Gitana Eighty keeps the pressure on the leader
Boston and the finish line are looming up fast this afternoon, less than 900 miles ahead of the top duo, still comprised of Loïck Peyron and Vincent Riou. However, the weather situation over the coming days promises to be particularly complicated, and certainly won't make life any easier for the sailors. Between the passages of fronts and zones of light winds, the ten solo sailors still in the running following the retirement of Michel Desjoyeaux, Sébastien Josse and most recently Unaï Basurko, will need to be sailing at 100% of their capacity and their lucidity in order to cover this final third of the course.

The ice gate was no trifling matter for the leaders in The Artemis Transat 2008. As Loïck Peyron mentioned yesterday, the top trio made a brief touchdown at the latitude of 40° north, prior to heading to the NW. The skipper of Gitana Eighty commented on this tricky passage: “It would've been perfect give or take half a mile! Just a few boat lengths from the gate, the wind began to ease and I hoisted the genoa to make headway. It proved to be a mistake as the wind kicked back in as it headed, and by the time I'd furled in the genoa I had to put in a tack to cross the gate. In short, not easy and the lost ground could have been avoided.”

Once the ice gate was behind him, the sailor from La Baule was able to reap the benefits of a wet but pleasant night: “We finally had a slightly feisty night… with the spray dumping onto the deck at time and peaks of speed at 18 knots. Above all though, the seas were relatively flat and favourable for sleeping!” This rest is essential after 9 days of racing and too many manœuvres to count, as the fatigue is beginning to weigh on the skippers. All too familiar with this scenario, the skipper of Gitana Eighty doesn't give a second thought to making the most of any opportunity that presents itself in order to recuperate.

In the Imoca monohull fleet, the alternating conditions are all par for the course on the programme of events for the solo sailors. Having to reconcile the passages of lows and zones of transition, where the wind is somewhat lacking, Loïck Peyron and his rivals are making constant manoeuvres and adjusting their sail wardrobe in order to conserve the best heading/speed compromise. “This evening another light zone awaits us and with the wind turning every which way, things are likely to be fairly complicated. There's going to be a lot of work on deck with the sail changes and tacks. Despite all that it's going to interesting!” The appeal lies in the fact that all these transition zones are tricky passages which are favourable for making gains on rivals, or indeed losing them: “these periods are very important and require the greatest of attention from us as it's during these spells that we can make up ground as well as lose it!" Loïck Peyron recalled. 

At the 1400 UT position report, Gitana Eighty was hot on the heels of PRB and had reduced its deficit still further; Vincent Riou had a lead of just 12.6 miles: “I have a serious customer ahead of me, who is really sailing cleanly. However there are numerous transitions still awaiting us – at least five before the finish – which will give us something to play with!” Sailing on port tack to windward of the leader, the most recent of the Gitana fleet is on the attack; a pressure that the double winner of the event fully intends to keep up for the last third of the course.

Ranking at 1400 UT on 20th May
1. PRB (Vincent Riou) 840.5 miles from the finish
2. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 12.6 miles from 1st place
3. Brit Air (Armel Le Cleac'h) 59.8 miles
4. Generali (Yann Eliès) 136.6 miles
5. Safran (Marc Guillemot) 323.4 miles

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