While the final week of the race had been difficult for the crew of Gitana Eighty, who were forced to manoeuvre and gybe throughout to try to overcome capricious weather conditions, the blue monohull has arrived in perfect shape, with no major technical problems having been suffered by the 60-foot Imoca that was launched only last July. And in winning by a short head (7minutes 1 second!) their thrilling race-within-a-race contested throughout the final day with the Yann Elies- Sébastien Audigane duo aboard Genarali, Gitana Eighty finished eighth in this two-handed transat between Le Havre and Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.
“The last day going head-to-head with Generali has given us a real boost,” Loïck Peyron remarked on his return to dry land. “During the night, from Recife, they were land side of us. We passed within 3 miles of each other at daybreak, then we decided to gybe and passed each other a second time. We finished up with a classic large reaching leg, with 10 to 18 knots of wind and the boat travelling at between 14 and 16 knots, with peaks of 18 knots in the waves.”
Having been second going into the doldrums and in pursuit of the British pairing of Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois on board Ecover, the crew of Gitana Eighty then agonisingly saw the door slide shut before them, extinguishing their hopes of finishing on the rostrum. “We made the wrong choice, it's as simple as that,” explained Loïck Peyron in reference to their passage through the Eastern part of the infamous zone. It's a option that can sometimes propel a boat into the lead, as was the case for Loïck himself in 2001 aboard Fujifilm, or allow her to shake off a rival, as did the trimaran Gitana 11 when, closely pursued by Banque Populaire a few days earlier, she emerged from the same path with her second place cemented.
The Transat Jacques Vabre has at least served as an excellent full-scale test for the recently constructed Imoca monohull, confirming all of the technical solutions applied to the Farr Yacht Design (USA) plan put together at Southern Ocean Marine in New Zealand. “I found the race we had with Foncia and the rest of the fleet in the first part of the race really exhilarating. It was a fantastic way to compare the different architectural initiatives.” Evidently, Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant, for whom it was a first two-handed transat and a first crossing of the equator by yacht, found the experience highly rewarding: “We stayed focused right to the end. The aim was also for Loïck to have a boat in perfect nick for the return, and that's definitely the case. Entering All Saints' Bay on a boat like this is an amazing experience.”
Loïck Peyron and Gitana Eighty will be back at sea in less than eight days for the return crossing, the “B to B” - Bahia to Brittany – a solo race serving as a Vendée Globe qualifier for the skipper and boat. The unusually long duration of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2007, mainly due to the winds below 20 knots – except in the ocean off Cape Finisterre – has led the race organisers to slightly delay the start, which could now take place on Wednesday 28 November.
IMOCA Transat Jacques Vabre 2007 Ranking :
1- Foncia - DESJOYEAUX Michel/LE BORGNE Emmanuel
Arrived on 20/11/2007 at 04:37:05pm, 17days, 2 hours, 37 minutes et 5 seconds racing - average speed : 10.57 knots
2- Safran - GUILLEMOT Marc/CAUDRELIER Charles
Arrived on 20/11/2007 at 05:31:55pm, 17 days, 3 hours, 31 minutes et 55 seconds racing - average speed :10.55 knots
3- Cheminées Poujoulat - STAMM Bernard/CARIOU Tanguy
Arrived on 20/11/2007 at 07:19:02pm, 17 days, 5 hours, 19 minutes et 2 seconds racing - average speed : 10.50 knots
4- VM Matériaux - LE CAM Jean/MORVAN Gildas
Arrived on 20/11/2007 at 09:50:13pm, 17 days, 7 hours, 50 minutes et 13 seconds racing - average speed : 10.44 knots
5- Ecover III - GOLDING MIKE/DUBOIS Bruno
Arrived on 21/11/2007 at 06:09:33am, 17 days, 16 hours, 9 minutes et 33 seconds racing - average speed : 10.23 knots
6- Groupe Bel - DE PAVANT Kito/COL Sébastien
Arrived on 21/11/2007 at 07:44:15am, 17 days, 17 hours, 44 minutes et 15 seconds racing - average speed : 10.19 knots
7- Brit Air - LE CLEAC'H Armel/TROUSSEL Nicolas
Arrived on 21/11/2007 at 11:13:06am, 17 days, 21 hours, 13 minutes et 6 seconds racing - average speed : 10.11 knots
8- Gitana Eighty - PEYRON Loick/LEVAILLANT Jean Baptiste
Arrived on 21/11/2007 at 09:33:55pm, 18 days, 7 hours, 33 minutes et 55 seconds racing - average speed : 9.87 knots
9- Generali - ELIES Yann/AUDIGANE Sébastien
Arrived on 21/11/2007 at 09:40:56pm, 18 days, 7 hours, 40 minutes et 56 seconds racing - average speed : 9.87 knots