The first storm
Setting out from Plymouth just a week ago, the fleet of Imoca monohulls now comprises eleven sailors in The Artemis Transat 2008. After Michel Desjoyeaux on Thursday, it was the turn of Sébastien Josse to turn back yesterday following technical issues. This withdrawal has enabled Vincent Riou to take the controls, closely tailed by Loïck Peyron, around twenty miles astern. At 1400 UT, Gitana Eighty was positioned 1,341 miles from Boston.

We were expecting some tactical choices during the position black-out, set by the race organisation between 1800 hours on Friday and 0600 hours UT this morning, however the biggest surprise sadly came in the second retirement from the event... The first position report of this Sunday 18th May has led to a new hierarchy in The Artemis Transat 2008, and after 36 hours without news from the fleet, the leading trio is now comprised of Vincent Riou, Loïck Peyron and Armel Le Cléac'h. Sébastien Josse, previously at the top of the ranking for several day, was in fact forced to turn back late afternoon on Saturday - just as Michel Desjoyeaux did last Thursday – the most recent retirement due to damage to the mast track.

However, it should be noted that the skipper of Gitana Eighty did benefit from the black-out to give his friends the slip and reposition himself a little deeper south. Loïck Peyron commented on his choice this afternoon: “By repositioning myself in the south, I didn't make any particular gains in terms of miles to the leader, however these anticipated changes in tack enabled me to sail in a steadier breeze. I didn't have to make any sail changes throughout this period.” This energy saving is not to be ignored given the forecast for windy, shifty conditions for the solo sailors over the next few days.

Indeed, between now and this evening, the rhythm will radically change with the arrival of the first large disturbance in this transatlantic. In fact, an initial front will sweep across the head of the Imoca fleet during this evening, the wind files indicating 30-35 knots: “The wind will build and we'll weather our first storm since the start. We'll have to perform a change of tack within that system, so as we can head towards the ice gate close-hauled on starboard tack. This passage won't be easy as we'll certainly have to negotiate it during a zone of transition, where the wind will ease temporarily!”

The end of the race promises to be windy, as well as playing host to a number of transitions. The succession of disturbances, broken by zones of light conditions, will force Loïck Peyron and his rivals to constantly have an eye on their trimming and not be sparing with their efforts on deck in order to make Boston.

The battle for first place is still far from over then!

Ranking on 18th May at the 1400 UT ranking
1. PRB (Vincent Riou) 1,314 miles from the finish
2. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 26.4 miles from the leader
3. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléac'h) 62.8 miles back
4. Generali (Yann Eliès) 82.9 miles back
5. Safran (Marc Guillemot) 252.1 miles back

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