To-ings and fro-ings at the front of the pack
Three days after setting out from Les Sables d'Olonne, the remaining twenty-seven solo sailors participating in the Vendée Globe 2008-2009 are sailing off the Portuguese coast, along the eastern edge of the Azores High. The leaders continue to jockey for position at the mercy of the rankings but Loïck Peyron and Gitana Eighty, who were leading yesterday afternoon, are holding onto their podium position behind Jean-Pierre Dick and Sébastien Josse, today's leader.

It's been a strategic day at the front of the fleet of Imoca monohulls. Indeed, the top six boats, which are sailing within around twenty miles of each other, are still slipping along downwind around the Azores High. However this fourth afternoon of racing was to be marked by an important gybe. As such the timing of this move was in everyone's minds when contacted by the Paris HQ during today's radio session. For the skipper of the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, the moment came at midday: “I gybed an hour and a half ago” confided Loïck Peyron at around 1500 hours, before going on to say: “the wind is very shifty both in terms of strength and direction and conditions aren't great for working in. I'm on the look-out and on top of the trimming so I can make the most of Gitana Eighty's potential.”

Passing the latitude of Lisbon this afternoon, the sailors are gradually leaving the autumnal conditions of the Bay of Biscay behind them, which clearly isn't a bad thing: “the temperatures are slowly climbing and I spotted some baby flying fish earlier. There isn't a real tradewind sky yet though… one thing at a time.”

After a great start, more reminiscent of the transatlantic races than a round the world, and with some close marking worthy of round the cans racing, the solo sailors are gradually getting into the rhythm of the big circumnavigation: “Our boats are demanding and call for the utmost attention at all times. You have to permanently maintain the boat, especially after sailing through stormy conditions, like those at the start of the race. Things have been flying about a fair bit down below and I've had some cleaning up to do. I'm slowly getting into the daily grind of a round the world sailor!” consented the sailor from La Baule on France's Atlantic coast.

The hierarchy in the initial stage of this race is constantly evolving as there is little separation between the leading boats. Over the past 24 hours, Loïck Peyron, Jean-Pierre Dick, Roland Jourdain and finally Sébastien Josse have been jockeying for position at the top of the leaderboard. Heading the fleet since the first ranking of the day, Sébastien is benefiting from a slight but judicious E'ly separation. This is an option shared by Jean Le Cam and it seems to be paying dividends as it has enabled him to get back with the leading pack. 

Twenty-seven sailors still racing
The official retirement of Yannick Bestaven, victim of a dismasting, brings the number of competitors forced to abandon the race to a total of three. To date then twenty-seven sailors are still in the running for victory in this 6th edition. However, some of these are still making a pitstop in Les Sables d'Olonne and are yet to announce their restart. Watch this space…

Ranking on 12th November – 1600 hour (French time)
1. BT (Sébastien Josse)
2. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 1.1 miles behind the leader 
3. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 6.2 miles back
4. Véolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain) 10.6 miles back
5. VM Matériaux (Jean Le Cam) 15.3 miles back
6. PRB (Vincent Riou) 24 miles back…

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