Perfectly respecting the schedule, the 60 footer in the colours of the LCF Rothschild group left the Port Olona pontoon at 0935 on the dot. Aboard were Loïck Peyron and his shore crew. Gitana Eighty is currently being escorted to the start zone off Les Sables d'Olonne, from where the start of the 6th edition of the Vendée Globe will be given at 1302.
Massive crowds cheer as the skipper of Gitana Eighty adopts the famous channel out of the Vendée town. An emotional Loïck Peyron stands at the bow to greet the masses dotted all around the port. Originally from La Baule on France's Atlantic coast, the skipper's memories of his two previous participations come flooding back (1989 and 1992).
Bound for a feisty start
The weather forecasts for the first hours of racing have been confirmed: “We are under the influence of a vast low heading down from Iceland to Ireland, where a number of cold fronts are circulating. Currently, a disturbed WSW'ly air flow is encompassing the whole of the Bay of Biscay. At the kick-off, scheduled for 1302 hours, there is likely to be 15 to 18 knots of wind, gusting to 25 knots. Meantime the seas will be big to very big, with waves of 2.5 to 3 metres and a residual swell. At that point the airflow will increase rapidly peaking overnight with average winds of 30 to 35 knots (gusts of 40 – 45 knots) and big seas with waves of 4 to 6 metres. Gitana Eighty and its rivals will be sailing upwind for at least the first 24 hours and it's not until Monday night that they'll be able to open their sails slightly once the front has passed. Already, the first night at sea is likely to involve lots of choices and they'll have to ensure they're on the pace from the outset!”