The two leading boats in the Vendée Globe have spent the day wallowing in the light airs associated with the Azores anticyclone since yesterday evening. Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB), 1 degree further north, was nearer to the exit door than his direct rival, Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher).
However, Desjoyeaux has recently informed the race HQ that he had cleared the ridge, and got going again in Westerly winds, sailing at 11 knots, heading 37 degrees direct towards Les Sables d’Olonne. He is now looking at an ETA of 1000hrs on Saturday 10th February.
Meanwhile Ellen, during this time, had regained some miles on the leader, and in fact managed to close to 15 miles, but was positioned to the south-east and had some way to go before picking up the trades. Ellen spoke briefly, ‘I’ve got no wind. I spent the whole of last night in these light airs. I tried to get the boat moving, what else can I say really. I expect Michel is well placed in the north because there is better wind in the northeast, but I’m just doing the best I can.’
She managed to change her daggerboard over last night to the new leeward side, and now hopefully on port tack until the finish in following winds, she should not be hampered by this problem too much. Moreover, her gennaker, although admittedly not perfect, is back up, after spending 18 hours repairing it some time ago.
Unfortunately for Ellen, the gap will start stretching out again now that Desjoyeaux has caught the trades. Only now can Desjoyeaux, after 89 days of racing, seriously think about taking the crown. The weather seems to be stable enough from here to the finish in theory. In the low-pressure systems the wind blows essentially from the south-west, building steadily.
Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear) was the fastest boat this morning, signs that he has benefited from steady trade winds, but he can’t have his cake and eat it. He lies still in the wake of Roland Jourdain (Sill Matine la Potagere), whom he had hoped to gain an advantage over in terms of longitude to the East, ‘The boat is moving quickly now but I can’t go in the direction I want – it’s either one or the other!
Jourdain himself informed the Race HQ that a temporary glitch with his autopilot caused his boat to swerve violently and the resulting tear in the main sail from a batten piercing the cloth took him 3 hours to repair on deck. He then discovered a ton of water in his forward hold and lost more time and energy trying to pump it dry and source the origin of the leak.
Material is certainly paying a heavy price as the pace doesn’t slack for a moment with all the close battles being waged throughout the fleet. Mike Golding (Team Group 4) had a big scare when he realised that he was extremely close to dismasting for the second time two days ago. On a casual inspection of the rig he said, ‘I was very shocked to find that the cap shroud was at 10 percent of the original thickness and I was scared that it would break in my hands.’
Mike immediately set up a jury rig, using a vectran strop and gennaker halyard to stabilise the rig and allow him to tack back on to starboard and get back into the fight. After a delayed start of 8 days and 4 hours after the rest of the fleet, Golding has sailed a remarkable race, lying in 9th place overall and still threatening fellow Brit Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore).
Hall’s biggest fear in this non-stop oceanic race is, strangely enough, the coast of Brazil. ‘I’m hoping that the wind will turn to the East as I’m trapped here. I’m looking at the weather predictions, one says yes it will go round for me, the other says no! I’ll have to go on a bad tack tomorrow and probably lose 100 miles on Mike.’
Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) has been slowed up by light, fickle winds as well. Two days from Cape Horn he is despairing a little on how many days lie ahead of him. ‘Even if I’m not making progress on boatspeed, I still have to eat, especially if it’s cold. With the str