1430 Saturday, 10 February
Pencils are being sharpened and resharpened here at the Vendee Globe press office in Les Sables d’Olonne as the wait continues in the freezing cold and drizzle for the arrival of Michel Desjoyeaux, who barring last minute disaster will be first home in this epic singlehanded round the world marathon. Desjoyeaux’s ETA was originally for early this morning and it is believed that the French skipper even put the brakes on a little to ensure that his arrival happened during daylight hours. Inevitably it has gone light since then and his ETA has been put back and put back. At present he is due to arrive here at 2000 local time – in the dark, much to the cameramen and photographer’s frustration. His arrival must happen around then as after 2100 there will not be enough water to allowPRBand her sizeable 4m draft into Les Sables d’Olonne harbour.
In the meantime those keen on seeing the finish action should look at a new website – vizzavivendeeglobe . Set up by Vendee Globe sponsor and internet service provider Vizzavi, this site will be hosting regular live webcasts, directed by Yachting World’s own racing correspondent Andrew Preece.
“And what of Ellen?” you ask. As the Kingfisher posse had dinner last night with many of the assembled British media Ellen called up to speak to her shore manager and protégé Mark Turner. Grabbing the phone for a few minutes Ellen told me that her main concern at the time was undertstandably whether the forestay onKingfisherwould hold up until the finish. The forestay broke on Wednesday night when the tang attaching it to the mast broke. The mast was saved by the inner forestay but there is no forward support for the topmast. The genoa forestay itself is currently being held up by the Vectran lashings between the head of the furled genoa and the mast, so no load can be placed on it. To take the load off the mast Ellen had been sailing with two reefs and Solent, but said in the conditions she had been going nowhere under this configuration. When we spoke to her she was taking a risk and was again sailing under full main and genniker.
Of particular concern is the culture shock Ellen will experience when she arrives (her ETA is either late tomorrow night, or more likely dawn on Monday). From spending more than three months at sea on her own to being thrust into the midst of a hungry pack of media will be really hard on her. All the major TV broadcasts in the UK have crews here and even the French press seems to be more interested in this extraordinary 24 year old English girl than they are in the race winner. It will be interesting to see if the culture shock Ellen experiences will in fact be that great. While she has been alone on board she has spent a lot of time on satellite telephone to Turner, her boyfriend, her parents and friends to the extent that her phone bill for the Vendee Globe will run to several ‘100,000s (fortunately the tab is being picked up by BT). The nature of Ellen’s solitude where her mum can phone her up whileKingfisheris in the middle of a Southern Ocean gale and have a conversation as if she was just next door, is rather different from that of say Robin Knox-Johnston in the Golden Globe 32 years ago when the only means of communication was SSB radio and successful communication was in the hands of the ionosphere.
Ellen will undoubtedly be boosted by seeing her parents sometime tomorrow. Sir Peter Jay, the British ambassador in Paris has organised for a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter to pick up Ken and Avril MacArthur and go out in search forKingfisher