Peyron's gamble fails to pay off

11-18-98 – The tradewind motorway ************************************************************** They’re indicating right. Now tracking along latitude 25° South, the Southerners are heading directly for the Caribbean and have managed to get round the high pressure area via the Eastern access.

All except Paul Vatine, clear-sighted and without regrets, the skipper of Chauss’Europ has got bogged down in the calms, out of wind, making stately progress along a byway, 200 miles to the North of the direct route. In one day he has given away 180 miles to the leader, Laurent Bourgnon. Even if he picks up some fresh wind on Thursday, victory seems to have escaped him unless there is an about face on making landfall with the Antilles. The leeward coast of Guadeloupe is always a delicate passage to negotiate, especially at night.

On the South side, Françis Joyon is still speeding south of the 20th parallel clawing back the miles, but not enough to worry the “four musketeers” (Bourgnon, Guillemot, Gautier and Camas). Still 400 miles behind Primagaz who has no more than 1100 miles left to run. The podium steps would seem out of his grasp. The African bye-pass has not turned out to be a short cut.

From now on, the podium will be played out between the four Southerners, because Loïck Peyron is himself too far behind to play the spoilsport. At the end of this afternoon, Fujicolor passed almost exactly the same spot that Laurent Bourgnon did at the same time yesterday :

24 hours behind and three days left to go to the finish ! The mariner from La Baule has his work cut out because he is not progressing any faster than the “four musketeers”.

As for Franck Cammas, he can only hope for that one of the front runners is caught off guard when making landfall because the three other Southerners are keeping up an infernal pace : 17 knots average !

On the other hand, even if Laurent Bourgnon keeps a 40 mile lead over Marc Guillemot and 50 over Alain Gautier, the affair is far from being in the bag. Why ? Because they are going to have to play with the wind shifts, the squalls, the calms, the barometer, gybe at the right moment, continually attack at the helm, keep up the rhythm sleeping little but regularly,. Everything that his two accomplices master to perfection, even if they don’t have Bourgnon’s experience on multihulls.

Especially as the trio are not approaching the end of the race in the same manner : Primagaz has shifted off to the North (25th parallel) while Marc Guillemot is preferring to arrive from the South (23°) and Alain Gautier is taking the middle road between the two options (24°).

For the first monohulls which have passed the halfway mark, it’s still a long and winding road and the options are few and far between. Jean-Luc Van den Heede has perfectly negotiated his detour to the North and has taken the class lead, 10 miles ahead of Thomas Coville and 35 miles ahead of Catherine Chabaud.

Note that Ellen McArthur with her 50 ft monohull remains in the middle of the big 60 ft monohulls and that Pierre Antoine’s little trimaran (Friends & Lovers), a sistership of Olympus Photo with which Mike Birch carried off the first edition of the Route du Rhum, is now first in class since Steve Ravussin (Kelly Services Travail Temporaire) has stopped in the Azores to change his mainsail battens.