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Sailing against the Nor'Easterly trade winds

by Philippe Jeantot on 4 Feb 2001
The two leaders still have two quiet days to go against the Nor¹Easterly trade winds. Tomorrow the breeze should start decreasing, and slowing the two leaders down,
who would then have to negotiate the Azores high pressure system, which today, is around Madeira. Before they are able to catch the low pressures in the bay of
Biscay, after having crossed the Atlantic Ocean from West to East, the skippers will have to cross a small area of light and shifty winds - the famous ridge between the
two weather systems . On the wind files today , the South Westerly winds are a bit further North than Madeira. If the conditions remain the same until the passage of
the competitors , the acceleration will be brutal. From being upwind against 25 knots of wind they will then sail downwind in 25 knots. The conditions will be ideal to
cover 400 miles per day at 16 knot average, and they could keep those conditions up to the finish line. This would mean going up along the Spanish and Portuguese
coast, and a crossing of the Bay of Biscay at vertiginous speeds. In two days we¹ll know if that scenario will happen or not.

For the time being, the boats are still coming up, and to Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) and Roland Jourdain¹s (Sill Matines et La Potagère) opinion it is even boring, but
laborious for Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) who is tired after hitting a container : ' I still have a lot of work to achieve. I am exhausted. Before I can rest I will have to
tack after the trade winds. I will be penalized. With only one daggerboard I will have to move from one side to the other at each tack. It¹s a huge work. I am still racing
100% but I must rest before I arrive in the anticyclone as there will surely be lots of manoeuvres to do.

The three leading boats seems to be the three best upwind boats in the fleet. Even if they are slamming a lot against the waves, they are heading really close to the
wind at surprising speeds.

Marc Thiercelin¹s (Active Wear) boat is better downwind and he is suffering, but knowing this lack of performance, he had decided to sail further in the East a long
time before crossing the Equator line in order to keep the windward advantage to the fleet. Unfortunately his daggerboards are throwing off the balance of his boat
which is then being weather helmed. Thus he cannot use them and is drifting more than the others: 'My swing keel and the fact that I can¹t use my daggerboards make
me lose a lot of heading. Sill Matines et La Potagère is faster, and is doing a better heading, I have tried everything but I can¹t go faster. This situation will be the same
until 30° North. I am hoping a lot after that point. When I will be able to sail downwind I will try to catch up. '

Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and Dominique (UBP) needs to keep their spirits up . Thomas was telling us this morning on the phone ' I spoke to Dominique Wavre last
night on the phone. At the end of the day we were both going at 2 knots! We have the same opinions about this system which has blocked us and let the others
ahead go free. I must have gybed 40 odd times last night! I¹ve gone 40 miles in more than 2 days! I¹m averaging less than a knot. The swell is unbearable and stresses
the boat a lot. '

Josh Hall (EBP Gartmore) is also racing against Mike Golding (Team group 4) and Thierry Dubois (Solidaires) (out of the race since he stopped in New Zealand), as
they are on the same latitude. He is making good progress without meeting any problems with his boat. Hearing of Ellen¹s collision with a container he remembered his
own collision during the BOC 94 : ' I hit a container and it broke the hull, I lost the boat. There are so many containers lost each year, it¹s a really major problem, but
there¹s nothing we can do '

Bernard Gallay (Voilà.fr) has also just touched the Saint Helena high pressure system winds. He is racing with Patrice Carpentier (VM Matériaux) and Joe Seeten (Nord
Pas de Calais ­ Chocolats du Monde).

Italian skipper, Simone Bianchetti ( whom we haven¹t spoken for a while gave us some good news : ' I did well last night. It was nice to pass cape Horn,
I was just 60 miles away, and I could see it perfectly. The clouds left a place to the sun to shine, it gave a very beautiful light. It was an important moment and I
thought back to when I was 14 years old. It was a liberating moment, because it¹s not easy to set up a project for the Vendée Globe, especially in Italy where sailing
races are not very important. I can¹t think of a more important moment in my life in my last 10 years than rounding Cape Horn .'

Radio Chat Extracts

Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) : 'I¹ve only got one daggerboard and so if I change tack it¹s going to be hard work for me to move it across. Things are stable for the
next 24 hours but after that we¹re going to tack to negotiate our way upwind out of the Azores anticyclone, which is nearby. When something bad happens, it¹s never
a surprise because you are always imagining that much worse could happen. But this time, I think that this really reached the limit. There¹s never a choice but to find a
solution to these problems. My boat may not be at 100% but we¹re making good progress nevertheless. For me, in my head, the goal is to cross the finish line. The
weather isn¹t stabilising around the Azores and may be Michel or myself will get blocked ­ so anything could happen. I spent 4 ­ 5 hours working on the daggerboard
yesterday. There was a cargo ship heading in the same direction too. When you know there¹s a cargo in your area, you¹re a bit paranoid, as you don¹t know what
direction it might take.'

Thomas Coville (Sodébo) : 'It¹s at 1°40 South where the wall is thanks to a convergence zone with plenty of storm clouds and squalls. The whole Trades system is
blocked and not moving South of the Equator. There¹s been between 0 ­ 4 knots of wind for the last 48 hours. We are in the same place where the others reached the
Dolrums very South and now it¹s climbing North with us! Yesterday the system had expanded to 4 degrees North so we have still 4 ­ 5 days to go until we escape this
zone. It¹s quite hard to endure these conditions and to motivate yourself, to say in your head 'I¹m coming back, I¹m coming back!' and then Nature decides to do
something elseŠDay and night we¹re living through this. You just lose it mentally but you simply continue to work as you would to keep the boat going.'

Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore): ' The only problem on board is that the first reefing line broke and I had to climb on the boom to replace it. Today it¹s proving to be difficult,
as you can¹t head straight North. Mike is in a better position than me in this NE wind. The Easterly breeze will remain with us for 3 ­ 4 days until we reach the Equator,
so it¹s upwind until then. But the sun is shining, there¹s 15 knots of wind and we¹re going along at 9 knots upwind. Mike and I are going at the same speed, but he¹s 60
miles to the East. It¹s a real war! But that¹s great for the race and I hope to stay close with him right to the finish!'

Bernard Gallay (Voilà.fr): 'During the night from Thursday to Friday, I had absolutely no wind, then it came back in the early morning. I have a lot to do to catch up
with the others, I might have a chance at the Doldrums. I am in a kind of routine obviously. I have been very angry when I was in no wind, and was feeling very
enthusiastic when the wind was shifting and was steadier.'

Simone Bianchetti ( 'Rounding Cape Horn was a liberating moment, because it¹s not easy to set up a project for the Vendée Globe, especially in Italy
where sailing races are not very important. I can¹t think of a more important moment in my life in my last 10 years than rounding Cape Horn. I have opened a bottle of
champagne and as it was 2 months since I last drank some alcohol, I was bit drunk!!!'

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear): 'I hope something will happen before

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