It was at 03h15'35 UT, after what appeared to the skipper to be an interminable day, that Loïck Peyron crossed the finish line of The Transat 2008. Offshore the lights of Boston sparkled, hailing the performance by the skipper of Gitana Eighty. The monohull in the colours of LCF Rothschild Group covered the 2,982 theoretical miles in 12 days 11 hours 45 minutes 35 seconds. It should be noted that 2hr30 were awarded to the triple winner of the event for diverting to assist Vincent Riou on Tuesday.
Eric Tabarly himself entered into the history books of Ocean Racing and the hearts of the French people by taking victory twice – 1964 and 1976 – in the mother of all the transatlantic races. Tonight, off Boston, the student surpassed the master by adding his name to the list of winners of this legendary race for the third time in his career. Previously stealing the show in 1992 and 1996 aboard a 60 foot multihull, it is at the helm of the most recent of the Gitana fleet – a monohull launched in June 2007 – that Loïck Peyron has stood out this year.
Despite the atypical conditions encountered during this North Atlantic crossing, with numerous passages of light weather which slowed the fleet considerably, the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group have scored a new reference time for the event: 12 days 11 hours 45 minutes and 35 seconds. In so doing Loïck Peyron dethrones Mike Golding, who covered the 3,000 theoretical miles of the course in 12 days 15 hours 18 minutes and 8 seconds.
The initial reactions from Loïck Peyron, winner of The Transat 2008
A third historic victory
“This race is where it all began in France, so to win it three times is obviously incredibly satisfying! I think that when you sail in France, it's thanks to Eric Tabarly in some way. We are all following in his footsteps… Paradoxically though, he hasn't been on my mind so much as he was during my victory in 1996. This is my third victory in this event but the first in a monohull and I'm particularly pleased to offer it to the Gitana Team. I have an exceptional team, who are able to work in an atmosphere of complete trust thanks to the unconditional support of the fleet owner, who is as enthusiastic as he is fascinating: Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. In the space of two years, the Gitana Team has won two major single-handed events: the Route du Rhum 2006 which was brilliant contested by Lionel Lemonchois, and this year's The Transat. It's a fine reward for all the teamwork.”
A testing race but one that has taught me a great deal
“I'm happy but tired! These boats are very wearing physically. Making crossings on these monohulls is a lot less stressful than on multihulls but it's also a lot more physical. You have to work constantly to get the very most out of your machine. Gitana Eighty is a fantastic boat, a “beautiful baby" which I'm entirely satisfied with. And the best news of all about The Transat is that despite my ripe old age I can still keep up with the pace (laughs). You learn something new everyday and that's why I continue to race.”
Two consecutive victories augur well for the Vendée Globe
“My victory in the Transat BtoB last December and this latest win give me confidence, but the Vendée Globe will be quite a different matter. There are some very serious contenders taking the start… it's an incredible cast where everything will come down to the detail. With these latest generation boats, we're permanently in race mode: in The Transat it was a Figaro on an Atlantic scale and in a few months it'll be a Figaro on a global scale.”
The few days spent with Vincent Riou
“The best way to win a race is most importantly to finish, and I had living proof of that aboard Gitana Eighty. The first few hours with Vincent were fairly complicated for me to deal with. It was disruptive but Vincent was great and very discrete despite the situation being difficult for him. Over the past three and a half days, I've felt like I was the most senior member of the faculty being observed by a young talented student… I told myself that I couldn't make any mistakes. I had to do things correctly (laughs!). I'd have preferred to continue our duel, but it was nice to have him aboard. We had time to talk about technique of course, as well as lot of other things besides.”
Gitana, a passion for sailing
Spurred on by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, the Gitana story opened towards multihulls in 2000 with Gitana IX. An ‘armada' followed with Gitana X in 2002, Gitana 11 (Ex-Belgacom) in 2004, then Gitana 12 (Ex-Bonduelle) in 2006 to replace Gitana X. In 2007, a year after the arrival of Loïck Peyron at the head of the Gitana Team, the fleet diversified: Gitana 11, the 60 foot Orma multihull and outright winner of the Route du Rhum 2006, was then accompanied by Gitana Eighty, a 60 foot Imoca monohull, and Gitana 13, a 33 metre maxi-catamaran was devoted to discovery. Crewed records for Gitana 13 and solo races for Gitana Eighty: this new season already promises to etch some fine lines in the histories of the Gitana boats…