Vendee Globe - 1130 - 20/12/00

Mark Chisnell reports as the leaders hit the wall

Wednesday December 20th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The pressure is on Michel Desjoyeaux big time this morning, as he runs into a wall of light air - while the chasing pack rumble on, going at up to five knots faster in the strong westerly breeze ahead of a big low pressure system. The gaps have plummeted in the last 24 hours, the Race Office have Jourdain only 37 miles behind Desjoyeaux, while Thomas Coville in third has closed to within 358 miles (and a lot less on Virtual Spectator, only 180 nm behind), with Ellen MacArthur and Marc Thiercelin tucked right in behind him.

Fleet at 0200, 20/12/00

We can see from the fleet image that Desjoyeaux (red) and Jourdain (dark blue) have both hit a light southerly airstream, part of a very woolly looking weather pattern in front of them. While MacArthur (light blue), Coville (orange), Thiercelin (light brown) and everyone behind them is still getting strong west to north-west breeze from the monster depression.

We talked a couple of days ago about the accordion effect, as the west-to-east travelling low pressure systems sweep over the fleet, compressing the gaps between the boats and then extending them again. The question is whether or not this is just more of the same, or something different.

Weather at 0200, 20/12/00

What may be concerning Michel Desjoyeux is that the low pressure system that's going to have the most immediate impact on his weather in the next 24 hours isn't to his west (it's behind you ...) - it's to his north. Just visible on the current weather map (above) is the beginnings of a low pressure circulation over Western Australia. This is going to deepen very quickly in the next 24 hours and head south to become the blocking low that we talked about in yesterday's report.

Map images courtesy of Virtual Spectator, click here to go to the VS site.

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