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Kingfisher closing on Vendee leader

by Ellen MacArthur on 5 Feb 2001
After 4 days of relatively steady sailing upwind in the Trades, PRB has
started to feel the effects of the high pressure system that blocks the
route of the leaders. At 0600, Mich's speed had dipped below 10 knots for
the first time in almost a week, and his lead down to 54 miles in terms of
distance to go to the finish. Positioned 90 miles to his south and 40 miles
to his east, KINGFISHER was holding on still to the stronger breeze. The
game will be to get to the other side of the high pressure first, so the
distance to go is less relevant than how close to the wind on the other side
can each boat is.

* The high pressure 'barrier' and its associated light winds will create an
accordion effect once more, KINGFISHER should gain more miles before
touching the same winds and slowing up. Ellen's hope will be by at least not
following the same track, even if only 40 miles to the east, that she can
pick up a different breeze to gain some miles on the leader. On the other
side of the barrier there are strong West and NW winds, attached to the
North Atlantic depressions, to carry the skippers back to the Bay of Biscay
and the finish, now less than 2000 miles away.

* Marc Thiercelin (ACTIVEWEAR) continues to slip back, now at 523 miles -
he's had difficulty holding height with his older generation Finot design.
He commented yesterday that he had to sail a lot without the daggerboard due
to a balance problem - the effect is obvious - slip to leeward. He certainly
hasn't give up hope of a podium finish though, on this, his 3rd round the
world solo race.

* During the night Thomas Coville (SODEBO) crossed the Equator back in to
the northern hemisphere. Both him and Dom Wavre (UBP) have been plagued by
the calms for several days now, but seem to have finally touched some new
breeze and are sailing at 7 knots.

* Meanwhile in the Battle of the Brits, Josh Hall has once again taken the
advantage with a 21 mile lead, his more westerly position for the time being
paying off as Golding hits the calms - boat speed 2.7 knots...


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I had the weirdest experience yesterday evening - a sand storm! Suddenly it
was raining sand, the whole deck was brown. It was on the sails, the ropes,
everything. Africa feels a long way away, but I guess this came from

I have been working quite hard on a long jobs list, making sure everything
is done before we attack the area of light winds ahead. I've re-spliced the
spinnaker sheets, re-stitched a few strops and even cleaned the deck. I wish
I could get the black marks out though, I hate it when she's not looking

Had the best night's sleep for a long time last night. Lots of 70 minute
naps, with a few 20 minutes ones as well. Fantastic! The wind was quite
steady, on a clear night, with stars everywhere.

This next 48 hours is going to be decisive, its the last chance for anyone
to pass I think. We seem to have been keeping our distance on Bilou although
he's been climbing slightly on both of us [meaning he has been sailing
higher and therefore gaining ground to east], but thats probably due to a
better wind angle out to the west. I've worked to get a bit of separation
from Mich by sailing a bit closer to the wind and accepting some speed loss,
so at least I'm not just following his tracks. We'll see whether it makes
any difference - this shouldn't be as bad as the Doldrums, but in every
unstable wind mass there are always chances to pick up a ride from a
friendly cloud...

Wind is now down to 13 knots and quite steady, time for a sail change to the
genoa I think. Grind in the smaller 'solent' sail and roll out the big'n.
We're going in to the CALM just remains to be seen how long we are
there. The routing software says we should be out by tomorrow, but I don't
really trust that computer programme!

Got to go, down 12 knots of wind...

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