Vendee Globe - 1230 - 23/1/01
Mark Turner, Ellen's shore manager, believes Desjoyeaux may stretch his lead a little over the next 24 hours, but Kingfisher will get the same conditions and make up the difference. "She's in the same weather system," Turner told madforsailing. "He will stretch the lead a bit but, as long as she doesn't get caught, she will be effectively taking off on the same system."
The two boats are now very close together in relative terms with Kingfisher about 50 miles to the south of PRB (at 20 degrees south) and 70 miles to the west. Early today Desjoyeaux was going slightly faster as both skippers head north and west towards the next critical stage when they choose their point to cross the Doldrums.
Astern of Kingfisher, Marc Thiercelin has slipped back a bit from the early morning positions (listed below) and is 260 miles behind PRB with Roland Jourdain another 30 miles behind him.
All the British sailing world is on the edge of its collective seat watching Ellen's progress, so here's the women herself as she discussed her prospects in a radio call to the race office in Paris earlier this morning.
"I'm heading North and have passed the centre of the anticyclone," she said "Today is just great. I don't have a great deal of wind but I'm advancing all the same. I'm heading North and have passed the centre of the anticyclone. The wind is more North East. This morning I was caught up in a windless zone for three hours and then the wind returned from the North East, weak at first but strengthening all the time. Now I'm getting going again and I hope it will stay like this.
"It feels good to know that Michel is stuck. It must have been hard for him but it's not over yet. We are in the same weather system but he is still further in the North and that's where I have to go, and when the wind kicks in he'll get going first. I'm more to the West of him. Still, we'll see, it's going to be tough.
"During the day the sun was beating down, not bad for the skin. This morning the wind stabilised more than yesterday and I managed to get some sleep after 1 o'clock in the morning and I feel fine. I've tidied the whole boat up and prepared myself for the Doldrums ahead. I'm watching everyone’s moves, they're further to the West behind me and there'll be more headwinds nearer the coast than offshore.
"For the moment they're stuck. Anyone could still win this race. No-one could have imagined the pace and speed of this race before the start. It's unprecedented. Suddenly you see how important boatspeed is. The Southern Ocean changed things with all the problems incurred, like Bilou's (Jourdain) mast track, Thomas's (Coville) autopilots and my sails.
Here it's weird that the anticyclone blocking Michel has effectively re-started this regatta. I was imagining just having to defend your position, after the Southern Ocean spread out the gaps between Michel, Marc (Thiercelin) and I. Everyone has problems, with me it's my sails, Michel (Desjoyeaux) his engine. But I'm happy, the boat is totally prepared for what's ahead and so am I."
Positions - Jan 23
1 PRB (Desjoyeaux) at 04:01 4539 (miles to go) 9.63knots
2 Kingfisher (MacArthur) at 02:00 65 6.96
3 Active Wear (Thiercelin) at 07:00 237 7.58
4 SILL Matines La Potagère (Jourdain) at 04:01 318 3.28
5 Sodebo (Coville) at 04:02 541 8.5
6 Union Bancaire Privée (Wavre) at 04:00 566 10.7
7 Whirlpool (Chabaud) at 06:01 1352 11.6
8 EBP EspritPME Gartmore (Hall) at 06:02 2060 9.9
9 Team Group 4 (Golding) at 04:01 2349 2.47
Map images courtesy of Virtual Spectator, click here to go to the VS site.