Ecover takes the lead in Vendee Globe

Wednesday, 12 January 2005
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Image © John Nash
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Ecover in `delivery mode` on the way to the start of the Transat 2004

Ecover in `delivery mode` on the way to the start of the Transat 2004

Image © John Nash
On Sunday 5 December 2004, while sailing around the southern tip of the African continent, Mike Golding, original favourite in this 5th edition, was 811 miles (nearly 1500 km) from the leader! At Cape Horn, he was over 250 miles from the leader Jean Le Cam, and is now heading the fleet. The recent episode involving the breakage of his mainsail halyard only served to delay the inevitable takeover by 36 hours. In true battle mode since his entry into the Pacific, Mike makes no secret of his immense desire to win this fantastic race, with his boat in perfect condition just 3 weeks from the finish. The big question on everyone’s lips is whether Mike can become the first foreigner to win the Vendée Globe. A just reward indeed for the British skipper that dismasted 8 hours into the race in November 2000, but only time will tell whether this will become a reality with just over 5000 miles to go. “Clearly it’s a good result this morning but we’ll wait and see how it pans out once we’re through the trough” said a chirpy Mike Golding on his trusty Ecover today. “We may come to a stop but it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case. I’ve been fortunate to get back so quickly. I think I’m on the right side of the course but we’ll see what it’s like once we’re into the northerlies. After the Atlantic High going south I had to get into a new rhythm to catch up with the leaders and I’m still in that rhythm now. I’m not terribly surprised at Jean’s loss but knowing him I’m sure he’ll bounce back. I don’t think I’m taking a big chance being out west. Soon I’ll be on a port tack heading away from the coast again on the other side of the system. I’m on a more direct course and it was the only option open to me given the weather. We’re racing on a day to day basis at the moment, watching what’s going on around us. You physically see the conditions, check the barometer...It’s very warm and overcast with grey skies and rain squalls. We’re reaching with the seas behind us and the wind from ahead making things messy. I had some rest overnight but it was boisterous with up to 30 knots of breeze. It was difficult to know how low you could sail and there were a number of sail changes. The boat is really the star of the show – upwind or downwind. It doesn’t seem to have any particular weakness. The boat does everything it is designed to do and more and downwind it is especially surprising.” 23.2 miles behind Mike, a tired Vincent Riou (PRB) wasn’t quite sure what to think of the situation today. “It’s a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I don’t know what to think about our east west spread. I didn’t go west as I was afraid it would finish badly over there, it’s more a decision based on my knowledge of that area rather than the forecast. The forecasts aren’t clear at all. Mike’s trying to go north with this airflow and turn right later. Jean must be sailing upwind in the high. It’s all very complex and complicated. I’ve been pushing hard and broke a reefing line. Sailing in between Mike and Jean suits my way of sailing. I know it’s a bigger risk to go west than east so I’m playing it safe in the middle. One of the models says to go to Brazil, while the other says to go straight into the high and leave with the trade winds. It looks like there may some small wind holes there though which would make it tricky to escape. My option is wiser but I don’t know if it’s better. I’m only thinking 4-5 days ahead. Conditions right now are unstable. A bumpy sea and 15-20 knots of wind.” Kate Jennings, Vendee Globe Website

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