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The Race Leaders may stop in New Zealand

by The Race Media on 2 Feb 2001
'Club Med's ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) in the Cook Straits is for February 1st at 2200 GMT...' Gilles Chiorri
from Météo Consult told us, leaning over his computer... It has to be admitted that the leading boat has never really
slowed down and is continuing her course at an average speed of 21.8 knots over the last 24 hours. At 1500 GMT
she was exactly 250 miles from the entrance to the port of Wellington (New Zealand) that she must leave to port. As
for Innovation Explorer, she has found some speed again and recorded an average of 27.9 knots over the last hour.
Mr. 'Weather' estimated that 'Her estimated ETA was for February 3rd at 1400...'. Needless to say that the much
talked about slowdown for Club Med, which would have been Loïck Peyron's saving grace hasn't happened. On the
contrary, the anticyclone located over the Tasman Sea, after having worried Club Med, could end up by seriously
hindering Innovation Explorer. Behind, the pursuers are somewhat bogged down... Team Adventure and
Warta-Polpharma are in the grips of a bubble of high pressure and are dragging along respectively at the 1500 GMT
polling at an instantaneous speed of 2.1 knots for the Americans and 8.1 knots for the Poles... the gap is widening!

'We shouldn't be far from the Cook Straits by noon local time, or in the middle of the night for you,' said Jacques
Caraes (Club Med) with a rather tired voice. 'Grant (Dalton, the skipper) and Mike (Quilter, the navigator) are working
hard at this landfall and I have reason to believe that there will be friends of theirs on boats to meet them. I've even
heard that there will be members of family in a helicopter. One hears that this country is a great maritime nation, and
we're soon going to find out!' There is no doubt that Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, and all the towns along
the Straits will be out to give the local boys a hero's welcome, and if there were 50,000 people to welcome Grant
Dalton at the Whitbread stopover (crewed race round the world in stages on monohulls), you can bet that there won't
be any less for the coming of The Race!

'The scenario we had envisaged with the anticyclone more over New Zealand hasn't happened,' analysed Gilles
Chiorri (Météo Consult) 'and Club Med is currently sailing on its Eastern edge at a good clip'. Indeed, Club Med is
running down the final miles before rounding Cape Farewell wind astern and short tacking fast downwind. 'All is well
on board', said Jacques Caraes (Club Med) in conclusion, 'we have even taken advantage of the warmer
temperatures to do a bit of spring cleaning'. Meaning that the boat is impeccable, that they have fixed the various
little technical problems and dried the inside of the boat.

As for Innovation Explorer, 822.8 miles behind, she is progressing as fast as she can towards this meeting point with
land... Will she or won't she stop? 'The decision concerning our stopping story will be take near the stopping area...'
were the very words of a decidedly very Anglo-Saxon Loïck Peyron. Loïck still doesn't want to give anything away
even if we have just learnt that a freight aircraft is scheduled to leave on Saturday to arrive in New Zealand on
Monday. If the crew of Innovation Explorer, which is scheduled to reach the Cook Straits on Saturday, takes the
decision to stop, they will have to wait until Monday for the freight plane, or the end of their 48 hour penalty period.
Remember that on this flight there will be a reacher (headsail) and a daggerboard.

In the meantime 'Everything is perfect', declared Loïck on the daily chat show. 'There are a few cirrus clouds in the
sky announcing some wind for tomorrow, three albatrosses which have been playing with the boat for several hours
and a large swell that is pushing us along. But it should be getting tougher in the next few hours!' Concerning his
direct adversary, he had this to say: 'It's not such a great advantage as we believed. I think we should be in the Cook
Straits in about 48 hours'.

The only snag is that wretched anticyclone hanging over the Tasman Sea which could slam the door shut in front of
Loïck Peyron and his crew. Stuck between two lows that have prevented them from pointing towards New Zealand
today, it could slide away to the East and grip Innovation Explorer in light airs along the New Zealand coast. The trap
expected for Club Med might just catch Innovation Explorer.

For Team Adventure and Warta-Polpharma, the situation is more difficult and they are in the grips of a
North-north-westerly flow of 10 knots... This is not exactly exciting the speedometers which are hovering around 6.5
knots average speed over the last hour for the first and 11.3 knots for the second. They should in all probability feel
the effects of an enormous depression tomorrow, located today to the Southeast of the zone. Meanwhile, Tony
Bullimore is greeting the full flavour of the Southern Ocean and is surfing at over 20 knots... Tony Bullimore is a
happy man!

Did you know...
The Cook Straits are the obligatory passage point for The Race in the Southern Hemisphere. The competitors will
have to pass through them, and some will even have to stop in Wellington, which is none other than the capital of
this country, which is divided into two large islands. Auckland is on North Island like Wellington, which is at its
southern tip. Wellington is also, by the way, known as the 'Windy City'. Needless to say, James Cook came by this
way searching for a passage between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific, and he found these narrow straits to which
he gave his name. The legend tells us that these straits have an important place in Maori culture. Indeed they say
that in bygone times, the Maoris organised initiatory rites here by sending out novices into the straits, in canoes,
blindfold...

Why the Cook Straits? Bruno Peyron's reply:
'There were several reasons for choosing to pass through the Cook Straits. Without putting them in order, it was for
differentiating between The Race and the Jules Verne, to make them change weather systems and perhaps for
reshuffling the pack, to create a symbolic media event 'down under' and it was also for educational reasons so that
young and old alike could realise where it was all happening... Moreover, I have to admit that sailing round Antarctica
is rather simplistic. So, if you take on one side Gibraltar, the other side of the world corresponds with the middle of
the Bay of Auckland! There was also another reason for making this choice: New Zealand is the only country with
France to have generated such popular enthusiasm. They should be reaching the Straits this coming weekend

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