The Indian Ocean opens its doors
The leading Imoca monohulls made their entrance into the Indian Ocean this Saturday and are benefiting from a steady NW'ly air flow to continue their stampede. Positioned on the southern expressway and playing with the succession of lows, the leaders aren't easing off the pace and the speeds are just as high as ever. Indeed Gitana Eighty was making 18.3 knots at 1600 hours. This speed over the course of an hour made the monohull the fastest of the ten leaders. At the afternoon ranking, Sébastien Josse confirmed his leader status by amassing a 25 mile lead over Yann Elies. Fourth, Loïck Peyron had a small 40 mile deficit.

Questioned yesterday, Loïck Peyron knew his control of the fleet would only be short-lived. As such his third place in the first of the day's rankings and his descent to fourth place at 1600 hours didn't come as a disappointment to the skipper of Gitana Eighty, who commented on his positioning in the leading group: “I'd opted to conserve a fairly N'y position, which enabled me to delay my passage into the zone of high pressure, which swept across and slowed the fleet to my south yesterday. I was the last to enter this zone of light winds yesterday evening. After that, I had to reposition myself over my little playmates by bending my course to the SE. This constant jockeying for position amongst the leaders spices things up a bit!”

On the race zone, whilst the 60 footers are belting along towards the second ice gate – the so called Kerguelen – the fleet are expanding outwards laterally. In 10th position, Armel Le Cléac'h is the furthest north of the group at 43°49 south. At the opposite end, nearly 200 miles further south, Jean-Pierre Dick remains the most extreme. Passing by 46°54 south, not far from the first ice pinpointed by satellite, the skipper of Gitana Eighty's sistership seems to be reaping the benefits of his option. Indeed, at the latest position report, he'd made it back into the top trio to the detriment of Loïck Peyron: “I'm quite interested in the southerners. I find their trajectory interesting as they're going to benefit from a better angle as well as more pressure (more wind) to reach the gate” admitted the skipper of Gitana Eighty. It's also worth noting that Michel Desjoyeaux, who had to return to Les Sables d'Olonne a few hours after the start and had a 600 mile deficit on the fleet when he set out again, is now positioned in 9th place, 89.5 miles from the leader. It's an incredible comeback which Loïck Peyron salutes: “Mich' has not only had ideal conditions to make it back into the action like that, but he has also put in an amazing amount of work since his 2nd start!”

In such a close planetary race, the speed differentials are paid for in cash. As such, the ranking is only reserving its front seats for those participants who are working close to 100 % of their capacity. Whether or not the sailors talk about it, at this stage and given the rhythm stamped by the solo sailors since leaving Les Sables d'Olonne some 27 days ago, nobody is protected and managing the gear is a constant concern: “As with all mechanical sports, you have to know how to manage the gear as one of the ingredients in finishing – and winning – is to have a boat which is in the best possible condition. Inevitably we all have our list of jobs though, especially as the majority of the parts on our prototypes come from the same suppliers. You have to try to minimise this list however” explained the sailor from La Baule.
Among the technical issues, Loïck Peyron still hasn't been able to re-reeve the gennaker halyard after it came apart at the masthead last Monday night, but it's not through lack of trying: “I attempted a little climb of my mast yesterday in the calm spell. However the extensive cross seas and two broaches put paid to this… I climbed back down! I will have to make another attempt to carry out repairs in line with the weather forecast, but that won't be for a couple of days” declared a calm and concentrated Loïck, as the wind dropped below 25 knots. This is doubtless a source of annoyance for the skipper, who is now accustomed to the windy conditions of the deep south. 

Ranking on 6th December – 1600 hours (French time)
1. BT (Sébastien Josse) 17,324 miles from the finish
2. Generali (Yann Eliès) 25 miles from the leader
3. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 40 miles
4. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 41.3 miles
5. Veolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain) 53.3 miles

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