Gitana Eighty 1,000 miles from Perth
A fortnight has already passed since Loïck Peyron began to head eastwards at a reduced pace in order to make Australia and bring his Vendée Globe to a close after it ended prematurely. Whilst the race is continuing in the Pacific, aboard Gitana Eighty activity has been reduced to the bare minimum and the telephone contact with shore crew, family and friends are punctuating the days which are leading on to the new year. It would be wrong to disguise the fact that the skipper of Gitana Eighty is finding the time long, however Yann Eliès' accident, which has sadly animated the race over recent days, is enabling him to put the situation into perspective. Despite the weather conditions not being favourable for good speeds for the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, with Loïck likely to traverse a ridge of high pressure, the 60 footer is expected into Fremantle in the next few days.

Indian encounter
Last Saturday, whilst the sun was setting over the Indian Ocean, Loïck Peyron was delighted to be able to make out the Swiss sailor Dominique Wavre in his wake; he too out of the race after suffering keel damage just a few days after Gitana Eighty's dismasting. The approaching 60 footer, still with a complete rig, overtook the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group and the skipper of Temenos made the most of the opportunity to share some of his food with the sailor from La Baule, via a line thrown into the sea. Indeed, during his ‘forced' stopover in the Kerguelen Islands, Dominique Wavre was able to embark some fresh food (fruit, bread…) as well as some diesel to complete his journey; a ‘precious' cargo which Loïck Peyron was highly enamoured with: “It was really nice to cross tacks with Dominique; it was rather unusual but very nice! The bread and fruit which he so kindly gave me are an incredible luxury after the long weeks of freeze-dried food. I mustn't forget the 20 litres of diesel either, which will be of great use in crossing a ridge of high pressure which is barring the way from 27th December. This zone of light winds is likely to complicate my arrival in Australia a little. My ETA, which should be around 30th December, will however be dependant on a possible tow around a hundred miles from the coast” said the skipper of Gitana Eighty.

This mid-ocean encounter, which took the form of a Christmas present just a few days before Christmas Eve, proved to be a massive boost to the solo sailor, who was in great need of it. Indeed, despite the miles already covered, Gitana Eighty still has a long way to go. In fact, at the point where she dismasted the monohull was 2,800 miles from Perth. Fifteen days on, there are just 1,000 miles to go… It's been a test of patience and though it's not affecting the skipper's morale, the time it's taking is certainly trying. However, Yann Eliès' accident, which involved him breaking his left femur and having to wait nearly 48 hours to be rescued, is a reminder that material breakage and its consequences are a far cry from physical injury.

Given that it is Christmas, Loïck Peyron is preparing to open the presents left him by his family and friends before the start. The reasons for this are that despite it only being the afternoon in France, in the Indian Ocean midnight is fast approaching… However, Christmas Eve wouldn't be complete without a real festive meal. As such, the fine fare specially prepared by the team from the Domaine du Mont d'Arbois* have spiced up the daily rations.

*Situated on the summits of Megève, the Domaine du Mont d'Arbois groups together some refined hotel and catering establishments, of which the Chalet du Mont d'Arbois forms part as a gastronomic restaurant and jewel of the Rothschild's high culinary tradition. During offshore races, the sailors of Gitana Team have the privilege of embarking some delicious fare from this renowned restaurant.  

Return to Europe
Whilst Loïck Peyron is grinning and bearing the situation and attempting to optimise his course towards Australia at a reduced pace, on shore his shore crew is organising all the details of the monohull's return to Europe. Léopold Lucet, who has been coordinating the logistics operations and the return to Europe since the dismasting was announced, is currently putting the final touches to this tricky section: “We have an attractive possibility with a container ship which would set off from Fremantle on 18th January, bound for Le Havre. This boat could also embark other monohulls which are due into the port in SW Australia: Ecover, Temenos, Generali… It should take a month at sea to make Europe. Nothing has been decided yet though as we're still in negotiations with other transporters.” Olivier Wroczynski, better known by the name Zolive and a great specialist in these situations, will take off for Perth on Thursday 25th December so he can be on zone a few days prior to Gitana Eighty's arrival. Secure in the knowledge that his monohull will be in safe hands, Loïck Peyron will quickly get back to France to be with his loved ones.

Gitana Team wishes you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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