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Innovation Explorer due to finish The Race........

by The Race Press Release on 6 Mar 2001
Innovation Explorer should be in between 11h00 and 15h00 tomorrow

That's what Pierre Lasnier announced this morning and he should know. As Innovation Explorer's router, and according to his reckoning, Loïck Peyron and his crew were about to run into a windless zone. During today's daily chat session, the skipper confirmed the situation: 'Yes, we're doing three knots and are taking advantage of the calm to repair our reacher again and change the battens in the mainsail. We're not really sure when we're going to be in but it looks like it could be in around midday tomorrow.' In Gilles Chiorri's opinion (Météo Consult), midday tomorrow local time. 5399 miles from the finish, Team Adventure is progressing at an average speed of 18.8 knots and has covered 450 miles in the last 24 hours. The Poles are on their way up, steering north by north-west clocking up a 20.6-knot average at today's 11h00 GMT position fix, today's best speed.

With the Balearics in sight, Innovation Explorer is swinging from right to left in a strong swell, with almost no canvas up. Not a puff of wind to speak of, dead calm, zilcho wind, call it what you will. Loïck Peyron's maxi-cat is maxi-stopped! A boat speed of just 3 knots at today's chat session, with 356 miles to go. Not nice, whichever way you look at it. After having made good headway overnight, at an average boat speed of 15 knots, the light air forecast has shown up and the speedo has plummeted.

According to Gilles Chiorri, The Race's meteo man: 'Overnight, it's unlikely that Innovation Explorer will make much progress. In the small hours of the morning though, a south-east flow should kick in. The last 100 miles separating her from Marseille should be reeled in at good speed.' For the time being, the giant is 249 miles away.

Meanwhile, Marseille is getting ready to welcome the second-placed boat. The Phocaean city has promised that same sort of welcome is in store for Innovation Explorer as the one Club Med had. The local police force reckoned that some 40 000 people were waiting in the Vieux Port, between 70 000 and 100 000 between the Pharo and the coast and that 400 boats had gone out to greet the winner on the water. Incredible! Along with the population of Marseille which may turn out in number tomorrow, important people will be among them, including Michel Desjoyeaux, winner of the latest Vendée Globe on his 60-foot monohull PRB, who will be there to greet Jean-Philippe Saliou part of his shore crew and others too. A great moment ahead!

Around 20th March... More than 5000 miles away, in the southern hemisphere, Team Adventure is a sort of lone rider as she makes her way up the coast of Brazil. 450 miles in 24 hours, an average speed of 20.2 knots over the last hour. Radio silence from Cam Lewis's boat today, as she makes headway on a north by north-easterly course on her way up to the Saint Helena High, which should soon start slowing her down. Never the less, this loss of speed should not last for long, as the south-east trade winds are lying in wait just behind. Apparently Fred Brousse wanted to put his shorts on yesterday. No need to worry Fred - any day now!

Warta-Polpharma was the fastest boat of the fleet when the position fix was taken at 11h00 GMT today. The Poles have had another opportunity to demonstrate their skill in handling their boat (See Anecdotes below) and are still latched on to the north-western edge of a low to the south. The westerly winds this generates are pushing them along at a good speed ­flash speed of 22 knots and an average speed of 20.6 knots over the last hour ­ and in the right direction. They should soon be leaving the positive effects of the Southern low pressure systems in exchange for a taste of some upwind sailing. A different sort of rhythm will be required then, with choppy seas and conditions which strain both boat and rigging. 1700 miles behind, Team Legato has covered 422.8 miles in 24 hours. A superb day due to strong favourable north-westerly winds which are pushing Tony Bullimore towards Cape Horn. This afternoon, he was lying 1500 miles from the legendary rock.

Anecdotes...

The yolk's on you !
An extract from the daily radio chat session with Loïck Peyron (Innovation Explorer), Fred Le Peutrec and Franck Proffit (Club Med):

Loïck : How you doing guys ? We're off for a swim - dead calm out here. The mainsail is all but down and we're replacing battens - and repairing our reacher again.

Franck : You'll be able to stick that sail in the Maritime Museum ! Have you got anything left to eat?

Loïck : Not much left now. We've got enough but it's true that things are a bit tight. We'd bargained on 63 days and we're up to 64 now. We must have some omelette left.

Franck : You've had some omelette, you swine !

Loïck : Ah, no problems on that score. We were short of nothing!

Franck : We'll have to invite you onboard to prepare you a Kiwi meal.

Fred : Anyway, get a move on. It's brilliant when you come in. Loads of boats on the water, people everywhere, loads of bars and if you want to party it, then there's everything you need.

Loïck : The very thought of it almost scares me half to death!

Reconnaissance from the heavens...
'Tony, did you know that the Russian space station Mir is supposed to be dropping into the Pacific Ocean between 10th and 15th March?' asked David Adams, one of The Race directors. 'Oh really, replied Tony, we've got enough problems as it is without having that thing coming down on us (Team Legato)!'

Tale of a storm...
To date, Warta-Polpharma has been hit by the most violent of the storms to have hit The Race competitors. Dariusz Drapella, navigator, describes some of the stronger moments.

'Although we rounded Cape Horn at 10h46 UT on 2nd March, the battle really begun several hours later. The atmospheric pressure fell to 956 hPa in 22 hPa stages, in just 8 hours. The gradient alone was enough to generate 64-knot winds, with gusts of up to 75-79 knots. The waves were extremely steep and short on either side and started to break, increasing to demolition levels. We came in close to Isla Nueva, south of Tierra del Fuego, but believe you me, it didn't feel as though we were on the lee side. Close to the coast, hidden by the hills, we tested the advantage of the biggest sea anchor on the market. Using the 36-metre long wavescreen, with the warping end of the line passed through blocks attached to the aft cross beam, we were able to slow her down to 4-5 knots, which was very efficient while it lasted ­ for 15 minutes in all. It ended up giving up completely and we had to cut it free and bring the lines back up on deck to protect the rudders and the lifting propellers. Still on the lee side of the island, we had to turn upwind so that she would drift under bare poles with her mast facing in the right direction. That was when we ran into hundreds of very dangerous waves, in 60-70 knots of wind, with a true wind angle of 70-80 degrees, the boat almost being knocked down in the same direction as the swell. Several breaking waves covered the decks, rigging and fittings. We lost a wind generator 3 metres from the deck, life buoys and a running light fell onto the trampoline.'

Quote/Unquote... (no telephone contact with Warta-Polpharma and Team Adventure)

Loïck Peyron (Innovation Explorer) at the 13h00 radio chat session: 'There's no wind, dead clam out here! We're off the coast of Palma (Majorca-Balearic Islands, Spain) completely becalmed. And we're making the last repairs, i.e. a few battens in our mainsail and our reacher need attention. I think we'll be in sometime in the morning. Those on board who have never sailed such a distance before, have been thinking about the finish for the past week and now that it's approaching, they are saying that it has come around too early!'

Tony Bullimore (Team Legato) at the 13h00 radio chat session: 'Sea conditions are tough but we're making good headway.

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