Gitana Eighty leading at Madeira
Setting out from Les Sables d'Olonne last Sunday at 1302 hours, the fleet of Imoca monohulls, which now comprises twenty-six competitors, is slipping along downwind in the tradewinds of the northern hemisphere, down the edge of the Azores High. The frontrunners have left the island of Madeira in their wake. Battling at the top of the leaderboard from the outset, Gitana Eighty is leading the way southbound this afternoon. In its wake, Sébastien Josse and Jean-Pierre Dick are keeping on the pace and Jean Le Cam is in ambush.

Indeed Loïck Peyron and Gitana Eighty have been leading the dance for three consecutive rankings today, which is certainly not down to luck: “You don't get anything without putting in the effort! The boats are noisy and demanding and I have not yet managed to sleep properly since the start.” With these words, the skipper of the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild explained that his look-out position in the cockpit was still preferable today to his comfortable bunk down below.  

The fierce gale which manhandled the fleet for the first few hours at sea has certainly left its mark on the sailors in the Vendée Globe 2008-2009… The most unfortunate of these have seen their round the world dream come to a brutal end, whilst others have had to turn back to make repairs in order to head back into the race, and the remainder have made it through. However, for those who are now slipping along in the Portuguese tradewinds, the jobs list is a hefty one as Loïck Peyron explains: “Two broaches have left their mark… During one of them, I damaged a starboard aft stanchion, which has since been repaired and I almost lost my genoa. I also experienced some problems with my automatic pilot, but it's sorted itself out now.” Psychological warfare or modesty… each solo sailor has been discretely dressing the wounds on their various steeds. However, given the violence of the elements in the Bay of Biscay few seem to have come off scot free. As such, during the daily radio session at midday, Roland Jourdain and Vincent Riou – to name but a few – told of the difficulties they'd faced.

After four days at sea, the head of the fleet in this 6th edition is passing the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira. Sailing along a ridge of high pressure on the eastern edge of the Azores High, the solo sailors are exploiting the now steady NE'ly tradewinds in a bid to make the Canaries and then Cape Verde, before lining themselves up to get through the first Doldrums in this round the world. For the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group, along with its rivals, the current strategy is clear: make as much headway as possible towards the equator.

The top four, led by Gitana Eighty, were grouped within 24 miles of each other at the 1600 hour ranking. Though Loïck Peyron, Sébastien Josse and Jean-Pierre Dick have opted to leave Madeira to port, Jean Le Cam has opted to pass to windward of the island.

Ranking on 13th November – 1600 hours (French time)

1. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 22,570 miles from the finish
2. BT (Sébastien Josse) 13.6
3. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 18.2
4. VM Matériaux (Jean Le Cam) 24.1
5. Véolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain) 52.9
Abandons: Groupe Bel (Kito de Pavant), (Yannick Bestaven), DCNS (Marc Thiercelin) and Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson).

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