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  Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Challenge Mondial: The full story
Alain Gautier and Ellen MacArthur relax in the light winds
Gautier and MacArthur relax in the light winds
Ellen MacArthur's latest success, in the Challenge Mondial race, was a complete contrast to her earlier Vendee Globe exploits.

While the Vendee race was a solo, circumnavigation taking 100 days to cover 25,000 miles in a monohull, the Mondial was a team grand prix taking 10 days to cover 2,700 miles in a multihull vessel.

But light winds in the Mondial transformed the supposed sprint from Cherbourg to Tarragona via the Azores into a procession at times.

The winning Foncia-Kingfisher boat, skippered by Alain Gautier, covered the 2,705-mile course in 10 days, 19 hours, 15 minutes and 44 seconds.

That equates to an average speed of just 10.55 miles per hour.

La Trinitaine
Trinitaine ran into trouble on the third day
Gautier, MacArthur and the three other crew members made a perfect start, setting the pace as the eight trimarans left Cherbourg.

At the end of the first day, Foncia had built up a lead of 35 miles from Franck Cammas's Groupama, with all boats making rapid progress.

But it was not all plain sailing, and two of the eight boats were forced to return home on the second day.

Jean Le Cam's Bonduelle pulled out when a pulley broke free and smashed a 12-inch hole in the hull.

Earlier, Layou Roucayrol's Banque Populaire returned home due to mast damage, but stayed in the race until the fifth day.

There was further drama on the third day, as six crew members were winched to safety after Marc Guillemot's La Trinitaine had its daggerboard ripped from the starboard outrigger.

That left just five boats competing, and Ellen MacArthur's Foncia slipped back to third place later in the third day after being forced to stop sailing to carry out mast repairs.

Bayer took the lead, but midday through the fourth day, Foncia had cut the gap back to 6.6 miles.

The boats became embroiled in an intense strategic duel, racing clear of Groupama and Belgacom, as the leaders turned from home around the Azores.

As the winds died, Foncia briefly took the lead at the start of the sixth day.

Wind shortage

But Groupama, benefiting from turning the Azores half a day later and finding windier conditions, then took the lead for the first time, with Bayer back in third.

With the wind almost negligible, the four leaders became closely grouped.

MacArthur likened the tactical tussle to roulette, as Groupama stayed narrowly ahead until the ninth day.

As the race passed through the Straits of Gibraltar almost in slow motion, Belgacom moved into the lead.

Bayer reclaimed the advantage the following day as the boats progressed at less than 10 knots.


We kept on working hard and saying its not over until its over - and it wasn't
Ellen MacArthur
Foncia had fallen back to fourth at this stage, but was still in contention less than 10 miles behind the leader.

However, MacArthur rallied on an eventful 11th day, in which the lead changed hands almost hourly.

Gitana IX was the only boat out of contention, lying about 190 miles adrift.

Belgacom moved into another narrow lead as the leading flotilla moved within sight of the finish.

But Foncia's strategic coup de grace in the final straight saw it move from a mile behind the Belgian boat at sunrise on Wednesday to 400 metres clear at the finish line.

The winning margin in the 10-day race was a mere 12 minutes.

A delighted MacArthur rejoiced in a wonderful start to the multihull season.

She said: "The atmosphere was excellent onboard, and everyone very determined - even when we were back in 4th place we kept on working hard and saying its not over until its over. And it wasn't!"


Challenge Mondial race

Ellen's diary

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Mondial Background

Vendee Globe

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