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Vendee Globe...the Leaders may be less than a week from the finish line

by Philippe Jeantot on 5 Feb 2001
Sunday and Monday are going to be decisive to determine who is going to be the winner of the race. Between 29° and 31° North, the two leaders have a ridge across their course, which
they will not be able to avoid. There is no alternative solution than going through it. This mean that the 120 miles they have to sail in the ridge are going to be nerve breaking for the
skippers. Indeed the weather files are showing light winds, no more than 5 knots on the whole area.

Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB), is 1°30 further North than Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) and is the first one to suffer from the progressive slow down of the trade winds, whose first
consequence is the reduction of his boat¹s speed.

Ellen 90¹ further South is benefiting from stronger winds and thus managed to keep her initial speed. This explains why looking at the distance to the finish (DTF) she is now only 36
miles behind the French skipper. This was easy to forecast and the phenomenon risks to increase in the next hours. PRB still has a big advantage in latitude and should be the first one to
restart. It all depends on how each of them is going to negotiate this complicated calm zone. We know that when there is no wind somewhere the conditions can be very different just a
few miles away. One can find the exit door and not the other. It¹s a bit of a gamble, and there is not much the skipper can do apart from looking for every little sign of breeze to progress to
the North : where the way out is. Once they have passed the ridge, the two sailors will catch the South Westerly winds from the low pressures systems of the Northern Atlantic. Then
with downwind winds often up to 45 knots, the competitors will start the final sprint to Les Sables d¹Olonne. Neck to neck it will not be possible to play wisely, but they will have to press
the accelerator as they have very similar speeds. The advantage should go to the one with the most sails up.

Michel Desjoyeaux was admitting this morning: ' In this game I have more to lose than to win when Ellen has more to win than to lose.'.

His breton friend, Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère), further in the West has less risks to slow down when he will go through the ridge : 'I can hope that they will stay longer
than me in the ridge, but I¹m not waiting for a miracle. The boat is suffering a lot, and I¹ll have to stay careful in the strong South Westerly winds'

The Swiss skipper Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée) and Thomas Coville (Sodebo) seems to have found their way out of the high pressure bubble they were stuck in for the last
three days. Dominique was telling us this morning: 'I have caught a light Nor¹easterly breeze, I hope it is the beginning of the trade winds, and this would mean we¹ve passed the
Doldrums in less time than the Equator. I was on the line this morning at 5 o¹clock. '

The other woman in the race, Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) is doing a nice come back as she is now just 400 miles from Wavre : ' I hope to keep sailing like that . I have a better upwind
boat than they have. I hope the trade winds will be well established. I am looking at Jourdain¹s course as we have the same boat. I feel that I am very tired, Whirlpool is a very physical
boat, a lot harder than the one I had four years ago. Also because of my water maker problem I have to reduce my water comsumption. I will be happy to finish '

Patrice Carpentier (VM Materiaux) is part of a group of three boats led by Bernard Gallay (Voilà.fr). Joé Seeten (Nord pas de Calais ­ Chocolats du monde), has also done a good come
back, and he is a threat to the skipper of the open 50¹ yellow boat. Patrice was helpless : ' Unfortunately there is nothing I can do to avoid that , his boat is faster than mine in light
winds'.

Italian and oldest skipper of the fleet, Pasquale de Gregorio (Wind), in 16th position, is in good form and is happy with his sailing, one of his main concern being the lack of cigarsŠ

Michel Desjoyeaux and Ellen MacArthur have passed under the 2000 miles separating them to the finish. We estimate a finish from Saturday afternoon onwards. The weather forecast is
bad in the bay of Les Sables d¹Olonne, we are waiting more than 40 knots of wind.




Radio Chat Extracts

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) : 'I am really tired, completely exhausted. I can feel that my body is very tired, a lot more than 4 years ago, because the boat is more physical. I have more
muscles than before the start but the man¦uvres are a lot harder. I am far from having all my physical potential. It was very stressfull in the south, that¹s what is very tiring. The boats are
violent ! Our bodies are not made for that. '

Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) : 'The final sprint with strong winds ! I can see 50 knots arrows on the weather maps, they might be the stronger winds I have had on my whole round the
world trip, and with a much bigger sea than in the South. We¹ll have wind for the last days of the race, and that¹s good news, we¹ll be back home quicker. As a tactician I will try to be
between Ellen and the finish line and to be as fast as possible with PRB to reach the line. We have seen than our boats have the same speed. But I am not going to think too much about
that and do my own race just like I¹ve done since the start. I have more to lose than to win and Ellen has more to win than to lose . '

Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère) : ' I am making good progress I am not going to complain! I will have to negotiate the ridge and I will only have to hope cowardly than the
others will slow down more than me. I am looking at my routing softwares and studying the charts. It¹s not very complicated, I only have to go as fast as possible. If I am lucky they will
stay longer than me in the light airs. But I am not waiting for a miracle. I¹ am going to try to gain miles little by little and we¹ll see what problems the others will encounter.'

Patrice Carpentier (VM Matériaux) : ' I was afraid that it will be long to come back up the Atlantic again, and it is indeed We are all very slow. Only my friend Joe has done a good come
back ! But I believe there is nothing I can about that, I am slower than him in light airs. '

Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée): ' Sometimes I am a bit fed up, It¹s stupid to fight during weeks and to lose everything in three days because of something you can¹t predict. I
need to wait and see but it¹s always easier to say than to do it. I have no power on the elements. '


Latest Ranking* polled at 0855hrs (UT):

Psn Boat Skipper Lat Long Headg Av. Speed** DTF*** Miles from leader
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 26°35'N 33°51'W 346 9.81 1935 0
2 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 24°57'N 32°58'W 3 11 1971 36
3 Sill Matines & La Potagère Roland Jourdain 20°51'N 35°57'W 9 11.3 2276 341
4 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin 17°01'N 35°28'W 353 11.8 2444 509
5 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville 00°47'N 31°05'W 340 6.56 3182 1247
6 Union Bancaire Privée Dominique Wavre 00°15'N 31°05'W 1 7.92 3196 1261
7 Whirlpool Catherine Chabaud 04°39'S 33°28'W 7 11.7 3612 1677
8 EBP - Défi PME - Gartmore Josh Hall 17°07'S 35°20'W 334 10.1 4349 2414
9 Team Group 4 Mike Golding 18°35'S 31°59'W 342 7.87 4358 2423
10 Voilà.fr Bernard Gallay 23°24'S 32°27'W 58 9.96 4653 2718
11 VM Matériaux Patrice Carpentier 25°16'S 35°19'W 40 8.85 4798 2863
12 Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du Monde Joe Seeten 25°53'S 35°45'W 33 8.44 4839 2904
13 Aquarelle.com Simone Bianchetti 46°08'S 53°49'W 31 10.4 6296 4361
14 Aquitaine Innovations Yves Parlier 54°43'S 85°54'W 94 11.1 7787 5852
1

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