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Vendee Globe fleet suffers in light conditions

by Philippe Jeantot on 18 Feb 2001
The Vendée Globe arrival schedule has been drawn out longer than expected, thanks to largely uncooperative winds in the North Atlantic. Although it is always difficult to make
precise ETA¹s with sailing, however, Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) must be asking himself why he has had such a bad run of weather. The real conditions have effectively kept him
from being able to head on the direct route to Les Sables and retarded his arrival by a few days.

The depression, which Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère) caught straight in to the finish at record breaking speeds, didn¹t pick Marc up on the way in, and following behind
was unfortunately a windless abyss. When the wind kicked in it was from the ESE, which forced Thiercelin to stay on a tack pushing him towards England. 'I am North of Brittany ­ can
you change the finish line! I shall hopefully tack in an hour and nearer the Brittany coastline reach the NE wind to get me home.' Now it is most likely that he will arrive on Monday in
the early morning instead of Sunday. Despite the jokey humour, Thiercelin knows the meaning of frustration, considering that he was up with Jourdain at the Equator.

Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée) & Thomas Coville (Sodebo) are at last moving at more than 10 knots, the former simply delighted to see a wake coming out of the back of his
boat after 15 days of struggling in weak and shifting winds. Coville makes every kind of analogy to express his feelings about the situation: 'It was like my Calvary the day before
yesterday. I spent 4 hours going at 0 knots. Thinking about the weather I¹ve had since the Horn just brings out the greatest frustration and sense of injustice in me. It¹s like being in a
prison when you¹re on a boat with zero wind.'

There is still another calm zone waiting for them off the Bay of Biscay, before they reach the North Easterly breeze to bring them home. However, Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool), who
has crossed the Azores without a single traffic light along the way, is worrying Coville as they sail in upwind conditions, which his boat is not made for. 'She¹s 300 miles from us now
and moving quickly in comparison. She has such a good boat upwind. She¹ll keep up the pressure right to the end.'

Bernard Gallay (Voilà.fr) as well has not been caught up by the calms and is only 10 miles behind the beleaguered Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore): 'My position to the West hopefully means
I¹m not the worst off. It would be nice to pass Josh. Even with Mike the competition is still open, but saying that there¹s a big gap in longitude between us.'

Hall and Mike Golding (Team Group 4) are now mute, neither have enough fuel for the luxury of talking to the outside world anymore. Golding has evidently no wind at all caught in the
centre of a small depression at the Azores, whilst Hall & Chabaud are moving either side of him. This is no doubt adding to the stress in this final battle just to get home. After starting 8
days and 4 hours after the rest of the fleet, Golding has astounded the race fleet with his remarkable comeback to 8th place.

Two skippers who are taking pleasure from their circumnavigation are Joé Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais ­ Chocolats du monde) & Simone Bianchetti (Aquarelle.com). The Frenchman is
eating meals of cooked flying fish with mustard, whilst Œtip-toeing¹ up the Atlantic in his Œred cigarette¹ boat. The Italian, on the other hand, explained that: 'Each morning I eat 4 ­ 5
fish raw with oil, olives and spices. I call it exotic sushi!' Despite repairing a broken genoa tack, the eloquent skipper spends his time helming during the night under starry skies,
'talking to Mario (his autopilot) a lot ­ we tell each other stories from our lives.'


ETA

Marc Thiercelin: slim chance of Sunday evening, more likely to be Monday morning

Dominique Wavre & Thomas Coville: approx. 21st.


Radio Chat Extracts

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear): 'What¹s happening? I¹m heading 60 straight to the Scilly Isles, and in latitude I¹m up the top of the Brittany coastline! It¹s impossible to tack right now.
I¹ve got to get closer to the shore to reach the NNE wind soon. Then I¹ll be heading straight towards home port. Dominique called me up yesterday and asked if I was doing a ŒRoyal
Tour¹Šwell, yes! My ETA ­ all my hopes are pinned on tomorrow, but all these extra miles ­ it¹s just not fair! I know the Fastnet isn¹t a mark of the course!'

Thomas Coville (Sodebo): 'It was like my Calvary until the day before yesterday. I spent 4 hours going at 0 knots. I must be cursed or something. Catherine, since the Horn, has not
stopped once up the Atlantic. She¹s 300 miles from us now and moving quickly in comparison. She has such a good boat upwind. I¹m looking at Friday for my arrival, not before. It
sends a chill down my spine looking at the weather files for the Bay of Biscay. I don¹t even know if we¹ll beat Auguin¹s record. Thinking about the weather I¹ve had since the Horn just
brings out the greatest frustration and sense of injustice in me. It¹s like being in a prison when you¹re on a boat with zero wind. I was pretty shook up when I nearly had a cargo ship
running me down at the Azores, as with no boat speed I couldn¹t have done a thing to avoid it. I called up on the VHF but there was no response.'

Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée): 'My ETA is the 21st about midday. But give or take 24 hours! To see a wake rising behind the boat is fantastic! I spend each day analysing
the weather as much as I can and taking the position of the other boats three times a day. I also spend time on manoevres outside and inside I take stock of what¹s left to eat, what¹s
still good to eat. The worst is behind I hope and all the email messages of support have really helped me a lot. I can smell the finish now - I¹m already looking at the tide times for Les
Sables d¹Olonne.'

Simone Bianchetti (Aquarelle.com): 'The last few days I¹ve had problems making good speed or heading thanks to a small low pressure system. Yesterday I broke my genoa tack but
also repaired it. I caught a fishing net round my keel two days ago. Now I¹m trying to save on fuel for the rest of the race up the Atlantic. Each morning I eat 4 ­ 5 fish raw with oil, olives
and spices. I call it exotic sushi! I talk to Mario (his autopilot) a lot, we tell each other stories from our lives.'

Joé Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais/ Chocolats du Monde): 'Still sailing upwind and my boat is getting redder thanks to the sand which sweeps over from Africa. The trades are shifting
between 310° & 20° and in one hour there could be some important winds. I¹ve reefed a little as the sea is quite cut up. I think we¹re all tip-toeing up the Atlantic for fear of breaking the
boats.'

Bernard Gallay (Voilà.fr): 'My position to the West hopefully means I¹m not the worst off. It would be nice to pass Josh. Even with Mike the competition is still open, but saying that
there¹s a big gap in longitude between us. What¹s great is that finally I can see a horizon, as it¹s been too overcast for 6 days and the wind has brought a shower of sand with it,
colouring the sheets and lines a yellow ochre. I think I¹ll be in around the 27th but I¹ll know better in 4 ­5 days time.'


Latest Ranking* polled at 0900hrs (UT):

Psn Boat Skipper Lat Long Headg Av. Speed** DTF***
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux Finish: 10 February 2008hrs 32 sec
2 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur Finish: 11 February 2036hrs 40 sec
3 Sill Matines & La Potagère Roland Jourdain Finish: 13 February 1713hrs 33 sec
4 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin 48°47'N 09°50'W 63 10.5 354
5 Union Bancaire Privée Dominique Wavre 42°50'N 19°27'W 38 10.5 792
6 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville 42°00'N 20°38'W 69 17.2 858
7 Whirlpool Catherine Chabaud 38°53'N 26°07'W 55 13.4 1160
8 Team Group 4

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