|CAPE VERDE ISLANDS-(15-11-2004) There is little doubt as to who hit the strategic jackpot on the passage of the Cape Verde islands, Jean Le Cam (Bonduelle) continues to set the pace, 34.3 miles ahead of second placed Vincent Riou (PRB) after hanging a winning easterly option right around the outside. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) has been in third for the past 8 hours or so 66.7 miles back from Riou, though he still has the prospect of climbing the mast again. There are less than 400 miles to go before the competitors reach the renowned zone of fickle winds and squalls known as the doldrums, the current leader expecting to reach them tonight having already seen lightening. Whoever is the first to pass the doldrums will have his inscription fee reimbursed but regardless of that the atmosphere across the fleet is decidedly upbeat, it’s hot, the flying fish are a plenty and the boats are gliding. The last images and odours of land will soon be a distant memory to the leaders, and now the skippers can really feel as if they have set out on a round the world race, looping the loop in 21,200 miles time.
Not surprisingly Jean Le Cam was in fine form during this morning’s radio session. “I’ve had 5 hours of sleep and managed to get back some westing across the path of the other competitors. Not bad! I could have shaved a bit more off the Cape Verde islands but never mind - the water’s at 27.6 degrees. I’m not too worried about the Doldrums, it’s not a mountain, once you’re in it, you’re in it and then you have to get yourself out again. I’ll just have to keep my eye on “Vincent Le Terrible”...(Riou).”
Vincent Riou (PRB) is currently 34.3 miles in his wake, also revelling in the pleasures of being on the water. “Conditions have been perfect since the islands. I’m gliding along in 15 knots of wind in relaxing medium trade winds. I’ll spend a bit of time looking at satellite images and the lower cloud cover for getting into the doldrums but I view the entrance within a range of 2 degrees. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Our lives are ruled by the rhythm of the rankings, the radio sessions and the arrival of weather charts.”
Meanwhile the past 24 hours have been a period of reflection and preparation for Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) up in third. The time is fast approaching when Alex can no longer delay making yet another ascent up the mast to address the recurring issues with the ´sheave´ and finally making the repairs to the broken batten in his mainsail. `I´ve been putting it off as I´m really not looking forward to it. It’s so hot during the day, it makes the climb seem that much harder - although I guess I should be getting used to it by now! My main worry is that so many flying fish have landed on the boat already that I´m worried Bilou (Roland Jourdain, 25.7 miles behind him in 5th place) will smell them and start catching me up just to make me watch him eating one raw sprinkled with a little lemon juice! Apart from that I know there´s always plenty to do on board but you get bored of being on your own`.
Sébastien Josse (VMI) is currently between the two friends and down in sixth, biding his time, is Mike Golding (Ecover) who took the place of Australian, Nick Moloney (Skandia) this morning. “I’d give this first week 8/10 though I am a bit disappointed with my position. To sum up I’ve been in the wrong position for the past 2 days, even if I was going for long term gains. The reality is that I lost out on this particular game. It does seem to be going round to the west now with boats like Bonduelle coming over – I am continuing to make even more westing though if you can believe that – you can’t be wrong all the time after all! I think the doldrums are a day’s sailing away and they seem to be spread quite widely in a traditional cone shape and if the lead boats go south now they’ll cop it. Right now I really feel in phase with the boat in stark contrast with the last Vendée Globe where I felt like a robot. After all I am on one of the best boats in the world.”
Just 18.8 miles behind him at 1500 GMT, Nick Moloney has had a close encounter with a fishing boat overnight which got rather heated, along with some problems with a sail getting stuck at the top of the mast - a problem since resolved it would seem. Behind him Patrice Carpentier (VM Matériaux) is having a blinder of a race on a fairly ancient boat, really getting immense pleasure from racing around the world, while Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec) is clearly suffering nearly 200 miles from the head of the fleet and a very strange option near the island of Fogo. Whether this is related to his earlier troubles with his battens and the mast/boom joint is a closely guarded secret for the time being.
Other troubles amongst the fleet have been encountered by Hervé Laurent (UUDS) who is suffering from a leak in his daggerboard casing (like Raphael Dinelli). He is awaiting better conditions to try and fix the problem but for now is taking onboard 30/40 litres of sea water per day. Marc Thiercelin (Pro-Form – 11th) had made the greatest performance over the past 24 hours this morning having covered 322 miles (13.4 knot average), but the machine which converts seawater into drinking water has broken and he is having to use a hand pump. Joé Seeten (Arcelor Dunkerque) is still suffering from the fumes of a leak in his fuel tank.
The mood throughout the fleet is upbeat though after just over a week of racing on the approach to the Doldrums. The back of the fleet has now stretched out to 845 miles with Norbert Sedlacek (Brother) and there are still 5 backrunners to pass the Canaries with American, Bruce Schwab (Ocean Planet) currently island hopping the archipelago.
Quotes from the Boats:
Conrad Humphreys (Hellomoto): “I’ve been trucking along doing some good trade wind sailing – even with a couple of wipe outs. I’m still not making a big enough dent in the leaders though. For the situation ahead there seem to be squalls at around 25 degrees west so I clearly need to get some westing in but I’ve had a good morning, even if the local radio in the Cape Verde islands interrupted my David Bowie CD!”
Karen Leibovici (Benefic): `Everything onboard Benefic is ok. On Sunday I took the time to give the boat and the girl a scrub down: first shower, then a fois gras tasting given to me by the restaurant ` l´Entre Côte » in Les Sables d’Olonne. After this fine introduction, I cleaned down the engine compartment where my diesel pump is continuing to play up. I´m beginning to get a taste for mechanics. When I run the engine, the temperature in the boat very quickly rises to 30°, or more. As a result I make the most of the cooler evening temperatures to charge the batteries. Tonight is a particularly clear and starry one and I´m spending a lot of time with my head fixed towards the sky. See you soon Karen `.
This mesage was received by the race management today...memories of times gone by. `My name is June Cox and I am writing on behalf of my daughter Claire who does not have access to the Web or a computer today. She asked me to try and make contact. Two days ago (13. 11. 2004) my daughter was walking on a very remote beach on Kangaroo Island off the southern coast of South Australia and found a bottle with a message in it. The message is from Bertrand De Broc and he threw it in the water at Cape Hope on Christmas day 1996 during this race. He has put some information on the note and we would love to contact him as it is a very exciting find. Do you have a way of helping us contact him?
Adelaide, South Australia. Kindest regards, June Cox
(In the 1996 edition Bertrand de Broc suffered structural problems with his boat (Votre nom autour du monde/ Pommes Rhone Alpes) and capsized. Today he is a renowned sailor on the Figaro circuit).
Positions at 1500 GMT 15 November 2004
1. Bonduelle (Jean Le Cam) 21203.9 nm from the finish
2. PRB (Vincent Riou) 34.3 nm from the leader
3. Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson) 66.7 nm from the leader