Tension continues in the Atlantic

News from the Route du Rhum + 1500 positions

Monday November 18th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
While sailing downwind in the Trades comes as a relief after the gruelling upwind storms followed by the frustating light winds of the Azores high, it also has its own stress for the singlehanded sailors in the Route du Rhum.

In the hot contest for first place in the Open 60 fleet Ellen MacArthur is hanging on to full main and spinnaker - in 20-25 knots with occasional gusts. These conditions are often too much for the autopilot to cope with and Ellen has had to hand steer.

"...Bit stressed and very nervous, basically, but that's fine, pretty normal, I think!" she reported this morning. "Winds 20-25 knots just had hour with 28-30 knots. Big breeze for this spinnaker - couldn't get the thing down if I tried in any case! Only thing to do was to hang on so going very fast at the moment doing 18 knots over the ground and going to be gybing in about half an hour I think. I'm doing 290'- wind shifting miraculously round in last couple of hours so time to gybe.

"Don't know if a) I can get kite down in 23 knots of breeze and b) if I can get it up the other side as well. It (the kite) is the right sail we need to get out of here [high pressure]. At 23 knots pilot cannot steer the boat. Have not put reef in yet - going to put reef in whilst waiting for big wind shift and see if that makes a difference. Might make enough difference to keep it [kite/spi]. It's a lot of wind for a spinnaker... The wind this morning just got big from 23 knots then suddenly 27, 28, 29 for 1 hour this morning - can't control it..."

The news is not so good on board Mike Golding's Ecover where this morning the masthead spinnaker blew up in the shifting conditions. Golding is now sailing under his Code 5, but unable to sail as deep is slowly losing miles to Kingfisher and at 1500 GMT as 32 miles astern of Ellen.

However there has since been drama on Kingfisher when the lashing at the dead end on the 2:1 spinnaker halyard snapped at the masthead. Thankfully the dead end got jammed in the lower block so the sail didn't come tumbling down on deck. Ellen dropped the sail and hauled herself up the mast to relash the deadend at the masthead.
Roland Jourdain on Sill has moved up to fourth position and will almost certainly overhaul Joe Seeten aboard Arcelor-Dunkerque in the next 24 hours. In today's radio show in Paris, Bilou confirmed that even reaching is providing to be hard work: ”it would be much better if there were two of us on board for all the heavy manoeuvres.”

While the frontrunners are coping with the stress of speed on the borderline of the trade wind belt, the mid-fleet has been struggling with the calms of the Azores high. The Azores high was split in two over the weekend. The cold front running between them has proved Nick Moloney with an escape route to get south and he has now overhauled Miranda Merron on UUDS.

Miranda reported from the frustrating calms this morning: “…I spent a lot of time turning around and listening to the mainsail slamming from one side to the other trying to pull out the mainsail car. From time to time the wind paid a visit, and all of a sudden we were moving along at 8 knots, but not always in the right direction.” She was still frustrated at the midday radio chat: “The wind is in the south, but Guadeloupe is in the west! It is psychologically very hard not to be able to go the right direction.”

Route du Rhum veteran Mike Birch finally touched base today, albeit on a very crackly line. The 71-year old skipper said he was stuck in the light winds and could not do much about his situation. He complained that he did not have enough to read! Birch is not that happy with his position (8th in IMOCA class) but claims that “it is not over yet”.

Race leader Stève Ravussin has fixed his problems on TechnoMarine and is racing fast but with caution towards the finish. Ravussin does not trust the autopilot in the powerful conditions and is helming at least 8-10 hours a day. To the north Lalou Roucayrol on Banque Populaire was unable to skirt the high pressure as he had planned. Roucayrol is aware that Michel Desjoyeaux on Géant is closing the gap with a steady breeze in the south.

Meanwhile Marc Guillemot on Biscuits La Trinitaine is at the edge of the high pressure and will start to drop south in order to stay away from the anticyclone.

Positions 18/11/02 15:00:00 GMT

Multihull 60’ ORMA
1 - TechnoMarine - Steve Ravussin - 1289 miles to finish
2 - Banque Populaire - Lalou Roucayrol - 1690
3 - Géant - Michel Desjoyeaux - 2006
4 - Biscuits La Trinitaine - Ethypharm - Marc Guillemot - 2134
5 - Bonduelle - Jean Le Cam - 3151

Monohull 60’ IMOCA
1 - Kingfisher - Ellen McArthur – 1408 miles to finish
2 - Ecover - Mike Golding - 1440
3 - Arcelor - Dunkerque - Joé Seten - 1837
4 - Sill - Roland Jourdain - 1960
5 - 60ème Sud - Didier Munduteguy - 2035
6 - Garnier Belgium - Patrick De Radiguès - 2110
7 - Un Univers de Services - Miranda Merron - 2174
8 - Tir Groupé - Montres Yéma - Mike Birch - 2354
9 - Dinan Pays d'Entreprises - Frédéric Lescot - 2459
10 - Ciments St Laurent - Ocean - Georges Leblanc - 2522
11 - Leasecom Y-mag - Elie Canivenc - 3168
Non localisé sur ce flux L'Heautontimoroumenos - Antoine Koch -
Non localisé sur ce flux Millimages - Gédéon - Patrick Favre -

Monohull Class 1
1 - Ville de Dinard - Bruno Reibel – 2468 miles to finish

Monohull Class 2
1 - Ashfield Healthcare - Nick Moloney - 2138
2 - Mille Visages - Hervé Vachée - 2194
3 - Florys - Luc Coquelin - 2206
4 - Branec III - Roger Langevin - 2210
5 - Laiterie St Malo - Clément Surtel - 2361
6 - Adecco Etoile Horizon - Bob Escoffier - 2638

1 - Storagetek - Regis Guillemot - 2216
2 - Passion Entreprendre - Jérôme Thiriez - 2405
3 - Grain de Soleil - Etienne Svilarich - 2460
4 - Fantasy - Forest - Alain Grinda - 3445

Multihull Class 2
1 - Crepes Whaou! - F. Y. Escofier - 1665
2 - Yachting - casino.com - Anne Cazeneuve - 1894
3 - Vaincre la mucoviscidose - Hervé Cleris - 2285
4 - Archipel Guadeloupe - Claude Thelier - 2321
5 - Lehning - Lapeyre - Blanchet - Gourbeyre - P.Y. Guennec - 2524

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