Vendee Globe - 1200 - 13/11/00
Parlier led the bunch that took the shortest route, tight inshore round Cape Finisterre. While Dominique Wavre and Catherine Chaubaud favoured an offshore strategy, holding further west and looking for advantage from an approaching weather front. Their intention was to break through the front first, and get into the north-west breeze on the other side. The veer from the south-west to the north-west would pull the wind round from a beat to a fast reaching angle.
Wavre hoped to gain by hitting the quicker downwind sailing angle before the boats to the south-east (who would still be waiting for the front to get to them), and making up for the extra miles they had sailed. But it hasn't worked, and the inshore group have popped out comfortably ahead, lead by Parlier and Desjoyeaux. The weekend's most remarkable performance however is from Roland Jourdain, who after returning to restart and losing twelve hours, has powered through into third.
The forecast looks excellent for some fast sailing through the rest of the first week. The Azores High is strengthening and dominating the Atlantic to the west of the fleet, centred about a thousand miles west of Cornwall, and stretching south towards the equator. The north to north-west breeze that the fleet currently has is from the wind running down the eastern side of this high pressure. It's strengthened by the presence of the low pressure system that went over Northern Europe at the weekend, which is compressing the isobars between the two systems. As the low drifts away to the east and the fleet moves south, this effect will ease and the wind will weaken.
There is also a ridge of high pressure pushing out from the south-east corner of the main Azores High, towards the North African coast. This ridge is creating an area of light wind over the Canaries - which the fleet have to sail through as a mark of the course. But it looks like this hole in the road ahead of them will be filled up by another huge low pressure cranking up to peel off Canada and come and stomp on Britain (oh yes, more bad weather coming folks).
The movement of this low pressure will force the main Azores high to the south. At the same time to the east of the fleet there should be a little low pressure spinning up, centred over the Straits of Gibraltar. And once again, between these two systems is a good line of northerly breeze - the key to good progress this week will be threading the needle down this line of wind. If they get it right, they could sail south fast and hook straight into the trade winds. The pothole to avoid is going to be the high pressure centre to their west. There isn't much wind in the middle of this system, and anyone who strays too far west could find themselves in trouble if the high moves unpredictably.
Given the fleet's quite significant spread across the course, there is some potential for gains and losses. But I think we can expect the rankings to be driven primarily by boat speed rather than strategy for the next few days. It will be a question of driving the boat fast, but not so hard that they encounter gear failure. There has been plenty of relatively trivial failure over the weekend. But it's easy to break something more serious and a lot harder to fix it and keep the speed up on your own, than with the 12 man crew of a Volvo Ocean 60.
Map images courtesy of Virtual Spectator, click here to go to the VS site.
Please note that two different methods of calculating the Distance to Finish are being used by Virtual Spectator and the Vendee Globe Race Office, we will try to always make it clear which we are using!
Rankings (0700 GMT Monday 13/11, with Distance to Finish from the Race Office)
1 Aquitaine Innovations (Parlier) 23168
2 PRB (Desjoyeaux) 23177
3 SILL (Jourdain) 23230
4 Whirlpool (Chabaud) 23238
5 Active Wear (Thiercelin) 23240
6 Kingfisher (MacArthur) 23247
7 EBP Gartmore (Hall) 23250
8 Union Bancaire Privée (Wavre) 23259
9 Sodebo (Coville) 23260
10 Armor Lux Foies Gras Bizac (Stamm) 23268
11 Euroka (Dumont) 23296
12 Solidaires (Dubois) 23303