Vendee Globe - 1430 - 22/11/00

In the Doldrums Josh Hall is ready to pounce in EBP/Gartmore

Wednesday November 22nd 2000, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
As the Vendee Globe fleet leaders struggle through the inter-tropical convergence zone - otherwise known as the Doldrums - Britain's Josh Hall has been sharing his thoughts from on board EBP/Gartmore and reflecting on an excellent start to his race.
Hall is ninth in the overall ranking but he is only 143 miles behind the leader, Yves Parlier, and he is feeling confident about the way he is sailing. "I'm really pleased with my position and with the boat's speed and reliability. So far we are on the pace and have not broken anything. I'm 100 miles off the lead and 45 miles behind the boat ahead which is nothing in the general scheme of things.

"If the others break free of the Doldrums before me, those distances could double, but I am confident with the boat's upwind ability and we can be right back up there after a few days," Hall added. All the skippers have been reporting about the difficult and frustrating conditions in the Doldrums which look like they will last for another couple of days. Hall has been providing some of the best stuff and says he has been dreaming of a cold salad washed down with a glass of Chablis and an ice cream to follow.

EBP/Gartmore has enjoyed her fair share of wildlife with strange beatles screaming at each other in the cockpit, a bird and butterflies taking refuge on the sidedecks and a whale breaking the surface just 20 yards from the boat. All the while Hall, who now lives in France, has been trying to tease his boat south. "Constant sail changing and trimming are required in the fickle winds that spin around the compass with every cloud," he said. "The days are hot, hot, hot and the evaporation process turns the nights into black affairs with menacing tropical clouds filling the sky. Under these monster cumulus there may be no wind or 40 knots, you never know, so vigilance is required. "South, south, south is the target," Hall continued, "always staying on the tack or gybe with the most south in the course and eventually - in maybe three or four days time - we will have the fresh feel of the south-east Trades in our faces."

At the front of the fleet Parlier is continuing to head the leading group of nine boats and had opened up a margin of 31 miles over Michel Desjoyeaux in second place. Like Hall, Parlier reckons the Doldrums will have everyone in their grip for some time to come, giving the slower starters more time to catch up.

The weather wizard who nearly killed himself in a paragliding accident 18 months ago, said conditions were becoming a little more stable and he was making an average of 5.2 knots. "The wind isn't strong but when it lifts, I can make eight or nine knots upwind. It's the beginning of the Trade Winds which come up from the south. Yesterday (Tuesday November 21), I stayed with a band of clouds, manoeuvering a great deal, which pushed me ahead. At certain moments I was even going at 15 knots. Then the cloud formation evaporated and until this morning the going has been quite difficult".

Ellen is still in third place about 60 miles behind Parlier (according to the race office) on the west side of the group. She had a very slow night but was back sailing at six knots again on Wednesday. Thomas Coville in fourth palce is only four miles behind her in terms of distance to the leader while Roland Jourdain, who is also on the west flank, is only another mile back and was visible from Kingfisher.

Back int 13th place, Eric Dumont has rudder problems on Euroka after hitting a floating tree several days ago which has bent the blade. Dumont has been over the side to inspect the damage and reckons it will snap off altogether once the boat picks up any real speed. "As soon as I accelerate, I hear these awful cracking sounds," said Dumont who is talking to his designers about how he will fix the problem.

At the back of the fleet Mike Golding is continuing to make steady progress and is only 300 miles from the Canaries in Team Group 4. After a low point when he rounded Cape Finisterre, Golding is sounding more cheerful. He has managed to stem the leak in the stern compartment and has worked on his wind instruments on the wand at the stern and can now drive the boat under pilot without the danger of rounding up or gybing.

Sailing on the wind with a reef in and the staysail set, Golding was ticking off the miles. "The sea is smooth and the wind isn't so strong, but it's easy going," he said. "I'm not thrashing the boat," he added.

Rankings
1 Aquitaine Innovations (Parlier)
2 PRB (Desjoyeaux) 31
3 Kingfisher (MacArthur) 61
4 Sodebo (Coville) 65
5 SILL Matines La Potagère (Jourdain) 66
6 Solidaires (Dubois) 81
7 Active Wear (Thiercelin) 99
8 Union Bancaire Privée (Wavre) 102
9 EBP EspritPME Gartmore (Hall) 143

Other British
14 This Time Argos Soditic (Tolkien) 326
22 Team Group 4 (Golding) 1879

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