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Wessex Resins 2019 - Pro-Set - 728x90

Vendee Globe leader becalmed, MacArthur closes within 26 miles

by Philippe Jeantot on 29 Jan 2001
Surprise this morning at the Vendée Globe Paris race HQ when the morning positions report arrived: Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) had
virtually stopped. Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) is now only 26 miles behind the French race leader. When studying the leader¹s course,
initially it looked as if there was a problem. Before 2300hrs yesterday, PRB was doing 10 knots to the North. Suddenly the boat headed
West and the speed dropped to three knots. This lasted all night. It looked like the speed of a boat drifting, pushed by a South Easterly 15
knots wind (conditions indicated on the wind files).

Fortunately, the skipper himself was able to reassure us : ' Not an accident at all. There is no wind. I am in the Doldrums. I am trying to
catch any breath of wind but it¹s not easy. I am surprised at the situation. Yesterday the South Easterly trade winds started to drop while
they were turning to the East. I felt a swell coming from the North East which announces the Northern hemisphere trade winds and the
clouds, very high up, were arriving from the North East. ' All these signs announce the passage from one weather system to another, and
explained why Michel Desjoyeaux thought that it wouldn¹t take long to cross the Doldrums. However, it was the Doldrums making a rare,
early appearance below the Equator.

Michel Desjoyeaux managed to crossed the Equator line at 0400hrs UT and we are relieved that no major drama happened to PRB, just a
big wind hole. This situation has made Ellen¹s day, as despite being slowed down as well, she is now back on the same level as her rival.
After 21000 miles of race, the two leaders have got a new start on the Equator line. They are now neck and neck, Kingfisher back in the
East.

The two sailors are now fighting hard, and it's ruthless. The unexpected behaviour of the Doldrums is surprising everybody and it seems
like the Vendée Globe 2001 is turning a page in its history. The first to escape the zone will be the first also to catch the North Easterly
trade winds and increase the distance which might be enough to cross the finish line in Les Sables d¹Olonne as the big winner.

In the Doldrums, it¹s not a question of tactics, strategy or match racing anymore. The only goal is to escape as Michel Desjoyeaux was
telling us : ' When you go at 15 knots, you can control a competitor and anticipate the weather. When you are only going at 2 knots you
can¹t do anything and you can only try to escape as quickly as possible. It¹s a lottery. There is no rule to apply. The satellite photos, the
only ones to show the reality, are difficult to read. There is only one sure thing for the sailor : he has to hunt any small trace of breeze. He
must stay on the deck permanently to tweak the sails, steer the boat, and just thinking of the miles he is winning in latitude, going North
being the only escape. When this situation lasts for several days this can become an obsession, the skipper is losing track and only sees
the speedometer and anemometer needles.

With the stake of the game being the finish line, only 3200 miles away, the tension onboard was evident during the radio chat. The two
skippers both had to stop the conversation to go and trim some sails on the deck.

The second pair, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) and Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère) are, as far as they are concerned, happy
with their own weather conditions , in the South Easterly trade winds. They are making good progress to the North at nearly 13 knots. Will
the leaders stay long enough in the Doldrums to let them come back in the game for the first place ?

Everything is possible at 13 knots of average speed. Five hundreds miles have been covered in 36 hours. As they are more in the West,
where theoretically, the Doldrums area is less active, they benefit from the weather information given by the leaders. This second pair
could spring a surprise still.

And the third pair, Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée) and Thomas Coville (Sodebo), are very unlucky with the weather. Thomas
Coville this morning didn¹t try to hide the fact that he was feeling tired and fed up with the situation. Pushing hard since the start, Thomas
the racer, is frustrated not to be in the leading trio : ' I¹ve been fighting for three days to escape from this small low pressure. I haven¹t
slept. I am knackered. It¹s depressing. Well, I hope it¹s going to change '

Mike Golding (Team Group 4) has moved up into the eighth place, in front of Josh Hall (EBP Gartmore), being further in the East, he is closer
to the finish line.

The weather conditions in the Southern Atlantic haven¹t been easy and simple for anyone in the race and once again all the predictions
are unfounded . Hopefully the weather study is not an exact science...sailing would lose a lot of his interest.

Radio Chat Extracts

Joé Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du monde):
' It must not be easy for Mich, when you are leading, you must keep your position. Ellen has nothing to lose. I am surprised of the pace
she is creating in the race. There is a lot of suspense. It¹s a good week end! '

Patrice Carpentier (VM Matériaux):
' What a fantastic suspense in this race! There are winds coming from everywhere, but I¹d rather be here than upwind by 60° South, it¹s
warmer! '


Thomas Coville (Sodebo):
' I¹m fed up, not doing more than 1.5 knot, haven¹t slept for 3 days, I¹ve been running after everybody for more than a month and a half,
it¹s just crazy! I have had all the winds sectors from 0° to 180°, from 0 to 25 knots. I thought I had managed to escape, I was doing 12 knots
but now, 0! Northerly wind! Not a single weather file is saying the same thing... I need a bit of luck, a small push. Now I can¹t bear this
situation anymore.'
A few minutes later, in another call...
'Sorry I was angry... I can¹t give up, it¹s part of me! I am pushing to the limits, I don¹t sleep, I don¹t eat... It¹s hard to accept that I am so
slow. '


Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) :
' It gives me more chances (to come back on Desjoyeaux) but I have always said that I was doing my own course. I am sailing as I can, as I
want. We never know what can happen next. Michel can restart and take 200 miles on me. We are on the same longitude and we are in the
same situation. It will be difficult to pass him as he is ahead.
In my mind, I am not saying ¹we are arriving in the Doldrums and we the first to come out¹. I am saying ¹we are arriving in the Doldrums and
I am doing my best¹. '

Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) :
' They call that the Doldrums! There is absolutely no wind. I tried to take some satellite photos yesterday evening but it didn¹t work. On
the chart¹s wind fields it loooked like it was going to work so I wanted to try. It¹s not the end of the world as Kingfisher is just in the
south. If was climbing in the mast and if the visibility was good I could see her! '


Latest Ranking* polled at 0830hrs (UT):

Psn Boat Skipper Lat Long Headg Av. Speed** DTF*** Miles from leader
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 00°06'N 27°41'W 283 5.72 3215 0
2 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 00°20'S 27°29'W 342 8.74 3228 26
3 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin 07°55'S 29°13'W 25 12.1 3724 509
4 Sill Matines & La Potagère Roland Jourdain 08°41'S 32°59'W 358 12.9 3784 569
5 Union Bancaire Privée Dominique Wavre 17°26'S 35°25'W 6 7.59 4342 1127
6 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville 18°48'S 34°44'W 345 7.66 4396 1181
7 Whirlpool Catherine Chabaud 27°33'S 35°22'W 30 9.63 4918 1703
8 Team Group 4 Mike Golding 38°13'S 44°57'W 342 9.31 5685 2470
9 EBP - Défi PME - Gartmore Josh Hall 36°28'S 49°46'W 334 10.4 5721 2506
10 Voilà.fr Bernard Gallay 43°19'S

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