Vendee Globe - 1500 - 21/11/00

The Doldrums "have locked the Vendee fleet in and thrown away the key," Ed Gorman reports

Tuesday November 21st 2000, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
The leading skippers in the Vendee Globe are experiencing classic Doldrum conditions with each reporting sudden squalls, almost total calms, intense heat and occasional heavy downpours. The leader is still Yves Parlier who has eeked out a 20-mile advantage over Michel Desjoyeaux with Roland Jourdain third, another 25 miles back.
Out west, Ellen has continued to climb back up the rankings and is now sixth and was travelling at an average of over six knots in her own private easterly breeze - that's more than twice as fast as most of the boats ahead of her. Josh Hall, meanwhile, is eighth with Thomas Coville between him and Ellen in the overall standings.

It was Coville who provided the most vivid description of the testing conditions in his radio chat with the race office in Paris. "I don't know when this will will end," he said, "I get the impression the Doldrums have shut us in and thrown away the key." Coville is worried about his rig and the stresses on it as his boat (Sill) flip-flops about in a windless swell. "The worst thing is the swell. When there is no wind it really tests the rig...I'm always thinking 'is it going to break?' But no, it's held up so far. But the movement is uncontrollable and puts such stresses on the boat," he added.

Jourdain is finding the going tough and nothing like it is supposed to be. "Despite all the theories learned before the start, it's completely different out here 'in the field' and it;'s draining on the nerves. No-one wants to lose a position," he said.

For Ellen this could be a key phase of the race when a bold move west might set up a great position for her and Kingfisher heading down towards the Roaring Forties. She has come back into the fleet a bit but, so far, her westerly option is looking good. She reported onTuesday morning that she picked up an easterly wind at 3.00am and was making nine knots at one point. She has also taken the opportunity to complete many boat maintenance tasks and repairs. "I haven't been wasting my time," she said.

The Doldrunms could offer the stragglers one of their best chances to catch up. One skipper hoping this will be the case is Bernard Galley who is still over 400 miles behind the leaders in voila.fr (the old Geodis) and is still paying for his slow rounding of Cape Finisterre. Galley was cooking flying fish and rocking southwards under gennekar in 10-12 knots and hoping the others glue-in for a bit longer. "If I negotiate the Doldrums well, I could get back up in the main fleet," he said.

Another skipper trying to get back into it is Mike Golding who has been making good progress down the Portuguese coast and looks to have favourable winds for at least a couple more days. Reporting from off Cape St Vincent, Golding said he has been trying to sort out his pilot problems and has put up a new set of wind instruments on the stern to replace the ones at the masthead which are not working.

But he still has problems with Team Group 4 rounding up or trying to gybe involuntarily which could be potentially dangerous. Golding is hoping to reach the designated "box" off the Canaries by Thursday (November 23). "I don't know where that puts me overall, but it doesn't feel that I'm going slow. I think I've put in some good miles," he said.

Rankings (with distance to the leader)
1 Aquitaine Innovations (Parlier)
2 PRB (Desjoyeaux) 25
3 SILL Matines La Potagère (Jourdain) 45
4 Active Wear (Thiercelin) 45
5 Solidaires (Dubois) 46
6 Kingfisher (MacArthur) 50
7 Sodebo (Coville) 57
8 EBP EspritPME Gartmore (Hall) 112

Other British
14 This Time Argos Soditic (Tolkien) 407
22 Team Group 4 (Golding) 1965

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