After 48 hours' wait, which was the time required to draw up a plan to recuperate the monohull and the sailor, the decision was made to make for Australia and more specifically the port of Fremantle on the SW coast, some 2,800 miles away at the time. Since then, equipped with a jury rig which Loïck Peyron is improving day by day, Gitana Eighty is continuing to truck on through the Indian Ocean, an ocean which has been living up to its lousy reputation once more… Indeed, last Friday, the Swiss sailor Dominique Wavre announced that he was altering course towards the Kerguelen following the breakage of his keel head. This serious damage sadly brought the sailor's race to an abrupt end. Just hours later, it was the turn of his compatriot, Bernard Stamm, to signal rudder issues. The Swiss sailor then decided that he would make for Port-aux-Français in Kerguelen, but the particularly harsh weather conditions on his arrival in the Baie du Morbihan were to put paid to the sailor's determination. Plagued by bad luck his boat was driven onto shore. Further misfortune followed yesterday with the dismasting of the English sailor Mike Golding and the withdrawal from the competition of Jean-Baptiste Dejanty. These two further abandons have been added to what is already an overly long list, which the skipper of Gitana Eighty briefly analyses: “Unfortunately there has been a big epidemic of abandons since me and I'm really sorry for them, with a particular mention for Bernard. However, I'm not being fatalistic when I say that it doesn't surprise me! When we committed ourselves to taking the start of the Vendée Globe, we all knew that certain boats wouldn't cross the finish line. We set off in full knowledge of the facts and we just have to hope that we're not going to be part of it… Personally I don't think that the pace of this 6th edition is the source of this damage. Sailing is a mechanical sport which is constantly progressing and being perfected, however there is still a random, unknown aspect. We are in an Open class, at the helm of prototypes…”
There is still a long way to go to get to Australia – 1,800 miles this Wednesday 17th December – and after 31 days of intense racing, the end of the voyage is proving to be quite ‘special' for Loïck Peyron. The reasons for this are that sailors who are racing put up with – or almost relish you could say – the noise and the impact of the sea, but when progress is no longer motivated by the appeal of the competition, it becomes more difficult: “This situation isn't very pleasant for a whole host of reasons, primarily because I'd really prefer to be racing rather than where I am! Without a mast it's very uncomfortable to make headway, especially as there's a steady wind at the moment – around 35 knots since yesterday – and the seas are big and very complicated. Gybing under jury rig are pretty full-on… but luckily there's not many manoeuvres. Fortunately I've got my big collection of books, so I'm trying to pass my time reading them. I'm also mulling over the light winds to come and on rigging up a third sail so as to make better headway in the light conditions” concluded Loïck Peyron.
However, these long days bound for Australia are naturally providing Loïck Peyron and his shore crew with an opportunity to look back at the incident and try to decipher the root of the problem, even though it'll be several weeks before a conclusion can be drawn about the mast breakage.
Once he's reached shore, the skipper from Pouliguen is keen to see his nearest and dearest as soon as possible. At that point the Gitana Team will take over from him and organise for the Imoca monohulll to be repatriated to Europe. However, according to the latest estimates, Gitana Eighty is unlikely to make the port of Fremantle before 29th or 30th December.
Follow Gitana Eighty and Loïck Peyron until their arrival in Australia
To enable those internet users who are keen to monitor the course of the sailor as far as Australia, we have set up a link on Google Earth, on the top left hand side of the cartography on our own website.