The monohulls racing in this sixth edition of the Vendée Globe are slipping along, though over the past few hours the scene has changed and the sailors are having to adapt to it. Indeed this is confirmed in today's link-up between the skipper of the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group and his shore crew by the cheerful voice of its skipper: “I'm well rested, which is preferable given what lies in store for us. It's currently 32°C inside Gitana Eighty and the water temperature is 29°C”. Loïck Peyron can't resist a hint of mischievousness: “I'm considering the possibility of having a little dip, especially if the wind continues to drop away! It's gradually easing, very slowly. I think we'll hold onto this for another 24 to 30 hours at this pace. Today the exit would seem to be located 300 miles ahead if all goes well. However, as we all know, launching into predictions here smacks slightly of utopia. You have to bear in mind that it could change for the better or worse without warning! For the time being it's sunny, which contrasts with previous days and there is still no sign of the classic Doldrums”.
Used to detecting the signs which herald the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, the solo sailors are currently being subject to a series of frequently asked questions about the zone. One thing is certain though, Loïck Peyron will be the first to enter the area and, as a result, the first to experience its calm zones. However, for this important passage, this fine tactician has meticulously prepared himself by adapting his course to tackle both the phenomenon itself as well as the hoard of competitors on his tail: “I forced my way down last night so as to position myself directly in line with the chasing pack. I may serve as a pacemaker to them of course but I didn't want to find myself in an extreme situation. I am happy with my new position. My strategy is clear; to make headway to the south and above all not think about it too much. I've made my decision and I'm calmly sticking to it! I will be the first little boy to give sweets to the nasty lady and I really hope I don't have to leave her too many…”.
Behind, the chasing pack are hot on the heels of Gitana Eighty, including Sébastien Josse, directly astern, as well as Jean-Pierre Dick and Armel Le Cléac'h further out to the west. To the east, the skipper that was shaping up to be an immediate threat just a short time ago - Jean Le Cam – has now racked up a 93.3 miles deficit down in 8th position. The reason for this is some stubborn automatic pilots, which forced him to make a ‘pitstop' on the water for four hours yesterday. The first ‘lottery' of this Vendée Globe is taking shape now and it would be a shrewd observer than could predict what the outcome will be. The meteorologists agree that the Doldrums hasn't shown much activity over recent hours, and erratic winds are expected to be the scenario for the frontrunners.
Aboard Gitana Eighty, the skipper from La Baule is adapting his pace to the conditions and trying to get the most out of the current atmosphere: “I'm helming a little in the shade but I sometimes leave the pilot to helm whilst I keep watch. You have to be on top of things as some very fine and tricky trimming is required. All's well aboard though. I still have some fresh food in the larder and I'm making the most of it in this heat. I'm thoroughly respecting the rule of five fresh fruit and vegetables a day!” The humour is par for the course then and the ideas are sound; so the skipper of the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is ready to tackle the nasty lady…
Ranking on Tuesday 18th November – 1600 hours (French time)
1. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 21,136 miles from the finish
2. BT (Sébastien Josse) 27.3 miles
3. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 44.1 miles
4. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléac'h) 44.8 miles
5. PRB (Vincent Riou) 54.3 miles