Sam Goodchild: Watching from the grandstand

Sam Goodchild: Watching from the grandstand

Friday June 12 2015 Author: Sam Goodchild Location: none selected

The last time I followed the Solitaire du Figaro as a spectator was back in 2010 when Britain’s Jonny Malbon was doing it for the second time and he was the only Brit in the field.

How things have changed now, with eight British sailors in this year’s 39-strong fleet. And for me, with a bit more experience of what the Figaro is really like than I had then, I can really understand the term “tracker addict.”

Like most legs that cross the Bay of Biscay the tactical options on this one are very open. But I have never seen a leg like this where, after 12 hours of racing, there was a lateral spread in the fleet of over 30 miles. I haven’t been able to look into the weather in great detail so I am not sure why that happened. But, in general, most sailors at this level tend to minimise risk, pick the favoured side of the course and not split too far from the rest of the fleet in case it doesn’t work and they end up isolated. (There are maybe a few sailors out there who will remember this even more after this leg). Putting yourself in the position of the guys on board right now is quite interesting, trying to imagine what is going through their heads, not forgetting that they will be lacking a little bit of rationality due to lack of sleep.

They’ve got weather forecasts from 36 hours ago when they set sail from La Coruna and they are all getting fairly basic updates every 12 hours. They know how many miles behind the leader they are – the race director tells them that - but they have no idea of their overall position or lateral separation. The AIS (ship identification system) will only track boats within a five-mile range so, after that, they are in the dark. I used to try and always remember, especially when lagging behind, that anything can happen in the Figaro, for better or for worse.

Trying to keep motivated and not think about the deficit is pretty hard. You may be thinking that you had a bad first leg and were set on making amends or perhaps you won the first leg and are set on keeping on a roll. You are sitting there, by yourself, with nothing else to distract you from the fact that with the tack you made 18 hours ago you probably just threw away your dreams of a good result this year. It’s a difficult but amazingly addictive game and, with the tough level of competition, the number of things that all need to come together to win are endless. But perfection is impossible and someone has to win the Figaro overall and there have to be winners of each leg. So it ends up being the guy that has the least problems and makes the least mistakes.

Add a comment - Members log in

You can ...

Ads from Sam Goodchild