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by Philippe Jeantot on 1 Feb 2001
The battle for the crown continues between the two leaders of the Vendée Globe, Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) and Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher), both probably unaware that, because of
their incredibly close match after 84 days circumnavigating the planet, the Vendée Globe has come under the microscope of thousands more people worldwide.

Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) has squeezed out a few more precious miles over Ellen in the same 15 knot North Easterly breeze, showing that even his fractionally superior speed of 0.8 knots
can make a difference over 12 hours. Who will have the last word? Desjoyeaux indeed told the Race HQ that he had one final weapon in the shape of a head sail specially tailored for this
upwind stretch. PRB¹s skipper has kept this sail in his hold all the way round wisely waiting for the moment to hoist and hopefully accelerate away from any potential rival.

Ellen did a while back admit to having lost certain sails, notably the use of her gennaker, which she hoped to repair at the time. However, since this incident we have heard no news on
the state of this sail, the young British skipper probably not wanting to divulge such information to her rivals. The current difference in their boat speeds is perhaps showing these first
indications of the condition and effectiveness of their respective sail inventory.

Just behind, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) in his Easterly position seems to have brushed through the Doldrums with a few more scratches than Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La
Potagère). ŒBilou¹ on the other hand was sounding confident at the outcome of his tactic to pass to the West. 'It¹s still not quite trade wind conditions yet but I got going at 0200hrs in
the morning and I think I¹ve gained ground between the entrance and exit of the Doldrums.' He lies now 1 degree further North than Thiercelin and yet 5 degrees to the West, thus still in
4th place in terms of distance to finish. The miles gained to the North, though, are valuable now, and as Thiercelin is still travelling at just over 7 knots, evidently still in the calms, the
duel is coming to a head for this pair. It¹s a none too easy choice to have to make: either a more direct passage North through the calms to be positioned to windward at the exit, or a
faster route past this system to the West to gain in latitude but end up in the lee of your rival.

Jourdain¹s solution in theory wins each time. However, Thiercelin, the veteran Vendée skipper, may hold the trump card on the water, as he has opted to come out in a controlling
position over his rival to windward in the North Atlantic climb, despite a more laborious passage through the Doldrums. He knows his Open 60 is better suited to Southern Ocean surfs
and slightly less powerful compared to Jourdain¹s high performance Open 60 close to the wind, which explains his need for a different strategy to keep ahead of Jourdain.

The wind seems to have lost interest in the following pair of skippers, Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée)/Thomas Coville (Sodebo). These two are waiting impatiently for the
South Easterly breeze to kick in after being drawn nearer to the Brazilian coastline, but Wavre confirmed that it hadn¹t reached them yet. 'Now it¹s gone light again. I am back on the right
heading, but when we were following the coast line it was because we were forced to because of the high pressure. North of Brazil, there is a sort of bubble and I expect to come to a halt
at the Equator.'

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) counts herself in on the bad luck that the two ahead are having as well. She is progressing up nearer the Brazilian coastline in fits and starts under
alternating rain squalls and calm patches. Her water-maker is dead, but she has managed to collect rainwater, which she must ration. 'This Atlantic leg has been really testing, it¹s not the
stress, but the incessant manoeuvres and uncomfortable conditions.'

Behind, the two British boys Mike Golding (Team Group 4) and Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore) are neck and neck, counting exactly the same number of miles to the finish this morning, with
Golding taking the edge in the latest rankings by 3 miles. Hall exploded a spinnaker yesterday, evidently in an effort to push his boat hard Northwards, but has a spare in the locker. 'I
anticipate the wind going north pretty soon so we will both be upwind for a while. I hope to make some gains then and reach Les Sables by February 23rd to beat the 96-97 record for the
event ­ that is a real target for me.'

The latest addition to the Cape Horn Club is 13th placed Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti ( His first impressions: ' I feel immediately relieved, as if someone's just drawn a
knife out of my stomach!' Meanwhile those taking this Vendée at a more philosophical pace are becoming impatient to see the Horn on their horizon. Didier Munduteguy (DDP ­ 60ème
Sud) has dreamed of the moment for years and now that he lies approximately 8 days away, he has had other feelings: 'It¹s true I¹m really feeling the fatigue and I¹d quite like to get out of
the Southern Ocean now.' Pasquale De Gregorio (Wind) is focused on the third great cape as well, and once round knows that 'the Atlantic return, although long and uncomfortable,
will make me feel like I am going in a straight line to the finish.'

Radio Chat Extracts

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines et La Potagère): 'I think I can safely say that I¹ve got through the Doldrums! It¹s still not quite trade wind conditions yet but well, I got going at 0200hrs in
the morning after a short time becalmed yesterday afternoon. I think I¹ve gained ground between the entrance and exit of the Doldrums. PRB & Kingfisher are two very strong boats
upwind, I can¹t hope for too much on that front but I hope to get back up with them at least. I¹ve been sailing with full main sail and solent, I¹ve just taken a reef in. It¹s the first time I¹ve
taken a reef in upwind since the repair work. I¹m keeping an eye on it, I don¹t haul big time on the sheets like I normally do.'

Didier Munduteguy (DDP - 60ème Sud): 'I¹m heading East. I¹ve had 2 days of great sailing, a fair bit of wind, 30 ­ 35 knots. No problems. I think I¹ll reach Cape Horn in 8 days. That is
starting to revitalise me and I¹m thinking about constantly, each mile I¹m getting nearer. I¹ve had a small problem with my Standard B but I was able to change the antenna with no
problem. It¹s true I¹m really feeling the fatigue and I¹d quite like to get out of the Southern Ocean now. I¹ve always said that it¹s my dream to pass the 3 great capes.'

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool): 'I¹m alongside a squall and it¹s been a whole hour I¹ve been sitting here going nowhere, so I¹m up on deck watching the skies! I¹m making efforts to
catch rainwater, my water-maker has died completely. I caught loads in the last rain shower but I must ration this now. The conditions in the last two days have stabilised but this
Atlantic leg has been really testing, it¹s not the stress, but the incessant manoeuvres and uncomfortable conditions. The weather forecasts are really tricky for our group.'

Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée): 'Yesterday we had squalls with up to 30 knots, and it was hard work. Now it¹s gone light again. I am back on the direct course, but in fact
when we were following the coast line it was because we had no other choice because of the high pressure. North of Brazil, there is a sort of bubble, and I think I should be slowed down
on the 2nd of February. It¹s a much deeper experience to sail single-handed. I find it sad that there is no stop over to know the countries, to meet the people.'

Simone Bianchetti ( in a telex: 'It's such an important thing for me to have got here, just as it is for every circumnavigator, but for me it's the first time! The idea of rounding
Cape Horn in a round the world race has been a dream of mine for the last 15 years and that's why I gave my

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