Gitana Eighty diverts towards Australia
Since Gitana Eighty's dismasting early afternoon on Wednesday the operations cell, set up within the core of Gitana Team in the event of damage requiring assistance, has been extremely busy. As such, after weighing up the situation and studying the greatest number of options available to them, Loïck Peyron and his shore crew have opted for Australia. This destination is certainly a lot further from South Africa but it is safer for the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group. The skipper from La Baule is therefore tackling an Indian Ocean crossing under jury rig.

“Today Australia is the safest option we have” explained Léopold Lucet, in charge of the preparation of operations to recuperate Gitana Eighty. This analysis, largely shared by Loïck Peyron, is thus based on the uncertainties as to the last 1,000 miles of the “South-African option”. Indeed, following forecasts from Sylvain Mondon – the loyal adviser to Gitana Team – the last part of the tow would have led to them trying to make headway into the wind in what were still very hazardous conditions… the element of uncertainty was so great that the men of Gitana Team couldn't allow it. In this decision, the testimony from Jérémie Beyou was invaluable to them. The young skipper experienced the same misfortune last year within a few hundred miles of Gitana Eighty during the Barcelona World Race and has contacted Loïck Peyron's team to share his experience. This gesture demonstrated that, as is often the case in sailing, there is an established chain of solidarity and support.

“A tow in the open ocean is always a tricky operation, especially as today we can't have any guarantees on the weather. Making course towards Fremantle, on the SW coast of Australia is the best decision” explained Loïck early this afternoon.  

Waiting for a decision on the destination since he built a jury rig on Wednesday night, the skipper of Gitana Eighty didn't delay in changing course once the choice was clearly defined: “Perfect! I've just begun to bear away a little and now I'm off to Australia” he said to his team with his usual humour. And though the situation hasn't really been much fun aboard Gitana Eighty, Loïck Peyron accepted his fate philosophically and calmly, despite the ambient discomfort: “We're getting massively shaken up without a mast as the centre of gravity is very low. As a result it hasn't been easy to sleep. I'm reading a lot. It helps to pass the time, which is getting to be a little bit long. I'm tidying up and I'm making lists… You have to keep yourself busy!”

To date, the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is sailing at 45°44 South and 59°48 East and is making more than honourable speeds under jury rig. It is worth remembering that Loïck Peyron has manufactured a little spar by fixing the boom onto the remaining mast foot, and to that he has added a storm sail (20 m2 sail) up forward and a piece of mainsail aft. In these conditions and given that the breeze is likely to be downwind until close to the Australian coast, some 2,600 miles away this Friday afternoon, Loïck Peyron and Gitana Eighty should reach terra firma in 15 to 20 days time.

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