Vendee Globe - 1230 - 16/2/01

Mark Chisnell reports as the weather extracts its full pound of flesh

Friday February 16th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
A day has gone by and fourth placed Marc Thiercelin (light brown) is less than a hundred miles closer to the finish - this is truly torture for those still out on the water. Compared to the almost arrow straight tracks of Desjoyeaux (red) MacArthur (light blue) and Jourdain (dark blue), the erratic courses of those that follow behind tell the sorry tale.

Fleet at 0400, 16/2/01

The weather forecast shows little change from yesterday, and Marc Thiercelin seems to have agreed with the analysis that north was a safer option than east, and he tacked yesterday morning. Everyone with Thiercelin in this leading bunch, Dominique Wavre (dark brown), Thomas Coville (orange) and Catherine Chabaud (yellow) is now scrabbling northwards towards the breeze, and none of them has done much better than Thiercelin.

The mood onboard these boats must be dark, Thomas Coville is the latest to express some of his frustration to his shore team, "The wind has picked up a bit again but it’s still not a steady wind. I’m reaching in 15 knots which suits Sodebo down to the ground. She’s making headway. I fought hard all night to get through the Azores as best I could. I’m fed up helming. But when there’s so little wind, it’s the only way to keep her moving."

Weather at 0417, 17/2/01But the breeze is coming, in the next 24 hours (right) a big low pressure system will shove up against the high pressure that is locked in place over the British Isles.

It isn't going to move the high, but it will compress the isobars, tighten the gradient around the high pressure and produce some breeze.

By tomorrow morning everyone in the leading pack should have a decent south-south-easterly breeze that will allow them to point at the finish, at least until they get into the wind bend in the Bay of Biscay, as we discussed yesterday.

Weather at 0001, 19/2/01And although a succession of low pressure systems after this first one will ruffle the edges of this high, the basic situation is not set to change through the weekend.

We can see from the forecast for Monday (right) that the high pressure is still in place over the UK, though it has finally started to slip south a little. That will shift the breeze in the western Bay of Biscay to the left, and it's another good reason for doing that starboard tack to the north first.

Still in the trade winds, Mike Golding is finding these final miles just as tough because he is low on fuel and stores. Presumably this is something of a miscalculation given how fast his time is so far. Golding is being forced to hand steer Team Group 4 as much as he can, rather than use fuel to run the generator to charge his batteries for the autopilot. He has less than 2500 miles to go and Josh Hall still hot on his heels, but with no autopilot it will be exhausting to keep pushing hard to hold his place.

And happily the last boat is now out of the Southern Ocean, Pasquale de Gregorio passed Cape Horn at 2252 GMT last night - congratulations! Gregorio reported, "The situation evolved favourably, with a wind that turned west, I could proceed upward and be, three hours later, north of the Cape’s latitude and therefore close by the Tierra del Fuego islands and, finally, out of the Pacific and inside Atlantic Ocean. I have obviously waited to this second rendezvous to cheer, eat, and ... smoke. Tonight I’ll stay up until late because I need to relax a bit."
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, 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 (0700 GMT except where stated, Friday 16/2, with Distances to Finish from Race Office)

1 PRB (Desjoyeaux) Arrive - 93d 3h 57m 32s
2 Kingfisher (MacArthur) Arrive - 94 4h 25m 40s (+ 1d 0h 28m 8s)
3 SILL Matines La Potagère (Jourdain) Arrive - 96d 1h 2m 33s (+ 2d 22h 5m)
4 Active Wear (Thiercelin) (at 06:01 GMT) 45.5N 15.2W +574 nm
5 Union Bancaire Privée (Wavre) 39.3N 22.4W +1007 nm
6 Sodebo (Coville) (at 06:02 GMT) 38.5N 24.3W +1104 nm
7 Whirlpool (Chabaud) 36.1N 31.2W +1476 nm
8 Team Group 4 (Golding) (at 06:00 GMT) 20.5N 37.5W +2344 nm
9 EBP EspritPME Gartmore (Hall) (at 04:00 GMT) 18.1N 39.3W +2518 nm
10 (Gallay) (at 05:00 GMT) 17.2N 39.6W +2575 nm
11 Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du Monde (Seeten) (at 05:00 GMT) 8N 36.4W +2939 nm
12 VM Matériaux (Carpentier) (at 05:00 GMT) 10.1N 40.5W +2953 nm

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