Vendee Globe - 1230 - 18/12/00

Mark Chisnell reports as the Southern Ocean asserts its true self

Monday December 18th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The weekend has been every bit as tough as expected, particularly for Ellen MacArthur aboard Kingfisher, who sent this extraordinary account of her struggle to fix a broken batten in appalling conditions. This race is being run at such pace that any breakage requires incredible effort from the skippers to avoid dropping off the back of the front pack.

Fleet at 0200, 18/12/00

The low pressure blasted through the fleet over the weekend, everyone running to the north of a very intense centre. It dragged the main chasing pack, led by Parlier (green) and including Ellen (light blue) Thomas Coville (orange) and Marc Thiercelin (light brown) up towards the lead pair of Michel Desjoyeaux (red) and Roland Jourdain (dark blue).

Yves Parlier, untroubled by breakages, put in another super-human effort to use this low pressure system to jump the almost four hundred mile gap that existed between him and Desjoyeaux on Friday. Parlier knew that the longer this gap existed, the more chance there was that Desjoyeaux could make the decisive break and get a whole weather system in front. Parlier must have pushed himself and the boat onto another level over the weekend, closing to within 130 miles of Desjoyeaux at one point, and extending to almost 200 miles in front of Ellen, Coville and co - they were only 60 nm behind him on Friday.

Weather at 0200, 18/12/00

But what goes around comes around, and as we can see from the weather images for Monday morning, the low pressure system is now moving away ahead of Parlier, but Michel Desjoyeaux is still in it and flying. We can expect the gap to open again until Desjoyeaux in turn gets dropped by the low (and according to the Race Office rankings it had already extended to 268 nm on Monday morning, although I'm unsure if this is distorted by Parlier's position report being four hours before Desjoyeaux's). The question is, will it open to anything like the 370 nm that existed on Friday?

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