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  Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
Day 11: Finish line in sight
Ellen MacArthur and skipper Alain Gautier sniff the air waiting for wind on the deck of Foncia. In the distance, fourth placed Bayer can be glimpsed. Photo copyright www.martin-raget.com
Waiting for wind: MacArthur is just 400 yards behind
Day 11 at 1800 BST.

In one of the most intensive finishes yet seen in a long-distance ocean race, Ellen MacArthur's boat Foncia is one of four leaders within a few miles of each other.

The 60-ft trimarans still have 105 miles left to sail to the finish line at the port of Tarragona, on the east coast of Spain.

Any one of four boats could snatch the £22,000 first prize, with Jean-Luc Nélias' Belgacom the latest to forge ahead into the slenderest of leads.

Ellen and her skipper Alain Gautier have made another amazing comeback to move into second, cutting a 40-mile deficit to just 400 yards in the past 24 hours.

"We did quite well over the night when we decided to go further offshore. We got more wind than the others and caught up a lot. It was exciting," said navigator MacArthur.

Groupama skipper Franck Cammas
Cammas: Unhappy with 15-minute penalty
"This morning, we decided to go back closer to the shore in order to get the thermal wind. We're neck and neck with Belgacom and we can see Bayer."

Meanwhile pacesetter Groupama has slipped to third after being been hit with a 15-minute time penalty.

Franck Cammas and his crew incurred the penalty after admitting to turning on the boat's engine for less than a minute to avoid drifting onto the shore while fixing a sail on Monday.

"We do not understand this decision. We were not obliged to report it to the race committee. We did it to be honest," said Dutch navigator Marcel Van Triest.

"They reproach us for not having ask permission before. But we didn't have time to do it as it was a case of emergency."

Yvan Bourgnon's Bayer has dropped to fourth but he is only 3.6 miles behind Belgacom and has as good a chance as any of victory.

"The four boats are nearly on a line. It is going to be a sprint to the finish," said Bourgnon.

The leaders are expected to cross the finish line at about 22:00 BST.

But the lights winds, which have seen the race overun by several days already, are expected to die once again which could mean the climax is delayed until mid-morning on Wednesday 23 May.


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