Slipping along at the head of the fleet down the Iberian coast
After 48 hours at sea, nine of the thirty solo sailors participating in the Vendée Globe 2008-2009 have had to turn back, two of them indicating their retirement to race management following dismastings. Though the fierce storm the fleet of Imoca monohulls was riding out yesterday has something to do with the array of damage, it isn't the only cause. At the front of the fleet since Les Sables d'Olonne, the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is at the top of the leaderboard this afternoon, closely tailed by her sistership, Paprec–Virbac.

Early this morning Gitana Eighty passed the latitude of Cape Finisterre at the NW tip of Spain; a promontory notorious for its rough seas, which marks the end of the Bay of Biscay. For Loïck Peyron and his closest rivals, conditions have finally calmed down. The strong gale and the particularly violent seas at the start of the race are now in their wake. They are benefiting from a more moderate NW'ly to slip along downwind along the Iberian coast: “I've got all the sails on deck and the elements have largely eased at last… There is 15 to 20 knots of breeze and Gitana Eighty is being accompanied by a good, long swell. The contrast between the current conditions and those which reigned during the first thirty hours at sea is striking. I've experienced worse wind in the Bay of Biscay, particularly during the Route du Rhum 2002, but this time it was the sea which was the most dreadful thing. The boat has taken some hard knocks. I haven't been able to do a thorough check yet, but it seems to be alright. The first battle to get into the right wagon has been won. Others have been a lot less fortunate than me and my thoughts go out to them!” said the skipper of Gitana Eighty early this afternoon. 

This initial chunk of the race was testing for the machines, as Loïck Peyron confirmed: “initially it was the sea state which didn't really favour sleep, then last night it was the manœuvres on deck which prevented any short slots of rest. It was necessary to gradually hoist all the sail area as the wind eased after the front had gone through. Conditions should enable me to recuperate now though.” 

Performing a tack last night prior to his rivals, the sailor from La Baule was the closest to the coast early this morning. This separation has enabled him to take the lead in the provisional ranking this afternoon. Made up of six boats, the leading group is bunched within a 12 mile zone and has managed to get away from the chasing pack a little with a lead of around forty miles.  

Nocturnal encounter
A few hours after the start on Sunday night, Gitana Eighty narrowly avoided a cargo ship as the thick fog had reduced the visibility: “I was fogbound as a cargo ship suddenly appeared close to Gitana Eighty. As a result I bore away from its course but as just one rudder was in the water, I broached to leeward… in the end it was a fine stylistic device which was more of a fright than anything." It is worth noting that Bernard Stamm was less fortunate since a collision with a Maltese cargo ship forced him to return to the port of Les Sables d'Olonne to repair the bowsprit which was damaged on impact. The Swiss sailor has still not been able to head back out to sea.

Ranking on 11th November – 1600 hours (French time)
1. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron)
2. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 1.5 miles from the leader 
3. Véolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain) 3.1 miles back
4. PRB (Vincent Riou) 7.7 miles back
5. BT (Sébastien Josse) 12  miles back
6. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléac'h) 12.3 miles back …

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