Vendee Globe - 1230 - 8/1/01

Mark Chisnell reports on the genius of Michel Desjoyeaux

Monday January 8th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
On Friday we left the top four in the Vendee Globe all positioned on the back of a low pressure system that was forecast to head east to the Andes, and then slide south towards Antarctica. The forecast has panned out pretty much as expected - the big news is the gain that Michel Desjoyeaux has extracted from the situation.

Fleet at 0500, 8/1/01
As we can see above, Desjoyeaux (red) has turned a couple of hundred miles on Friday into more than 500 miles over Ellen MacArthur (light blue) this morning. The explanation is straight-forward, Desjoyeaux managed to hang onto that eastward travelling low pressure system for longer than everyone else - and it just dragged him away from the chasing pack at about three knots.

Which is not to say that Desjoyeaux doesn't deserve every yard of that 500+ miles, after struggling with his electrical problems and running almost blind in terms of weather forecasting info for much of last week. And the way he got round the dead starter motor on Friday was beyond merely clever.

Even though these diesels should be hand crankable, the Southern Ocean cold makes that virtually impossible. With a rope wrapped round the alternator block - rather like starting an outboard by hand - Desjoyeaux knew he would never have the physical power to turn the motor over himself. So he connected the end of that rope through a system of pulleys to the boom. With the engine pre-heated and ready to fire, he sailed the boat on a beam reach and trimmed the mainsail onto the centreline - then he dumped the sheet and let the mainsail smoke out to the shrouds. The power was transmitted through the pulleys straight into turning the engine over and - voila, she fires up.

Desjoyeaux commented, "I have never been so happy to hear an engine. I kept the batteries being charged during three hours. The system has worked once, so it should work again. I am really relieved as things were not so simple in the last few days. I need five minutes to install the system, it's not as handy as a normal key, but at least I can start my engine."

Is he the man, or what?

Roland Jourdain has also had problems since way back at the Kerguelen Islands over three weeks ago, when he broke both the first reef on the main and lost the genoa out of the top three meters of the track. Jourdain finally revealed this to the world on Friday when he told the fleet, "I crossed the Indian and the Pacific Ocean with two reefs in the mainsail and the gennaker or the staysail." and he reckons, "After Cape Horn, I will look for a shelter to have flat seas and start repairing. I can get a piece of rail at the bottom and fix it instead of the broken one. I can't make any mistake. That's why I really need to find a shelter, I will also repair my genoa."

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

continued on page two

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