Exhausted crews rest between depressions

Foncia leading; Banque Populaire leaves tomorrow; la Trinitaine's rescue team

Wednesday May 16th 2001, Author: Isabelle Musy/James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
As the fleet approach the turning mark of Sao Miguel island in the Azores, so Ellen MacArthur and Alain Gautier aboard Foncia-Kingfisher only lie 8.6 miles behind the leader, Yvan Bourgnon's Bayer in the Challenge Mondial Assistance race for the 60ft trimarans. Franck Cammas's Groupama, in third, is 52.9 miles behind.
The skippers reported that since the start the conditions have been tough and tricky. After yesterday's depression they were finally able to rest a little this morning, but not for long as a new front is on its way. "It has been another tough night with many sails changes and everyone is really tired as we didn¹t get much sleep since the start. Last night, the wind picked up to 40 knots. The conditions were fantastic. The boat was flying above the water. We¹re glad to have a reliable boat", reports Yvan Bourgnon. " We're looking forward to seeing Sao Miguel. We hope he's a nice guy so that Ellen might want to stop and say hello to him", joked the French-Swiss skipper of Bayer en France.

After sailing within sight of Groupama and Belgacom yesterday, Alain Gautier's trimaran managed to get away from them. "We went really fast with the mainsail reefed and the staysail on," commented the former Vendee Globe winner. "Obviously Belgacom wasn't as fast with her broken starboard foil - and it was indeed ideal conditions to use the foils. Without them, one can easily lose 1.5-2 knots of speed. I don't know about Groupama but she went further downwind."

"We can't see Bayer but obviously she is not far away. I wasn't surprised when she got in the lead as Yvan Bourgnon and his crew made a very good choice to go south. It has been a very interesting race so far, strategically speaking. Rounding Sao Miguel will be tricky as there will be a new depression when normally it is a high pressure area. Ellen is working hard on the laptop and is doing a great job with the navigation," adds the skipper of Foncia-Kingfisher.

Ellen Mac Arthur is still amazed by the speed of these flying boats. "As the depression passed away to the east and we made southerly progress the wind picked up to about 30 knots, Boat speed was amazing, though it was hard to see the log. I did see a sustained 33 knots though.... It was incredible sailing. Even this morning my eyes are still stinging. We were piling through the waves. Solid water flying up through the trampoline. It was almost impossible to look forwards as the spray drove at us at 30 knots... Foncia-Kingfisher was off, and loving every linute of it", she said this morning.

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