re off again now.
Hats off to Ellen, really. She may not have done anything radical to get near Michel but has just been atomic on pure boat speed. So has
Bilou too. To be honest, I expect to see a tight run finish. My prediction was to see the top 5 boats finish within 48 hours.'

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool): 'I have hardly slept. I was looking for the wind last night. It¹s a difficult passage, I have to be patient. I
am trying to reduce the damages by passing in the East. I did lots of manoeuvres last night, lots of tweaking and was looking for the wind
with the auto pilot. I should escape this zone at the end of the day. There is a low pressure system far in the East but too far for me to go
and get it. At the end of the week, I will have to go through another zone with no wind before I touch the South Easterly trade winds. In
total it will be 3 or 4 slow days including today.'

Mike Golding (Team Group 4) : 'I¹m struggling upwind and keep looking at the keel and rudders as the boat feels slow, thinking I¹ve
caught something, but it¹s just that I¹m in the Atlantic in an adverse current of 1 and a half knot or more. The batten at the top of the kevlar
trinquette broke ­ it¹s full length so it¹s easy to break. I¹ve made a nice gain on Josh. I¹ve been going to the right, not overtly, but staying
away from an ant

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