Vendee Globe - 1330 - 22/12/00
Virtual Spectator now has Ellen up to third, only 75 miles off the lead, and while the Race Office rankings put her further back - 187 miles - there's no doubt that the pack that has been chasing Desjoyeaux and Jourdain for so long, is now in with a real chance of grabbing the lead.
This is all due to the low pressure system that you can see to the south-west of Tasmania (above). Situated to the east of the fleet, it slid off Western Australia and has been slowly sinking south across their path for the past couple of days. Michel Desjoyeaux has suffered most because he was ahead and closer to it, and so he had to hold to the north, to avoid getting slowed by strong headwinds to the south of the centre of the system. Effectively, he was waiting for this low pressure to cross in front of him, like an impatient motorist at a busy pedestrian crossing.
Ellen MacArthur, Thomas Coville and Thierry Dubois have seen their chance, and gybed to starboard to cut the corner on the lead pair - a move which Jourdain has already pulled to a lesser extent on Desjoyeaux to grab the lead. They are relying on the low pressure continuing on its path south. As you can see from the above image, at the moment Ellen is headed straight for the easterly headwinds on the southern edge of the low pressure.
Map images courtesy of Virtual Spectator, click here to go to the VS site
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