Gitana Eighty sets off in the B to B
On Thursday 29 November at 11:00 local time (2pm GMT), Loïck Peyron and Gitana Eighty started out in the Ecover “B to B” Transat, from Bahia to Brittany. The B to B is a solo race reserved exclusively for 60-foot Imoca monohulls, contested over an original route between Salvador de Bahia in Brazil and Port-la-Forêt in Finistere.

Apart from the fact that it is the first solo encounter between a section of the Vendée Globe field, the B to B will also serve to confirm the qualification of the boat / skipper pairings for the 2008 edition of the legendary round-the-world event.

When the 15 monohulls set off from Salvador de Bahia this morning, they did so under unusually grey skies more reminiscent of their destination than of South America. Gitana Eighty has taken the best start before Safran. At the first and the last mark of the race, she was still first followed by Safran and Brit Air.

For two days, the fleet should be carried close hauled by Easterly/North-easterly winds. Then, the competitors should pick up the South-East trade wind that will allow them to climb rapidly towards the equator before reaching the first area of difficulty, the Doldrums.

Loïck Peyron declared yesterday that he was “in a hurry to get going! We'll be leaving amid fairly unstable conditions, definitely close hauled! I can't wait to experience being alone on board Gitana Eighty.”

Having arrived in Bahia on 21 November at the end of the Transat Jacques Vabre, Gitana Eighty and Loïck Peyron will have had the time to recharge their batteries before embarking on this return transat. For the elegant blue monohull owned by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, it's a foretaste of her lap of the world, and when she reaches Port-la-Forêt in mid-December, Eighty will have covered no less than 9,000 miles. “I've no problem with going straight from one race to another like this, as I've done it for many years on different boats. In fact, I'd have liked to set off sooner so as to keep my momentum going! The only problem will be exactly that: getting back into the rhythm of periods of watchfulness, action and rest that typify solo racing,” admitted Loïck Peyron before the start.

The Gitana technical team have taken advantage of this week on stand-by between the finish of the Transat Jacques Vabre and the start of the B to B to give Gitana Eighty a thorough inspection. After all, the mild weather encountered by the vessels on the Jacques Vabre may have meant all her equipment survived intact, but the fleet still spent 18 intense days at sea.


After 18 days at sea, can you let us know what Gitana Eighty's strong points are?
Loïck Peyron:One of the things I have insisted on for many years in the boat design and development process is to make sure it has no weak points, and with Gitana Eighty, it seems we've achieved this. That's her greatest strong point!”

What do you hope to get out of this race?
“I hope the B to B will be another trial run, and one that's more varied in terms of the weather! It's time to test out Gitana Eighty in more extreme conditions than an Indian summer in Brittany and a fairly windless Transat Jacques Vabre! We should have at least a week close hauled in sustained trade winds of over 20 knots and we'll very likely hit a period of low pressure towards the end, in December.”

What are your aims for the transat?
 “Our eighth place in the Jacques Vabre doesn't at all reflect the boat's potential. Our strategic choice on approaching the Doldrums unfortunately backfired on us, and I accept full responsibility for that. Where the B to B's concerned, the dilemma is always the same in all sports, mechanical or otherwise: the best way of having a chance of winning… is to make sure you finish. There's a permanent dilemma between protecting the equipment and going for performance. The Ecover B to B transat is not just a qualifier, as everyone's going to be up for it and no one will simply be in “delivery mode”. It's kind of a warm-up for the Vendée Globe, as half the future competitors will be there…”

Key stats:
The Transat Ecover B to B – Brazil / Brittany
Start: 29 November from Salvador de Bahia
Finish: around 15 December at Port-la-Forêt (Finistere)
Solo race: approximately 4,200 miles
15 boats entered

Reminder of the Gitana Team's final positions in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2007:

Gitana 11 finished second among the 60-foot ORMA multihulls, on Wednesday 14 November at 22 hours 51 minutes 6 seconds (French time) after 10 days 9 hours and 49 minutes and 6 seconds' racing.

Gitana Eighty finished eighth among the 60-foot IMOCA monohulls, on Wednesday 21 November at 21 hours 33 minutes and 55 seconds (French time) after 18 days 7 hours 33 minutes and 55 seconds' racing.

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