Vendee Globe - 1430 - 27/12/00

Mark Chisnell reports as Desjoyeaux retightens his grip on the lead

Wednesday December 27th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
A few days ago, there was a chance that either Ellen MacArthur, Thierry Dubois or Thomas Coville could find the lead of the Vendee Globe in their Christmas stocking. Positioned to the south, with a great forecast, any of these three looked set to blast past Michel Desjoyeaux and Roland Jourdain, trapped by a rogue low pressure to the north. But the status quo has reasserted itself, and we are now back to normal service - with Desjoyeaux comfortably leading from Jourdain, then MacArthur.

What happened? It was Southern Ocean attrition rather than strategic error. For Ellen MacArthur it was a broken halyard that forced another terrifying four hour trip up the mast. For Thomas Coville it was continued autopilot problems that have prevented him from doing more than ten knots without losing control and wiping out. But Dubois has fared the worst, forced to head up to New Zealand to fix battery and alternator problems that have left him with very limited electrical power.

In the meantime, Desjoyeaux and Jourdain - with Marc Thiercelin in their wake - were blitzing south-east on the back of the low pressure system that had been holding them up, as it finally started moving south-east. Neck and neck at this stage, they quickly dropped to the latitude of the three challengers, and by Sunday the passing move was blocked.

With Thierry Dubois (purple) turning north for New Zealand, and Coville (orange) still struggling with his pilots, Marc Thiercelin (light brown) was up to fourth, as Desjoyeaux (red) finally won his battle with Jourdain (dark blue), and eased back into the lead. But Ellen (light blue) started stemming her losses at around 250 nm behind Desjoyeaux - and holding a comfortable third.

Fleet at 0400, 27/12/00

As we can see (above), the low pressure at the heart of the action for the past week is still dominating the fortunes of the front of the fleet. Parked right in the middle of the track, it's been slowing its eastwards drift over the past couple of days, allowing the fleet to overtake it again. That has forced them into dealing with the light air zone in the centre of this low pressure.
Map images courtesy of Virtual Spectator, click here to go to the VS site.

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