Gitana Eighty has fun under the cover of darkness…
On the fifth day of racing in this sixth edition of the Vendée Globe, there is something particularly noticeable; the solo sailors are progressively leaving the world of landlubbers behind them and entering into their furious race around the globe. Last night proved favourable for Loïck Peyron to make good his escape and, by the early hours, he had stretched his lead to over 30 miles. However, he certainly has no intention of blowing his own trumpet as he knows there is still a long way to go and that there are a number of pitfalls across his path. At the 1600 hour ranking, whilst the head of the fleet was positioned at the latitude of the Canaries, the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, was still leading the way, tailed by Jean Le Cam, author of a very fine comeback at the top of the leaderboard.

“All's well, we're slipping along gently!”, the voice of Loïck Peyron was clear this Friday noon, though the scene painted by the skipper of the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group is no picture postcard: “I'm into the tradewind pattern and as is often the case in this zone, there are messy seas and the skies are rather grey. I've currently got 18 to 20 knots of NE'ly, but the wind is fairly shifty. I'm not taking any risks and I'm erring on the side of ‘safe' trimming to avoid having to get out of the shelter too much!”. After several days coloured by incessant manœuvres, the sailor now finds himself in the relative warmth of the interior of his boat, benefiting from the cover of darkness to get away. The competitors questioned during the daily radio session at the Paris Race HQ seemed keen to uphold the ‘legend' of the sailor who refuses the lure of the sandman. A tad amused, Loïck Peyron reassured his team that he'd had an excellent night and slept in his bunk. This was a rare treat for someone who has only allowed himself the odd ‘micro siesta' at the watch station since setting off from Les Sables d'Olonne, last Sunday.

A brainteaser in view at the Doldrums

Leading the fleet since the Thursday ranking at 0500 hours and after an option straight down the middle as he negotiated Madeira, the skipper of Gitana Eighty is currently filing along towards the Doldrums. Though the current grib files reveal the phenomenon to be rather complicated, the strategic choices for its negotiation differ amongst the group of frontrunners. As such, some of them have decided to mark each other by playing a more W'ly route than the leader, as is the case for Vincent Riou and Armel Le Cléac'h. “I am where I wanted to be to tackle the Doldrums. Of course I have seen Vincent's separation. It's always interesting to be a little further W, but his position doesn't particularly shock me. Whatever our choices today, we stand a strong chance of all finding ourselves in the same position in a few days time…”, commented the sailor from La Baule.

The coming hours will certainly see the solo sailors plunge into a forced period of reflection. Will the famous Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone be the first Justice of the Peace or will Loïck Peyron's prediction come true and result in no big differences the other side? The suspense is likely to mean observers will watch with bated breath over the coming days. In the meantime life continues aboard Gitana Eighty, its skipper tidying up inside. As regards food, the most recent of the Gitana fleet remains a good restaurant, the skipper suffering only an omelette on the floor for now!

Ranking on 14th November – 1600 hours (French time)

1.Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) at 22,222 miles from the finish
2.VM Matériaux (Jean Le Cam) 24.3 miles from the leader
3.BT (Sébastien Josse) 28.3 miles
4.Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 31.3 miles
5.Generali (Yann Eliès) 47.7 miles
6.Véolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain) 54.7 miles

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