Vendee Globe - 1330 - 18/1/01

Mark Chisnell reports as it starts to get really ugly out there

Thursday January 18th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The weather is starting to get very tricky in the South Atlantic, as Ellen MacArthur (light blue) has finally seen her gains on leader Michel Desjoyeaux (red) slow to a trickle - just another dozen miles closer in the last 24 hours. While behind her Marc Thiercelin (light brown) has reversed some of his recent losses and gained 65 miles. But the next group of Roland Jourdain (dark blue), Thomas Coville (orange) and Dominique Wavre (dark brown) are all still losing - Coville was only doing four knots this morning.

Weather at 0400, 18/1/01

The reason is clear from the weather image (above) - that swirl of confused breeze is drifting east over the race track as expected in yesterday's analysis. And it now seems to include a small low pressure system, just north of Thomas Coville, and it looks as though he's headed towards it.

Ellen is still close to being sucked into the black hole appearing behind her, and she commented this morning, "Yesterday it wasn’t bad. We had some breeze in the morning but then later the wind dropped to four knots. The boat stopped in the waves ... The wind is further north, I am a bit too far in the west. The anticyclone’s wind might come back, but it’s moving a lot, it’s not easy. The next days are not going to be easy. At the moment the situation is still not too bad." Ellen's mission is clear, she has to continue to claw her way north-east as fast as she can and avoid the hole.

Ahead, Michel Desjoyeaux was also pondering his chances, "I’m stuck between two Saint Helen’s (South Atlantic Highs), an old Saint, and a young jittery one!" Desjoyeaux reckoned, "I don’t know if the wind I have will keep me in the lead! Still, I’m going at nine knots consistently through light conditions on a flat sea. I still haven’t got out of this bubble. Far from it! Ellen continues to climb. The barometer is behaving like a yoyo. I’m totally jammed behind this bubble and Les Sables d’Olonne seems a long way off.

"I have to keep my perspective on this and monitor the distances and weather. Even if the distances have changed, the relative time differences have not really. Ellen has been matching my speed overnight. The perfect place to be would be in between the two of us, that would give someone the fastest trajectory. But I’m not going to let out the sails and wait for her."

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

continued on page two

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