Vendee Globe - 1230 - 29/1/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Ellen goes into the lead

Monday January 29th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Ellen MacArthur (light blue) has finally done it - that awesome 600 plus mile lead of Michel Desjoyeaux's (red) has crumbled to dust, first in the light air of the South Atlantic High, and then over the weekend as he hit the Doldrums first.

Coming in from the west, Ellen held the breeze for longer, and at the 0300 GMT position report schedule on the 29th January, she finally headed the standings in the Vendee Globe. Even if it only lasts for one position schedule, it's still a very memorable moment for the 24 year old on her first round-the-world race.

Marc Thiercelin (light brown) was the first in the fleet to offer his congratulations, "Well done to Ellen, a great woman and a great boat. Why not have a change of style along with the change of century! There’s always one who is mad enough to pull it off! She’s got nothing to lose. It’s amusing for me as I know that one person out there isn’t remotely amused and I wouldn’t want to be in his place!

"What’s great about sailing is that at first it’s a mental game before a physical one. We are equal with the women in this game. I’ve read that women can take pain better than men. What is surprising is her youthful age and that she has a project like this!"

Fleet at 0300, 29/1/01

The man who won't be enjoying the moment is Michel Desjoyeaux, who gave up the final miles of his lead with a swerve to the west overnight, visible above. As Ellen commented to the Race Office this morning, "Well it's great to be placed out in front of course, but Mich is to my north-west and that is where the exit is. Kingfisher is heading all over the ocean as the wind moves, but I think she’s a good boat to be in in these conditions.

"I’ve been thinking about Bilou (Jourdain, dark blue), rather than Mich all night, he is in a good position out to the west and unlikely to stop at the Doldrums that far west - he could pull something off, he’s only 200 miles to our south now. It all depends how far we have to go to get out of this, this is the hardest sailing of the race I think. We only made 65 miles north in the last 24 hours, so anything could happen. I’m pretty tired, it's almost impossible to sleep due to the constant manoeuvres and the heat."

So can she hang on to the gains?

continued on page two

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

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