It is worth noting at this point, on 20th November, that the entry into the Doldrums has led to a real bunching at the head of the fleet. The cushion of miles the monohull equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild was able to rely on hasn't totally melted, instead it is being slowly whittled down. However, Loïck Peyron doesn't appear concerned and he made the most of the daily link-up with the Paris Race HQ to explain the events of the previous night: “Last night wasn't very quick, as was the case early this morning… I'm right in the thick of the calm zones but there are some that are more unfortunate than me! I'm making headway in stops and starts. Last night I had some rain squalls but nothing to write home about, just enough to give the boat a rinse. The Doldrums we're traversing isn't quite like it is in the books, because other than a few patches of black sky, I haven't yet encountered any violent flurries of wind. It's rather smooth and what's most surprising of all is the blueness of the sky”. Not a cloud on the horizon then for the skipper of Gitana Eighty who, despite the current meteorological whims, is continuing to trace a fine trajectory; a ‘virtually perfect' strategy which has earned the admiration of both landlubbers and sailors alike since leaving Les Sables d'Olonne.
For those who imagined they'd see a total upset in the hierarchy of this circumnavigation, today's scenario would seem to suggest otherwise… for the time being at least! 24 hours after the entry into the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, everyone is making do with whatever the elements throw at them, starting with the untimely southward shift of this phenomenon. There is no way the skipper of Gitana Eighty can escape it: “It's like ducks, everyone heads south in winter! Ah yes, it's been shifting southwards since yesterday and that's the problem. It's an uncontrollable situation and you just have to make do with what you've got.” Humour and patience appear to be the best weapons to battle against the indiscernible!
Today's communication with the sailors didn't reveal any great secrets then, everyone all too aware that they'll have to await the end of this ‘meteorological fair' to tot up the points. It's a status quo right now as the skippers of the 60 foot Imocas try to hunt down or at least anticipate the way out. Indeed it was with the typical smile and hint of mischief synonymous with Loïck Peyron that he answered a question on this matter at lunchtime: “The way out? I really have no idea! And I think it's best not to think too hard about it… it really serves no purpose whatsoever.” The expected exit shouldn't be too far away now all the same and, with the equator taking shape before them, comes the perspective of the tradewinds of the southern hemisphere, which should see the fleet lengthen its stride again. “The wind should kick in fairly brutally for everyone at the same time. It will certainly be more advantageous to be behind at that point! In fact Mich* has made a meteoric comeback. It's superb that he's getting back into the thick of the action like that, both for him and the appeal of the race. Watch out though, the Doldrums still lie ahead of him.”
Whilst the head of the fleet await the feel of the SE'ly tradewinds in their sails, life aboard the monohull in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group is still pretty steamy. “It's 33°C in the shade and the water is still 29°C. Unfortunately it's not possible to go for a dip: the boat is sailing too fast for that and I can't swim quick enough”. A sailor's life isn't all it's cracked up to be sometimes…
*Michel Desjoyeaux, forced to return to Les Sables d'Olonne during the first hours of the race due to electrical issues, has been the author of a superb comeback amongst the heart of the fleet over recent days.
Ranking on Thursday 20th November – 1600 hours (French time)
1. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 21,024 miles from the finish
2. BT (Sébastien Josse) 21.8 miles back
3. Paprec Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick) 23.7 miles
4. PRB (Vincent Riou) 29.5 miles
5. Brit Air (Armel Le Cléac'h) 38,9 miles ...