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Vendee Globe leaders approaching Equator

by Philippe Jeantot on 28 Jan 2001
Covering nearly 300 miles per day, the two boats leading the Vendée Globe are gaining 5 degrees in latitude every day and are
approaching the Equator fast. Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) should cross the invisible line over tonight. As forecasted, the trade winds are
getting stronger while they are lifting, hence the regular acceleration of the two leading boats, who, little by little, are increasing the gap
behind to their pursuers.

Conditions seemed good to Desjoyeaux, who has kept Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) 103 miles behind. At midday today, PRB's average
speed was 1.5 knots faster than Kingfisher. We tried to call Ellen this morning during our daily radio chat but she wasn't able to stay on
line for long : 'Could you call me later on ? I am just back for the second time from climbing to the top of the mast and I am really tired.' It
was then impossible to reach her as she surely needed a rest. It's really impressive to see how many times since the start Ellen has been up
the mast. This operation, often essential to make vital repairs, is rarely appreciated by single-handed sailors. They need to prepare
carefully the manoeuvre, to ensure that the conditions are stable and that the boat does not risk gybing or tacking at some point while the
skipper is at the top of his mast, as it is impossible to get down quickly.

It is already difficult to move on a deck but when climbing up the mast the bad conditions are multiplied by ten. At 26 meters above the
deck, the movements at the mast head are extremely violent. You need two hands and two feet to hold on, and when you need to start
working it can be acrobatic and dangerous. Back on the deck the skippers find they are heavily bruised. One can see why Roland Jourdain
decided to stop in Cape Horn in a calm shelter to climb up the mast and do his long and complicated repairs. The speed difference between
the two leaders this morning was may be due to the fact that Ellen was up the mast and had to adapt a steadier tack to do her repairs.

The anticyclone has moved a bit, giving different and not so good conditions to the four boats behind. Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear),
who is concentrating on his boat speed, is spending a lot of time moving weights on board to get the best plate of the boat. Sailing along
the Brazilian coast, he was feeling nostalgic as he lived in this country for several years.

Like Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and Dominique Wavre (UBP), Jourdain has tried to go west. They were forced to follow that course at the
beginning because of the wind direction, so they had to go upwind in a North North East breeze. This wind was pushing them
progressively towards the Brazilian coast, without however worrying them too much as the lift (wind turning to the East) was meant to
reach them at some point but the expected rotation hasn't come yet and the skippers are finding the time long. Coville has done a counter
tack in the East for a few hours. It looks like this veering is arriving soon and should allow them to do a better heading and, above all, to
open the sail plan. They will finally accelerate and stop losing miles from the leaders, who themselves should be slowed down while they
cross the Doldrums area. It will then stretch out again.

Jourdain was telling us on the phone he had to concentrate on the course and speed of the leaders. The satellite C shows the speed they
are doing and then on the satelite photos he can compare the incidence of the clouds. For this complicated passage, it is true that they
should learn a lot from the leaders.

Dominique Wavre is back to his Figaro habits : ' I am steering as much as possible as I do not want to miss any wind shift. My main
concern is the sun. I need to rehydrate constantly and I have nearly finished my sun block.'

Casting a swift eye on the advance of Mike Golding (Team Group 4), it must be noted that he has slipped under the 100 mile barrier behind
Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore), and lies a mere 80 miles away and further in the East. The weak depression forming ahead of him could be his
chance to leapfrog up to Hall¹s latitude: 'As it¹s moving South East, I¹ll be able to pick it up better & use it more fully.'

Seventeen days after rounding Cape Horn, Michel Desjoyeaux is 3361 miles from the finish line, and could, with a 10 knot average speed,
cross the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne on the 10th of February.

Radio Chat Extracts

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) : 'I¹ve been working the boat through the squalls all night to keep the boat going at full potential. The wind
picked up but not from the required direction. We¹re going up wind! It rose from 14 ­ 25 knots! My tactics for the Doldrums is to stay as far
East as possible, after that I won¹t have such an advantage. Oh, I had a dream last night that it was a woman who won the Vendée Globe,
but it wasn¹t Ellen or Catherine. I can¹t put a name to the face!'

Mike Golding (Team Group 4) : 'The next feature is the formation of a weak depression ahead and I¹m in a good spot on the East side to
pick it up. I expect that¹s why Josh is where he is too, but I¹ll be able to pick it up better & use it more fully. I¹ve got more pressure on the
right and gaining in latitude on him. I sacrificed 1 and a half litres of water to put through the machine under pressure and it produced 3
litres of water so I¹ve made a positive gain of 1 and a half litres!'

Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) : 'I feel like I went through the middle of a high pressure bubble as I got numerous fast wind changes during three
hours. I looked at the positions, I think Mike Golding has had different weather conditions. He¹s got 50 miles back on me.'

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) :'The wind is very shifty in direction and intensity. I have a small problem with my water maker, so when
it¹s raining I try to catch fresh water. I am completely soaked and the boat sails with a reef and staysail. If the wind drops I haven¹t got
enough if the wind rises I have too much... I try to negociate as well as possible the St Helen ridge. The weather is grey, choppy sea and
the boat is slamming. I will soon need to tack if I don¹t want to go back to Cape Town.'

Dominique Wavre (UBP): 'I am sailing in the warmth of the Brazilian coast, we’ve done a lot of upwind and it¹s hard for the
autopilots. Thomas and I are doing our best but there¹s little choice, so we are on the same course. We should get a lift tomorrow, as it
shows on the charts. As for the western option, we were forced by the wind, I wish I was more in the East especially with the tide we have
against us. It¹s been three days now since I started thinking the situation would change but it¹s always been delayed to the next day.'

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère): 'My eyes are more on the leading pair. I¹m monitoring closely their progress to see how the
wind changes in the next 48 hours. I think I¹ll reach the Doldrums in 2 good days. I¹m going quite far to the West, but still need to wait
another 48 hours though as the system moves so much. The two ahead I think will get the trades earlier and for us the wind is heading the
whole time. But it¹s probably a bit worse for those behind again. It¹s a relief to see the wind stabilising today. It¹s incredible, the amount of
variation you experience on the exit of the high pressure system. My Œlanding¹ I think will be in 15 ­ 16 days, but I¹ll have to clean the
boat up as I can¹t arrive in Les Sables the state it¹s in right now!'

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) : 'I thought that in the Southern Ocean I would be fast as long as I had some wind. I didn't think I'd
be faster than Raphael (Dinelli - Sogal Extenso), so it's a good surprise! I believe I could be in Les Sables d'Olonne around the 20th March
and not on the 15th April as I thought earlier, especially knowing that I can still improve my rigging.'

Latest Ranking* polled at 0955hrs (UT):

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