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New year but little change

2nd January 2009

After Jean-Pierre Dick unfortunately lost his rudder in a collision yesterday afternoon, progress since has been steady through the Vendée Globe fleet in largely favourable conditions for the 15 remaining skippers. From Raphael Dinelli and Norbert Sedlacek, AUT,  in the Indian Ocean 5500 miles behind the leaders and traversing the south of Australia, to Michel Desjoyeaux, leading by 67.7 miles on the downwind straight to Cape Horn, 2009 arrived relatively peacefully.

Jean-Pierre Dick acknowledged almost immediately yesterday evening that his Vendée Globe ambitions are shattered. He has made steady progress through the night, and while he has not officially retired, there is no chance of him completing the race with only one, already damaged rudder. This leaves 15 skippers of the original 30 who started in Les Sables d’Olonne still actively racing, confirming this editions to have the highest attrition since the 1996-7 edition, when only 37.5%, or six of the 16 starters, made it to the finish. The last two races, 2000-2001 and 2004-2005, saw over about 65% of the fleet reach the line in Les Sables d’Olonne.


Those who had been dealing with recent problems appear to have them under control at least this morning. Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water) 12th was threatening to be bringing in the New Year (theoretically the first to reach 2009 as he had not yet reached the antemeridian date line) under the chart table fighting with his malfunctioning autopilots. His strategy – slowing the boat for a several hours yesterday – seems to have been successful and he has been making steady, if uncomfortable progress, upwind, skirting a high pressure system which, unluckily for him, is moving with him. So too, Brian Thompson, GBR, (Bahrain Team Pindar), ninth, has managed to average 14.5 knots overnight while trying to get to the bottom of a wiring problem. Jonny Malbon, GBR, (Artemis II) good progress last night, in unsettled seas in 25-28 knots.


Notwithstanding mileage anomalies on the rankings (eg Jourdain making 516 miles this morning!) Jean Le Cam has been quickest between the overnight polls, regularly observed to be making more than 20 knots. In third place, Le Cam is 402 miles behind the leader, while about 40 miles now separates Armel Le Cleac’h (Brit Air) in fourth from Vincent Riou (PRB) but they are now over 670 miles behind Foncia.

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