So far and yet so near
It's tight, very tight… It's hard to draw any other conclusion about the state of the Vendée Globe 2008-2009 fleet on this 19th day of racing, which has managed to bunch together some of the fiercest contenders in a long stampede at the front of the fleet. Loïck Peyron hasn't made good his escape as yet and has switched from hunter to hunted and back to hunter again at the mercy of the ranking. Currently in the wake and in sight of Sébastien Josse, the skipper of the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is still in the clutches of a capricious zone and is putting duty before everything else in the negotiation of Saint Helena.

He will have to choose between a route taking him as close as possible to the zone of high pressure, on the edge of the precipice, or a more prudent but much longer option. And though this is a particularly interesting situation for the racing car enthusiast from La Baule, it may well prove decisive for the next stage in the race and the entry into the south. It's a true Hitchcock scenario and the observers are relishing it…

Your turn, my turn, your turn, my turn! After conceding the leadership of the fleet at the 1600 hour ranking yesterday to Sébastien Josse, the skipper of Gitana Eighty snatched back pole position overnight, prior to having it chipped away from him again by the skipper of the British monohull. However, beyond the waltz for the top spot, you have to watch the entire dance floor to realise that it's no longer a two-step in action in the southern Atlantic, but rather a collective boogie. In fact 9 competitors are within 46 miles of each other, which surely must be a first at this stage in the Vendée Globe; proof if need be that the sixth edition of the event is still more reminiscent of a regatta race rather than a marathon. The frontrunners can almost smell the meals being prepared in their rivals' mini galleys, each of them logically watching each others moves. Loïck Peyron, in particularly fine fettle this Friday, looks back at the encounters he had early this morning: “After losing time under the famous cloud yesterday, I've really got back into the thick of the action. In fact I've just been speaking with Seb (Sébastien Josse) and I can see Armel (Armel Le Cléac'h, 3rd on Brit Air). It's quite nice to be sailing within sight of everyone”. There's no question of making good his escape right now, the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group being not only surrounded but also, and above all, subject to the same scenario as the competition: “Our monohulls being fairly similar in terms of performance, it's rare to be able to escape. Having said that it's true that since the start, there have been two or three tricky passages which have favoured those behind. The opposite would be most welcome right now so we can benefit too!”

However, before they can take off again, they will have to find a great strategy to get out of the current weather situation. The Saint Helena High is still continuing to lay down the law and is keeping the solo sailors in suspense, even though most of the fleet have chosen their exit routes now. Leading the way, the top trio, of which Gitana Eighty forms part, is picking its way due south, whilst those behind and further to the west, Jean-Pierre Dick and the Englishman Mike Golding have shifted back over in the past few hours to remain in contact. Positioned over to the east, out on his own, Jean Le Cam has opted to be the first to traverse the zone of high pressure and he is also hoping to be the first out. Questioned about the various strategies, the skipper of the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild was pertinent in his analysis: “We're currently faced with a kind of gamble which is making all of us aim for a zone where there isn't any wind for the time being. The onus here is on not distancing ourselves too far from the direct route and on finding the right point to make the long turn. The inside bend is full of gravel and the outside edge is clear but increases the distance to be travelled. It'll be interesting to see who gets out first!”

It'll be a while yet before they reach the exit, with the forecasters currently banking on Sunday. In the meantime, the end of today should see a strengthening E'ly breeze, forcing the solo sailors to be opportunist at all times. Numerous manœuvres and sail changes will also be the order of the day in this upwind navigation. At the heart of the zone of high pressure though, the wind will drop dramatically and the skippers will have to carve out their own route to ‘deliverance': “The end of this day will be a bit difficult with wind forecast. We'll have to reduce the sail area and then rehoist it all tomorrow. We'll certainly be close to the eye of the anticyclone at that point, and not far at all from the tear ducts…”, said Loïck Peyron during today's radio session. There will doubtless be some tears for some and given the risk of further bunching across the fleet, they'll certainly be able to hear each other crying. The suspense continues…

Ranking on 28th November – 1600 hours (French time)
1. BT (Sébastien Josse) 19,626 miles from the finish
2. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 6.4 miles back
3. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléac'h) 14 miles
4. VM Matériaux (Jean Le Cam) 14.6 miles
5. Veolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain) 22.7 miles

The content that appears on this website is protected by copyright.
Any reproduction or representation is strictly forbidden.

For further information, please refer to the legal notice section.
Enter at least 4 characters...