Racing

A Magic Third for Peyron

Bookmark and Share

By Kimball Livingston

And now he stands alone.

With a crossing time of 12 days, 11 hours, , Lock Peyron won an unprecedented 3rd solo transatlantic race on Saturday, bringing Gitana Eighty across the finish line of the Artemis Transat with seven hours to spare over his nearest rival—and that was after diverting to pick up Vincent Riou from his imperiled PRB.

Barring a catastrophe, Peyron was all but guaranteed the win, two days out, but he wanted badly to finish in front and not need the time that he would be allotted by the officials, to compensate for time lost in making the rescue. No asterisks, please. Here is Peyron arriving at Boston Harbor.


Peyron previously shared a two-win record with the man who put Atlantic sailing on the map in France, ric Tabarly.

Tabarly's stamp on sailing was unique. By passing him in transatlantic wins, however, Peyron joins the shortlist of all-time great names. To get a handle on this, it is worth reviewing that shortlist.

Tabarly first. He was a former officer in the French navy when he electrified the French nation by winning the 1964 solo transatlantic, then called the OSTAR. He was awarded the Lgion d'honneur, and biographers are obligated to refer to him as the father of modern sailing in France.

And why was it such a big deal? Why, becauseTabarly beat the Brits, of course. His Pen Duick was a light (for its time) 44-footer that caused some tongue-wagging as to whether or not it was suitable for a singlehander. But Tabarly set his spinnaker at the start—the solo sailing ethic of the day was much more conservative than that—and made the crossing two days ahead of the returning event winner, Sir Francis Chichester. All of France celebrated.

For a measure of how greatly things have changed, consider that Tabarly's crossing time (to Newport, Rhode Island) in 1964 was 27 days at an average of 4.38 knots.

And Chichester. Winner of the inaugural singlehanded transatlantic race in 1960 and later knighted for his 226-day solo circumnavigation in Gypsy Moth IV, author of a classic sailing book, Gypsy Moth Circles the World, and (sailors forget this) almost as famed for his flying exploits as his sailing exploits. The target that Tabarly had to beat or else.

Here is Chichester in 1931 with his first Gypsy Moth following the first-ever solo crossing of the Tasman Sea, New Zealand to Australia.

Add Peyron, to make three, and that is as short as any shortlist of solo transatlantic greats can ever go.

If you're into watching video of the new hero spraying champagne, click HERE.

My recommendation, however, is to drop in on Peyron's web site and go two screens deep (the way the site is built, I can't link direct) to see the dangedest Gilles Martin-Raget pic of Peyron at sea. The image does not come from this race; it’s a big tri in big waves; but it speaks volumes about what sets these competitors apart.

Below is an account of Peyron's finish, followed by an update of 2008 Artemis Transat finishes, as released by officials on Monday, Memorial Day, in Boston, Massachusetts:

Having transferred Vincent Riou onto the race committee boat, Loick Peyron sailed Gitana Eighty across the finish line of The Artemis Transat in Boston and the Omega clock stopped counting at precisely 03:15:35 GMT this morning [Saturday, 24th May], claiming a third victory in the event as well as a new race record for this legendary sailor.

With this third victory, Peyron exceeds the two-time record he shared with another French sailing legend Eric Tabarly, and for his efforts received a message of congratulations from French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. An historic feat for the French wizard, who combined tactical intuition, textbook racing skills and perfect gear management to come out in first place of a well disputed Artemis Transat in a time of 12 days, 11 hours, 45 minutes and 35 seconds (based on corrected time including the deduction of the 2.5 hour time allowance awarded by the jury for his rescue of Vincent Riou). In doing so, he has beaten the existing monohull record of 12 days, 15 hours, 18 minutes and 8 seconds set by Mike Golding onboard Ecover in 2004, by 3 hours, 32 minutes and 33 seconds. Peyron had a lot to celebrate which he did in style with G.H. Mumm champagne.

Finishing 7 hours and 43 minutes later (taking into account Loick Peyron's 2.5 hour time allowance), Armel Le Clac'h aboard Brit Air brilliantly captured second place, proving he's definitely a force to be reckoned with.
 "It takes a beautiful second to make a great winner," once said a certain Mr Peyron at the end of a grueling multihull round-the-world race in 2001, and he certainly would approve of us using that phrase tonight in order to comment on Armel Le Clac'h's finish.

THE CLASS 40s

The competition among the 10 boats still racing in The Artemis Transat Class 40 fleet is becoming increasingly tight with the Marblehead finish line approaching.

Despite using the 40N ice gate south of Newfoundland as a launch pad for a rocket propelled ascent north-west, the race leader, Giovanni Soldini, has a championship fight ahead to maintain his lead.

This morning, Soldini spoke frankly via a patchy satellite link 440 miles off the coast of North America: "I have very **** conditions," he reported. "Really, really ******," the Italian continued, finishing his weather update with a wry laugh.

Two days ago, Telecom Italia ran into an area of high pressure and Soldini flat-lined west, hunting for breeze, while those in the south kept the wind and won miles from the race leader. Today, his westerly route is now blocked, albeit temporarily: "I've got no wind and a lot of Gulf Stream which is pushing me back. It all happened at about 0600GMT this morning," explained Soldini, before admitting to an uncharacteristic error: "I thought the high pressure would be later and further south, but it's early and in the north. But, what can you do!" In good humor, he was still optimistic: "But I think we will go out in a few hours..I hope."

