The hunted becomes the hunter!
As is always the case at sea – and we'd be wrong to forget it – sailors are but guests upon it and it is the weather which lays down the law… The gradual bunching of the fleet over the past few days has seen to it that the established leader of the Vendée Globe, Loïck Peyron, has been the first to pay the price. Proving favourable again and again to the chasing pack, the weather conditions haven't switched shoulder rifle and are instead continuing to provide those in hot pursuit with some fine opportunities to get back with the leading group, prior to entering the Southern Ocean. At the 1600 hour ranking, the established hierarchy for a good number of days has been completely upset.

Sébastien Josse is now assuming the role of leader, whilst Gitana Eighty is now 15 miles astern. Behind him, Armel Le Cléac'h is in 3rd place with a 20 mile deficit on the man in the top spot. The first eight 60 foot Imocas are within 60 miles of each other; incredible proximity and an amazing scenario after over 18 days of racing.

The early morning wasn't one of the mildest for the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. Whilst he was still leading the way, Loïck Peyron found himself drawn in by a storm squall, void of breeze: “This morning, I ended up stuck beneath a squall for three – four hours. There wasn't a breath of air and I was manoeuvring in every direction to try to get out of it all. In a multihull, with the speed the boats move, you can better deal with this type of phenomenon, but in a monohull you're rather compelled to endure it.”
The leading group, which is still pointing southwards, is currently sailing in a zone marked by lines of squalls; an active band which has formed along the northern edge of the zone of high pressure and is causing the solo sailors no end of trouble. However, these very localised and not very predictable phenomena aren't dishing out the same conditions for everyone: “When I was beneath my squall, I saw Jojo (Sébastien Josse) just off from me and he didn't seemed to have slowed up much at all!” As a result the skipper of the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild had little doubt as to the upcoming position report. At 1600 hours, Sébastien Josse was indeed the new leader of this Vendée Globe 2008-2009. Of note is the fact that this ranking has given the boats positioned further east, and hence closer to the direct course, an added edge.

“It's all highly logical… We're hitting a buffer zone and as I was leading the way, I was the first to land in the shit! It's no surprise though, I'd be preparing for it for several days” explained Loïck Peyron, who despite the circumstances was still his usual calm self. “This isn't the important thing: you mustn't be distracted by the rankings and the changes in hierarchy as things really only get serious further down the track…” Indeed, the lines of squalls are set to accompany the fleet throughout this 18th day of racing, after which point we'll see a temporary increase in breeze during the course of tomorrow. However, the return of more clement winds won't last long as already, the influence of the Saint Helena High will make it's presence felt, with the wind gradually easing. Indeed, it won't be until the end of the weekend – the evening of 30th November – that the first 60 foot Imocas are likely to be sailing to the south of this band of high pressure! In short, between now and then, anything could happen and nobody is protected…

Doubtless the close of this 3rd week of racing promises to be tense. Both lucidity and experience will be precious assets in dealing with this tricky passage and finally making it into the southern seas.    

Ranking on 27th November – 1600 hours (French time)
1. BT (Sébastien Josse) 19,770 miles from the finish
2. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 15.3 miles behind the leader
3. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléac'h) 20.3 miles
4. PRB (Vincent Riou) 26.7 miles
5. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 30.2 miles
Abandons: Groupe Bel (Kito de Pavant), (Yannick Bestaven), DCNS (Marc Thiercelin), Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson) and Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore). 

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