The South is a long time coming
The Imoca monohulls are continuing their descent of the Atlantic, now resolved to the fact that they will have to skirt around the Saint Helena High, which is still blocking the route to the Deep South. Wedged onto the same tack since exiting the Doldrums, the days are proving to be much of a muchness amongst the solo sailors. However, on this 17th day of racing, the wind has eased and the still big seas are now more manageable for the head of the fleet. This trend is set to continue or even intensify with the approach and the rounding of the zone of high pressure later this week.

Loïck Peyron is still in pole position, shadowed by Sébastien Josse, some 18 miles behind midway through this afternoon. It should be noted though that in perfect hunting mode, the skipper of BT has gained some slight separation to the east of Gitana Eighty's course, where he will be ready to pounce. Back into the top three after a short night away, Jean-Pierre Dick has conceded 40 miles to the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild.

“It's been 48 hours that conditions haven't been very amusing. It's slamming a lot and the conditions are hard, especially for the boat and a little for the skipper too… However, I mustn't complain, once again there are some who are worse off than me!” Loïck Peyron clearly has Jérémie Beyou in mind when he says this. The latter was the victim of a damaged rig (spreaders) last Sunday, and the skipper of Delta Dore then diverted to Brazil to attempt to make repairs and head back into the race. Unfortunately, his arrival in the port of Recife last night confirmed his worst fears: the damage caused by this breakage is too extensive and the sailor has been forced to retire. This sad news brings the number of solo sailors who have had to abandon the Vendée Globe 2008-2009 to five, leaving twenty-five still racing.  

Despite the ‘regatta racing' mode stamped by the solo sailors since setting out from Les Sables d'Olonne on 9th November, you have to bear in mind that the Vendée Globe is more reminiscent of a marathon. The reasons for this are that on a round the world lasting nearly three months, it's the sailor's stamina and capacity to keep up the pace for the duration, which will make the difference. With this in mind, preserving the gear is a permanent concern: “I've toned it down a bit because it serves no purpose to go too quickly when the boat is slamming so much”.  It's the same scenario for Sébastien Josse, who admitted having eased off the pace last night in big seas, so as not to put the boat under too much stress.
However, in the afternoon the duo, who have been leading the way for what is already 14 days, had picked up the pace again as their respective speeds at the 1600 hour ranking bear witness: 16.5 and 16.1 knots. This would seem to indicate that Loïck Peyron and his closest rivals must be benefiting from a sea which is more favourable to acceleration.

“We're all in the same little train… my leadership is the result of a combination of well managed circumstances but we're all very close together so that doesn't mean a great deal. To be in the lead isn't a pressure, or at least that's not how it feels, because for the time being there aren't any big tactical choices to be made. This zone of high pressure is going to be a right carry-on and I have the feeling we're all going to aim pretty much at the centre.” So although Loïck Peyron is leading the way, this situation of being the first in the rope party doesn't seem to be preventing him from sleeping and he still seems to have a great appetite for both eating and reading: “I'm in the process of cooking up some bacon and eggs…” declared the skipper of Gitana Eighty to open the radio session. He went on to explain a few minutes later: “I've forty books in stock and I'm reading at the moment! You just can't put them down but it airs the grey matter.  I'm just finishing volume 3 of “Millennium”… (successful trilogy by the Swedish author Stieg Larsson). I have to say that it's a great book which is really compelling. So much so in fact, that I put off going out to trim for a while as I'm so caught up in my reading.” These anecdotes demonstrate that after the ‘wave-jumping' atmosphere of recent days, life aboard the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group is gradually returning to normal.

Ranking on Wednesday 26th November – 1600 hours (French time)
1. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 19,982 miles from the finish

2. BT (Sébastien Josse) 18.3 miles
3. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 40 miles
4. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléac'h) 44 miles
5. PRB (Vincent Riou) 56.9 miles

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