The net result is that Soldini slowed to a crawl and with the foul current of the Gulf Stream, he was being pushed away from the finish line at 2 knots.

Unaffected by the light winds during the morning, Beluga Racer in 2nd charged down on Telecom Italia at double the race leader's speed, robbing 10 miles from Soldini in 4 hours.

Boris Herrmann's luck ran out at midday and the brakes went on gradually, although the German had closed down further before hitting the ridge and now trails the race leader by 43 miles.

In a reversal of fortunes after yesterday's losses, Thierry Bouchard and Mistral Loisirs - Pole Sante ELIOR kept the breeze longest in the south, piling towards the leading pair, but by midday his speed averages were waning as the light air began to bite. It was, however, an excellent morning's work for Bouchard and he has taken 36 miles from Telecom Italia since dawn and now trails 2nd place Beluga Racer by 63 miles.

The race organization had unusual difficulty in contacting skippers this morning and the reason soon became clear: "I've just been doing a sail change and could hear the phone going earlier," said Miranda Merron at 1100GMT. Swapping over gennakers on 40 Degrees, she had just run out of breeze: "There's not much wind as we're in the ridge and the Gulf Stream current is making us really slow," continued Merron. Situated to the north, she explained the forthcoming weather: "My information is that the ridge is aligned NE - SW, so - in theory - if you're north, you should get it first."

In 4th place Louis Duc has been averaging consistently high-speeds on Groupe Royer over the past 48 hours and delivered the highest speed average this morning of 9.8 knots: "When I arrived at the ice gate I was in 8th place," he explained to the race office earlier. "I thought that I've got nothing to lose, so I've been carrying the maximum sail ever since then." This tactic has obviously worked and he now leads the mid-fleet group in 4th.

However, Duc's pace dropped at the same time as Merron's: "I've just arrived in the high-pressure ridge, but it's not too bad, although I I hope we don't stick around here too long." His tactical analysis is similar to those on 40 Degrees and Groupe Royer may catch the new breeze later than the more northerly boats.

Conversely, Alex Bennett has gambled on the south, looking beyond the no-wind zone: "It was fast sailing last night and I was running north of the rhumbline," he wrote earlier. "I've used the wind to get south as I'm expecting a wind shift to the south-west."

Fujifilm is in 5th this afternoon and grabbing the breeze first will be a major coup, but even if Bennett picks-up the breeze later, his southerly position may produce a True Wind Angle greater than the northern boats and result in a more potent pace: "It'll be better for me to be on the left hand side of the course when the big winds come, so it's been a long term tactical decision," explains Bennett.

Alex Bennett also reported a whale sighting: "It was almost the size of the boat and spraying water everywhere...I suppose it's a perk of the job! It really was brilliant."

Happily for Fujifilm, the experience was pleasurable, but Halvard Mabire on Custo Pol had an encounter that was far less enjoyable: "The big event of last night was an extremely brutal collision with an 'Unidentified Floating Object'," wrote Mabire. "Perhaps with an animal, in which case it must have been right onto the skull, because it was horribly hard!"

Seated at the chart table, the French skipper was flung violently forwards, hitting the instrument panel: "The dead stop was very violent and on the waterline - or maybe just below it - and the laws of physics mean that the most violent whiplash was in the rigging. So, the first impression was that I had just passed under a bridge, at good speed, and didn't quite make it!!!" Mabire made a rapid check around the boat and found no disturbing structural failure and swiftly reassessed the point of contact as the keel, not the hull or bow: "After about fifteen minutes, I was reassured by the lack of obvious damage and got sailing again. Now, a few hours after this fright, the more I think about it, the more I suspect it was a collision with a marine animal. I keep thinking of a wild boar crossing a busy road on Saturday evening and sustaining nothing more than a bad limp."

This mid-Atlantic nightmare for Mabire has not slowed progress and Custo Pol joins Duc and Bennett in the southern pack in 6th place, just 11 miles ahead of 7th placed 40 Degrees. Although Groupe Royer with Fujifilm and Custo Pol in the south and 40 Degrees to the north are separated by latitude, the trio are only 20 miles apart in terms of Distance to Finish and the arrival of new breeze will be crucial.

With the leading trio closing up and the four boats place 4th-7th clustered together, a photo-finish in Marblehead is a distinct possibility.

One last challenge for the fleet?

Will the 'Northerners' hit the road first? Weather models suggest that Telecom Italia will catch the new south-westerly breeze this evening and it will build rapidly throughout the night to around 20 knots. On Wednesday, there's a chance that the breeze will build further to 25 knots, even 30 knots and possibly higher. As Miranda Merron commented: "I'll be wearing my drysuit!"

Class40 ranking at 1400GMT on Monday 26th May

1 Telecom Italia 0

2 Beluga Racer 43

3 Mistral Loisirs - Pole Sant ELIOR 106

4 Groupe Royer 123.9

5 Fujifilm 125.6

6 Custo Pol 132

7 40 Degrees 143.3

8 Prvoir Vie 155.1

9 Groupe Partouche 218.5

10 Clarke Offshore Racing 250.3

You can read more at the Artemis Transat web site.

Posted Monday, May 26, 2008

  • facebook
  • twitter