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The Vendée Globe is certainly not over yet.........

by Philippe Jeantot on 20 Feb 2001
The Vendée Globe is certainly not over yet for fourth placed skipper Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear), who has been cheated yet again of reaching Les Sables d¹Olonne for another day,
thanks to playfully fickle winds opposing his route. The large high pressure system with Easterly winds is a god send for everyone on land, bringing clear and sunny skies, however it
is a curse for those skippers who need to head directly East to reach port in these agonising final days of the race.

Marc Thiercelin finds himself handicapped greatly by his cumbersome genoa stuck up front, which he cannot furl, and is thus prevented from sailing close to the wind in order to get
nearer home. In the variable wind strength he can but play with his mainsail now, the configuration surely destabilising and depowering the boat itself. Moreover, Marc has had to
reinforce a slack shroud with halyards and so with the tenacity of the rig also under question, he is having to proceed with caution.

Thiercelin was at his lowest this morning, his voice full of fatigue and frustration: ' I didn¹t get a wink of sleep last night, the sea was just miserable, cold and empty. The wind is at 90
and to get to Les Sables I have to head 87. It¹s interminable! I just wanted to get in under 100 days, which didn¹t happen, then I wanted to get in on Sunday, then todayŠ I¹ve no
interest in competition right now. The rig is worn out and the genoa is all out of shape up front. That hasn¹t helped me to stay tight to the wind. I¹m taking reefs in and out fairly
frequently. With 4 ­ 5 wind shifts per hour on average I¹m getting exhausted too.'

He hopes to cross the line at around 1100hrs on Tuesday 20th in the morning, a whole week after his main rival in the race, Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagere). Things aren¹t
any rosier for Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée) & Thomas Coville (Sodebo), who are both at the same latitude as Les Sables d¹Olonne, but way offshore in the Bay of Biscay
in the same situation.

Wavre can only be glad that at least he has a partner in suffering, but Coville¹s head is sunk in complete gloom. 'The wind¹s shifting by 40 ­ 50 degrees and varying from 4 to 18 knots
in 30 seconds. The swell underneath just makes the boat jerk around uncomfortably, it¹s just so frustrating. It¹s all or nothing in intensity with the wind. I¹ve only covered 90 miles since
yesterday. We tack squarely and just crawl alongŠand when I see Catherine behind, who has not stopped, gliding along like a queen towards usŠwe are really cursed, I¹m sure of it!'

Dominique does not wish to give any ETA and echoed Thomas¹ sentiments about being so near and yet so far from home: 'The boat is rearing up, crashing down, falling over,
stoppingŠ the weather is totally unpredictable. We¹re like novices who don¹t even know where the wind is coming from, and it¹s hard to decipher the system we¹ve fallen into. I¹ve
really no idea when we¹ll finish. I didn¹t sleep at all last night, dosed myself up with coffee, music blaring loudly and spent just hours helming.'

Near disaster struck for Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore) during yesterday, when the British skipper had no choice but to climb his mast to force the main sail down in a strengthening breeze
when he needed to rapidly depower the boat. Open 60's can be dangerous without the ability to reef quickly in a freshening wind.

Hall recounted his ordeal by telex a few hours after the event, still too worn out to speak: 'Once I had struggled to the masthead I discovered the block had broken and the halyard was
jammed inside it. I locked off the sail with a floating rope clutch, then installed a new block. The halyard had to be cut but I rejoined it. It was quite the hardest thing I have ever done at
sea - it was so difficult to hold on as the mast moved around quite violently, and to do quite a complex bit of work too. I have never been so glad to hit the deck!'

Hall has lost valuable miles on rival British skipper Mike Golding (Team Group 4), and is now stuck in the calms with Bernard Gallay ( creeping along at less than 3 knots, while
Golding himself is gallivanting on at 12.

It seems that such woes do not affect the French skipper Joé Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais ­ Chocolats du Monde), who takes the hardships with a dose of reality. 'A beautiful day it is
today: smooth sea, sunny skies, a fresh breeze. I helmed under the stars as well, those are moments to treasure. Those guys ahead really mustn¹t complain about their lot, you just have
to live with the elements. Sailing these boats is a real pleasure. Compared to the stories and times of Magellan we¹re in another world here, and it¹s true comfort compared to that!'


Marc Thiercelin: Finish line at 1100hrs French time

Radio Chat Extracts

Pasquale de Gregorio (Wind) by telex: 'We are in the 40's and in 3-4 days I'm counting to be in warmer temperatures, although already the cold has become less rigid. As soon as the
water temperature will also rise, I am counting to take another epic shower and to change clothes.'

Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear): 'I¹m sailing upwind, in a breeze which shifts 30 degrees each time in direction. It varied from 13 ­ 26 knots and would gust for 5 ­ 10 minutes and then die
away again. Life is pretty uncomfortable here. I¹m 90 miles from Les Sables, not too far away. For tomorrow morning, yes, I¹ll be in. I really haven¹t enjoyed climbing the North Atlantic.
It was okay up to the Azores, then I don¹t know what kind of bad genie was following me around butŠ I was 3rd behind Parlier at the Doldrums coming down here, and on the return trip
I was third ahead of Bilou at the Doldrums.'

Thomas Coville (Sodebo): 'A ridge is heading into our area. It should climb up and reach us, and looks like it will move Eastwards with us. But I¹m not optimistic at all as I know it will
still be quite light. We¹re climbing North so as to finish on port tack. Who knows what it will do for us really. It¹s hard to motivate yourself especially when you are lacking in sleep.
Dominique is living on coffee, I¹m sucking on the stones from a packet of dates I found. It seems that we¹ve experienced exceptional weather for the last month ­ great to know this fact
but it doesn¹t get me closer to home. This boat would have done much better in the last Vendée Globe!'

Dominique Wavre (UBP): 'I¹ve really no idea when we¹ll get into Les Sables. I didn¹t sleep at all last night, dosed myself up with coffee, music blaring loudly and spent just hours
helming. Catherine has perhaps found a better way through, she is presenting herself as a real danger now. Thomas & myself are cursing life together, trying to boost each other¹s
morale as we are together in this nightmare. We have a greater solidarity as competitors now. If only you knew how much pleasure it will give me to see this boat heading on a direct
route on my GPS to Les Sables.'

Joé Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du monde): 'Bernard Gallay is 350 miles ahead of me, so I better step on the gas! There¹s still a long way to go. Two days ago the boat
thudded twice and I even felt the hull lift slightly ­ I think I must have injured the animal, as it seemed like it hit me head on. The boat was sailing at 9.5 knots and weighs 8.5 tons. The
whale was a baby, 15 metres long at least, I saw the fin and backŠI always try and look out for the jet of water when the sea is flat. Yesterday I did some Œhousework¹ and read for a bit.
I helmed under the stars as well, those are moments to treasure, I¹m never frustrated being out here.'

Latest Ranking* polled at 0825hrs (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

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