Vendee Globe - 1330 - 29/11/00

Mark Chisnell reports as the weather chucks them a googly

Wednesday November 29th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Oh boy, in the 28th November report, I commented that the weather situation looked complex ahead of the weekend - complex is turning out to be an understatement. In direct contrast, the past 24 hours have remained relatively straight-forward, as the fleet have continued their charge south in the trade winds. But the first signs of weirdness to come are appearing, the trade wind sky of puffy clouds and blue has been replaced by grey, and several skippers have reported big changes in wind velocity and direction.

Top twelve fleet positions at 0200, 29/11/00

But Yves Parlier (green) has remained in the lead, though the chasing pack are no longer haemorrhaging miles. Catherine Chabaud (yellow) has finally cracked and cut back to the west a little, giving second place in both the Race Office and Virtual Spectator standings to Michel Desjoyeaux (red). Behind them, Roland Jourdain is hanging on grimly in fourth, though Ellen does seem to be slipping a little off the ferocious pace of this front pack. But there's a lot of miles to go and some tricky sailing to come real soon.

Weather at 0200 GMT, 29/11/00

The weather picture (above) from the morning of the 29th November, shows the fleet rolling happily down the western edge of the South Atlantic High. The leaders are well into the more backed, northerly wind on this western side. Parlier is starting to twitch towards the east as he nears the bottom of the high, looking to put in the handbrake turn. We can see why Chabaud has come back to the west, she was close to sailing into the centre of the high. But the feature to watch out for in this picture is the tiny high pressure building off the coast of Argentina, centred off the mouth of the River Plate.

Weather forecast at 1200 GMT, 30/11/00This high pressure is set to build over the next couple of days and seriously rain on the Vendee Globe parade. We can see in the picture for the forecast (left) for midday GMT, 30/11/00 (the boats are in their 0200 29/11/00 positions), that this little high is already well on the way to becoming a much bigger one, while the real South Atlantic High (please stand up) starts to fill and move east towards Africa.

In between these two is a tiny area of low pressure that will briefly spin up, creating radically different wind directions in a pretty small space of ocean. Then the new high pressure muscles its way across the Atlantic, and ridges out to join the South Atlantic High proper.

They will become one single high pressure system, running almost from Cape Horn to Cape Town - a fence the fleet have got to get over before they can enter the Southern Ocean.

Weather forecast at 0000 GMT, 2/12/00As we can see in the final weather forecast image (left) for midnight, 2/12/00 the South Atlantic High dominates the space between South Africa and South America, while to the south, the gales of the Southern Ocean beckon.

Solving this kind of riddle is exactly what weather routing software is for, and each of the skippers will be running their computers on overtime trying to figure this one out. The best bet would seem to be to hook into that little low pressure that will briefly form - trying to get a sling shot south.

Getting the positioning right relative to this system will be critical. On the western side of it will be slow headwinds, on the eastern side of it will be quick running conditions. And it won't be around for long, as the high pressure spreads like treacle over the South Atlantic, it will glue to the ocean anyone caught in the way. We could see some big gains and losses before the start of next week - whoever reads this one right and gets spat onto the Southern Ocean travelator first, could build a race winning lead.
Click for new window with link to Virtual SpectatorMap 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, one by Virtual Spectator and one by the Vendee Globe Race Office, we will try to always make it clear which we are using!

Link to the madforsailing form guide.

Rankings (0500 GMT except where stated, Wednesday 29/11, with Distances to Finish from Race Office)
1 Aquitaine Innovations (Parlier) 26.6S 25.2W 19195 nm
2 PRB (Desjoyeaux) (at 02:00 GMT) 25.4S 28.4W +153 nm
3 Whirlpool (Chabaud) (at 04:00 GMT) 23.3S 26W +166 nm
4 SILL Matines La Potagère (Jourdain) (at 02:00 GMT) 24.5S 28.3W +194 nm
5 Kingfisher (MacArthur) 23.5S 28.4W +272 nm
6 Union Bancaire Privée (Wavre) (at 02:00 GMT) 21.2S 27.3W +290 nm
7 Sodebo (Coville) 22.3S 28.2W +313 nm
8 Active Wear (Thiercelin) 23S 29.3W +332 nm
9 Solidaires (Dubois) 21.6S 28.3W +340 nm
10 EBP EspritPME Gartmore (Hall) 20.2S 27.3W +376 nm
11 (Gallay) 18S 28.4W +522 nm
12 Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du Monde (Seeten) 17.1S 29W +582 nm

Other British
20 This Time Argos Soditic (Tolkien) 8.5S 23.3W +2080
21 Team Group 4 (Golding) (at 02:03 GMT) 9.3S 23.3W +2113 nm

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