Advantage North!
Whilst the Paris Boat Show – rechristened Nautic for its 48th edition – will officially open its doors tomorrow morning after today's traditional professionals' day, Loïck Peyron has snatched back control in the Vendée Globe 2008-2009. A week after giving it up to the brilliant Sébastien Josse, the skipper of Gitana Eighty is back in the top spot… a position he nevertheless describes as fragile given that the future conditions and the choice of strategy aren't an exact science!

 By choosing to continue eastwards, to the north of the fleet, Loïck Peyron has made the best of the current situation. Indeed, to his south, his adversaries have been considerably slowed by a zone of high pressure, whilst the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is still benefiting from a steady air flow to lengthen her stride at over 15 knots. Lucid, the solo sailor nevertheless greeted his return to the front of the pack with a great deal of caution: “Today's conditions will favour me as I should continue to stay in the wind, whilst my little playmates will still be battling their way through this zone of high pressure. In theory however, I will be doing the same thing in a few hours time with a considerable reduction in pace on the menu. After that, there may be a reversal of fortune as the wind direction may prove less favourable in my part of the world.” Whatever happens, in this unstable situation where the deficits between competitors are still so small, every mile gained is a good one, as Loïck Peyron concluded: “This leadership may be temporary but it's already a very good thing to have got closer to the thick of the action and be able to tease my friends.”

Everything has a price though and following a brisk night, Loïck Peyron was able to sneak past Yann Eliès, the latter dethroned since the 1100 hour ranking. Indeed, the windy conditions which have accompanied Gitana Eighty beneath the stars of the deep south, haven't been making the solo sailor's task very easy. Like a Formula 1 driver, the skipper from La Baule has had to be increasingly vigilant to avoid swerving off the racetrack as best he can: “The wind peaked at 35 knots and Gitana Eighty recorded a surf of 28 knots whilst I was in my bunk. It was a bit full on… With the wind on our tail, gybing under the cover of darkness in big seas, the scene depicted is never a comfortable one. In fact I broached on several occasions (the boat going over on its side through the water), one of which took my Sat C aerial with it. It was placed at the rear of the cockpit and the sea ripped it off” commented Loïck from his chart table, the background noise leaving no doubt as to the brutality of the sea. It is worth pointing out that the damage indicated above has no influence on the potential and smooth running of Gitana Eighty. Indeed, the Sat C is used essentially for receiving the positions of the other competitors. As such, after alerting the Vendée Globe race committee, Loïck will now pick up this information via another system. 

Whilst surveying the progress of his rivals, and in particular the furthest option from his – that of Jean-Pierre Dick who is heading due south -, the skipper of the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group is still benefiting from a moderate breeze, but his average speeds are beginning to drop as forecast. Despite all this, the skipper has been able to make the most of his lead and had further extended his lead at the 1600 hour ranking; Gitana Eighty had a 44 mile lead over second placed Sébastien Josse, and 58 miles over Yann Eliès, the third member of the top trio.

Ranking on 5th December – 1600 hours (French time)
1. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 17,628.2 miles from the finish

2. BT (Sébastien Josse) 44.9 miles from the leader
3. Generali (Yann Eliès) 58.2 miles
4. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléach) 68 miles
5. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 87.8 miles
6. PRB (Vincent Riou) 123.2 miles

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