From Gitana Team's office, based in Saint Philibert in the Morbihan, the shore crew have been in regular contact so as to offer their skipper the maximum amount of possibilities. This afternoon, after several exchanges with Loïck Peyron, there are still several valid options and they have yet to come to a final decision.
To get to Australia, some 2,700 miles away, under jury rig, remains a possibility as the winds naturally propel Gitana Eighty in this direction. However this crossing of the Indian Ocean under reduced sail would result in a long, laborious route for the sailor from La Baule. Another possibility is to charter a ship to make for South Africa, Madagascar or Reunion. Among these towing possibilities in the open ocean, one in particular requires an explanation. In fact, there is one boat currently on zone close to Gitana Eighty, which is the Marion Dufresne. A 120 metre vessel, this ship is based in Reunion and was launched in 1995, and usually serves two main roles. It carries out oceanographic research for the IPEV (French Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor) as well as some logistical and refuelling missions for French Austral Territories in the south of the Indian Ocean. Passing between the islands of Crozet and Kerguelen this Thursday, the Marion Dufresne may be able to meet up with Loïck Peyron and Gitana Eighty on zone.
Faced with these various options, the skipper and his team are giving themselves and extra night to consider the matter: “Under sail, I would take as much time to make South Africa as I would Australia. However, various towing options have been studied and may shed new light on things. Right now I'm going to set a course to the NNE for the next few hours so as to as to enable me to choose between hanging a left or a right. We will have all the necessary elements to make a decision tomorrow” explained Loïck Peyron this afternoon.
Some images filmed just a few minutes after the dismasting are available from the race organisation's video production service, via the race website: www.vendeeglobe.org
A snapshot of an almost perfect start to the race…
Sunday 9th November, at 1302 hours, heralded an epic start for Loïck Peyron and the twenty-nine other competitors in the Vendée Globe. Five editions after his first participation, the skipper from La Baule was back racing in the solo round the world, without stopovers and without assistance. At the helm of Gitana Eighty, Loïck Peyron took to the stage with genuine gusto and the label of outright favourite, which couldn't rock the experienced sailor's confidence. At the front of the fleet from the first ranking, the skipper of the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group assumed his status as leader of the pack with the expected panache.
Some seasonal weather conditions accompanied the solo sailors' first tacks and the Bay of Biscay gave the fleet a severe pasting, reducing the ambitions of several competitors to nothing, including Kito de Pavant, Marc Thiercelin as well as Yannick Bestaven. Close-hauled in around 35 knots of wind, Loïck Peyron came out of this initial pitfall without a scratch and took control of the fleet two days out from Les Sables d'Olonne. Along the Iberian peninsula, there was considerable jockeying for position at the head of the ranking but the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild passed Madeira in the lead and was first to negotiate the Doldrums with a lead of around thirty miles over the chasing pack. The descent was raced at a fairly steady pace and on the tenth day of racing, Gitana Eighty celebrated his sixth day as leader.
On 20th November, with the rest of the fleet snapping at his heels, Loïck Peyron was the first to enter the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and see his speed tumble. Leading into the Doldrums, he was also the first to escape it and cross the equator. Following on from this he began a long close-hauled tack along the western edge of the Saint Helena High, where Loïck Peyron dominated. The expected brain-teaser, of global proportions in every sense, was a phenomenon which proved particularly complex for this time of year and it was also unfair because it penalised the frontrunners and favoured the pursuers. As a result the skipper of Gitana Eighty had to deal with a difficult weather situation and a zone of high pressure which had opted to lounge right across the route to the deep south, forcing him to adopt a much longer route than hoped. At that point Loïck Peyron lost his lead in the ranking due to an untimely stop at that back of a large squall, but he stuck firmly to the top trio.
It was necessary to wait then till the last day of November for deliverance from the effects of the Saint Helena High. At that stage Loïck Peyron celebrated his 49th spring in the roaring forties, which he hadn't visited since 2001. The Deep South now lay ahead of the solo sailors, who were heading for the Atlantic ice gate. On 2nd December, the day after his birthday, the skipper from La Baule had to battle with a gennaker which had wrapped itself around the monohull's keel. This zapped his energy levels but he only conceded a handful of miles to the competition. He then announced that he would have to scale the mast as soon as possible once conditions allowed. The race was still very much on though and the solo sailors had launched into a furious gybing battle en route to the Indian Ocean. On 5th December, Loïck Peyron remained imperial and opened the Nautic (Paris International Boat Show) by taking control of the fleet again. The following day, the gates to the Indian Ocean opened to Gitana Eighty which, though no longer in first, was the fastest monohull of the fleet… On Tuesday the solo sailor had regained 100% of his steed's potential having scaled his mast to recuperate his gennaker halyard. 24 hours later, it was this very same spar which broke the impressive supremacy of the skipper of the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group.