After the second best start, the monohull in the colours of LCF Rothschild Group favoured the right-hand side of the race zone and set off from the pin-end of the line. This choice paid off as 10 miles further down the track, as they passed Eddystone lighthouse, Gitana Eighty passed into the lead, leaving Safran, skippered by Marc Guillemot, over three minutes in its wake. A gentle start then with Loïck Peyron able to express his finesse once more…
With medium to light winds forecast over the first few hours of racing, and in a complicated weather situation over the next part of the course, the exit from the Channel and the entry into the Celtic Sea will be decisive. Now more than ever the time is ripe for giving it their all so as to hook onto the right system.
Prior to greeting the crowds massed around Sutton Harbour marina this morning, the skipper of Gitana Eighty declared: “The forecast seems to be suggesting that we're going to make more manoeuvres on this transatlantic than on a Vendée Globe! We're likely to get through the entire sail wardrobe and pass through each and every stage of the game: it's going to be very open.” True to form then, the mother of all transatlantics will keep all her promises…
Statements from Loïck Peyron prior to the start
The forecast for the first few hours: “We should benefit from a light thermal breeze as we head offshore but globally we'll have fairly light, downwind conditions. The gates set by the organisation, particularly that of Lizard Point, will force us to close on the English coast and unfortunately it's there that there will be less wind. In addition to that, during the course of the evening we'll have the current on the nose. In short, little sleep tonight in view but numerous manœuvres and some sail trimming to remain in the right vein of wind. There is a chance we may bunch together again at Lizard Point.”
Gitana Eighty's handling in these conditions: “Gitana Eighty has already demonstrated that, in the light airs, it is a fast all-rounder. These are the kinds of conditions that our ‘baby' loves… I'll have to keep an eye on Safran and Foncia, particularly in the light winds. The big differences over the first few hours of racing will essentially come down to manoeuvres and the choice of sail plan at the start.”
A thought from the solo sailor for his crew: “The Gitana Team has done an excellent job on Gitana Eighty and today I find myself wending my way alone at the helm of a perfectly prepared boat. It's a big responsibility as I don't really want to disappoint anyone, but above all else it's an honour. Thank you to all the team and to Baron Benjamin de Rothschild for his trust in me.”
Position of the top five at Eddystone lighthouse – Omega gate
1. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) at 15h16'17''
2. Safran (Marc Guillemot) at 15h19'23''
3. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléach) at 15h19'46''
4. BT (Sébastien Josse) at 15h21'01''
5. Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux) at 15h21'44''