Route assessment
For the past eight days the battle has been raging within the fleet of monohulls in the Vendée Globe 2008-2009. The passage of the islands of Cape Verde, a feat accomplished by the leading 60 footers last night, has born witness to its share of upsets in the ranking. In the end though, the hierarchy established nearly five days ago is back in order again. Losing his pole position spot at the first ranking this Monday, the skipper of the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is back in control of the fleet. At 1600 hours, Loïck Peyron was credited with a 24 mile lead over second placed Jean Le Cam, and a 27 mile lead over Sébastien Josse, who completes the top trio.

Questioned on Saturday about the passage of the Cape Verde archipelago, Loïck Peyron predicted a tactical scenario: “According to each person's options, we should bear witness to a few little battles amidst the islands.” Last night's events proved him right since we saw the fleet disperse. Some of the sailors, like the skipper of Gitana Eighty, slalomed their way through the narrow gap between the islands of San Vicente and San Nicolau, whilst others like Sébastien Josse and Jean Le Cam, preferred a more E'ly course, between San Vincente and the island of Sal, before their wakes separated. Finally, most of those on a W'ly option went right around the outside and left the Portuguese island to port. It should be noted that for the time being, solely Mike Golding and Jérémie Beyou have followed in the tracks of the sailor from La Baule.

In his route through the islands, Loïck Peyron wasn't sparing of his efforts as he had to make a series of gybes in the pitch black night: “It was a very busy night not to mention a sleepless one! It wasn't at all restful, but I'm happy with my choice. Gitana Eighty is slipping along again, even though the wind is very shifty due to the wind shadow of the islands, which I can still feel now” explained the solo sailor during the midday radio session with the Race HQ.

Though the top trio is maintaining a good lead over its pursuers - 82 miles over the leader of the chasing pack at 1600 hours -, the much dreaded passage through the Doldrums may well reduce this three-pronged escape bid to nothing. This is especially likely because, as Loïck Peyron said: “the wind will ease gradually and be very varied. We have a few days' work ahead as we approach the Doldrums. It isn't a pleasant thought to be the first to enter it, especially as the grib files can't agree amongst themselves at all. We're not heading towards a better world! The concertina effects are likely to come into play…” However it is worth mentioning that the skipper of Gitana Eighty seemed to have learnt some lessons from the past. “I'm going to put a little more W'y in my wine!” Indeed, in 2007, during the Transat Jacques Vabre which he contested in double-handed configuration with Jean-Baptiste Levaillant, the two men made a daring and fairly E'ly passage into the zone. Some long days ensued, surrounded by zones of calm which can be characteristic of the Doldrums, and brought an end to their hopes of a podium finish. The reason for this is that the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone is generally more spread out close to the African coast.

Ranking on Monday 17th November – 1600 hours (French time)
1. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 21,408 miles from the finish

2. VM Matériaux (Jean Le Cam) 24.3 miles from the leader
3. BT (Sébastien Josse) 27.4 miles
4. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 82.6 miles
5. PRB (Vincent Riou) 84.8 miles
6. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléac'h) 98.8 miles

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