Vendee Globe - 1330 - 17/1/01

Mark Chisnell reports as Ellen's charge continues

Wednesday January 17th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Ellen MacArthur and Kingfisher (light blue) have continued with another day of gains, now 356 nm behind leader Michel Desjoyeaux (red). She's also pulled out another 34 miles on the chasing Marc Thiercelin (light brown), while the pack behind Thiercelin - Roland Jourdain (dark blue), Thomas Coville (orange) and Dominique Wavre (dark brown) - have all lost three figure mileages in the last 24 hours.

Fleet at 0500, 17/1/01

But how much longer can Ellen keep up these gains? The general pattern of the forecast hasn't changed significantly from yesterday, and we can see in the above image the high pressure is already building off the coast of South America.

Conditions are getting difficult out there, Ellen reported this morning, "Well it’s been a very frustrating night. Nothing I seem to have done will make Kingfisher go! It’s been a struggle. I just hope that poor apparent lack of speed is a pure illusion, and the position reports show this, though with the others in a different weather system now it’s doubtful it will be a good indication."
Behind her Roland Jourdain reported much the same, "For now I’m just getting the best out of what’s happening around me to come back a bit, but it’s easier said than done! The wind is dying and the Atlantic is testing our nerves to the limit."

But Jourdain was at least cheered by the fact that he could finally hoist his main properly, "I hoisted the mainsail fully as if it was some ritual and danced ceremoniously on the foredeck! I’m pretty happy now. If you were to give me the choice of the ten most beautiful girls in the world or my mainsail, I’d take the main sail! That’s coming from a man who’s been alone for two and a half months too! It’s a harsh change from full sail to two reefs all the same, as I still don’t have the ability to leave the main at the first reefing level. I’ve got to be careful, it’s still not 100 %, but we’re getting there."

Weather at 1917, 17/1/01

The forecast for this evening (above) shows two separate bubbles of high pressure starting to form beside each other, sucking the wind away to leave an airless hole over the race track behind Michel Desjoyeaux. Ellen is close to falling into this hole and every mile she can get north-east will make a difference. But it must be desperately tough to push herself now, after such a punishing time in the Southern Ocean.

Michel Desjoyeaux's circumstances are set to brighten, he is solidly into the circulation around the declining South Atlantic High. He is sailing into the header, burying his boat deep into the wind bend just like the strategy books tell you, before tacking to starboard to take advantage of the lift as he sails north. The only risk he runs is tacking too late and getting into the centre of the high with no wind. But given the way he's sailed this race so far, I don't see that happening, and his progress should be steady, but not spectacularly fast.

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

continued on page two

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