Vendee Globe - 1230 - 15/2/01

Mark Chisnell reports as the forecast brightens a little for the leaders

Thursday February 15th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Life remains difficult for the skippers leading into the finish of the Vendee Globe - though the forecast is predicting a brighter future for them than a couple of days ago. The high pressure still sits heavily over the final miles, blocking the path to the low pressure systems that are travelling the North Atlantic.

Fleet at 0500, 15/2/01

Fourth placed Marc Thiercelin (light brown) has lost contact with the breeze he had yesterday, and is now beating into the centre of the high on port tack, holding to the south. The finish is only just over 200 miles closer than it was yesterday morning. A rather different approach than Roland Jourdain's, who was breaking records and doing over 400 miles a day at the same point - but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Behind Thiercelin, Dominique Wavre (dark brown) and Thomas Coville (orange) are also struggling closer, with Catherine Chabaud (yellow) roaring up to the west of them.

Weather at 1934, 16/2/01Catherine was telling the Race Office yesterday that her strategy was to reach a low pressure system to the north, and try to go round the outside of Wavre and Coville.

Looking at the forecast for Friday evening (right), the better breeze is definitely to the north, the isobars are tightening considerably as the low pressure bounces into the high, now firmly centred over the British Isles.

But even in the south there is a reasonable east to south-easterly gradient setting up around the southern edge of the high, and that should get everyone in this front group moving at a reasonable pace towards the finish.

Weather at 0000 18/2/01The high is forecast to stay in place through the weekend (right), and it's creating a classic 'wind bend' scenario as the breeze curves around the southern side of the high pressure, flowing off northern France and veering over the Bay of Biscay.

The strategic rule is always to sail into the centre of the bend, so the skippers should sail north first on starboard tack, then tack to port and be lifted all the way in towards the finish.

Given that there's also a good chance of finding stronger breeze to the north, if you were going to hit a corner, it's probably the one to go for - and Catherine Chabaud seems to have made up her mind that the northern side has got her name on it.

Thiercelin is the one headed east rather than north - and it'll be interesting to see how this works out for him. But the gaps are so big between everyone except Wavre and Coville, it's difficult to see much place changing in these last few days.

Mike Golding and Josh Hall are still going fast in the trades, and closing those gaps - Team Group 4 was pounding upwind in 40 knots of breeze last night, which will be giving that jury rigged starboard shroud a good work-out.

Golding's target is to finish in a faster time than Marc Thiercelin, which means getting home within eight days and four hours of the Frenchman. But he also needs to finish before he runs out of fuel, Golding reckons that he has 21 litres left and estimates that he needs 1.8 litres per day, giving him enough for nine to ten days. Beating Thiercelin - who should finish over the weekend - and getting home before he runs out of juice are pretty much the same thing.

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, Thursday 15/2, with Distances to Finish from Race Office)

1 PRB (Desjoyeaux) Arrive - 93d 3h 57m 32s
2 Kingfisher (MacArthur) Arrive - 94d 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) 43.2N 16.4W +660 nm
5 Union Bancaire Privée (Wavre) 36.3N 23.3W +1141 nm
6 Sodebo (Coville) 36.4N 25.3W +1213 nm
7 Whirlpool (Chabaud) 33.3N 33.4W +1641 nm
8 Team Group 4 (Golding) (at 05:00 GMT) 16.5N 37.3W +2496 nm
9 EBP EspritPME Gartmore (Hall) (at 05:02 GMT) 14.3N 38.6W +2658 nm
10 Voila.fr (Gallay) (at 05:00 GMT) 13.4N 39.3W +2723 nm
11 Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du Monde (Seeten) (at 05:00 GMT) 4.5N 35.2W +3065 nm
12 VM Matériaux (Carpentier) 6.6N 39.6W +3090 nm

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