Monday, January 19, 2009

Vendée Globe: Michel Desjoyeaux slows down but holds 500-mile advantage

[Source: Vendée Globe] Even if Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) has been slowed a little now on his dash towards les Sables d’Olonne, there is still a huge gap back to his second placed friend from Port-la-Forêt, Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement), who in turn has been extending his lead over Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air).

In effect the Atlantic has been consistently kind to some and cruel to others in how it has rationed the supply of wind. In truth the big ridges of high pressure have been persistent and tough to escape from for some, while others have been offered a diet of small low pressure systems to keep them moving well.

And while, from her disposition it might appear that the sun has shone and the winds have always been at her back in the pink tinged world of Sam Davies, the British skipper and Armel Le Cléac’h have been made to work hard all the way up the Atlantic so far.

Some huge differences in speeds can be noted this morning. Davies says she has beaten her record for going slowly, while Marc Guillemot (Safran) behind her is hooning along at more than 16 knots.

Crossing the Equator, while representing an important landmark in the mind, will also signal one of the final hurdles before the finish in Vendée. It is indeed the vagaries of the Doldrums rather than the decreasing degrees of latitude, which are already interesting the solo sailors, as they make their way north. Usually positioned at 5 or 6 degrees north, at the moment they appear to stretch out into the Southern Hemisphere and also appear to be unusually active at the longitudes towards which the fleet is heading.

The gaps that have developed should ensure that a major hold-up in the Doldrums will have little net effect on positions, it is perhaps more a question of worrying about the violent squalls and their possible consequences.

The Thompson, Boissières and Caffari Trio have a good race on their hands. Thompson has shed miles to the chasing duo by virtue of them bringing up the better breeze from behind and now the Bahrain Team Pindar skipper only has 59 miles in hand over the French skipper this morning, and indeed Boissières has been more than matching the powerful Juan K design of late, while Caffari’s speed and hard work sees her back to within just 18 miles of Boissières.

Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water) is making good speed towards Cape Horn and should join the ranks of the ‘Cape Horners’ this evening.



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