Rubicon restart delayed

Bad weather...even in the Canaries for leg 2 of Open 60 event

Monday May 20th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
STOP PRESS: Started delayed until 0700 local time tomorrow (Tuesday)

The restart of the Regate de Rubicon from Yaiza in Lanzarote due to take place at 1600GMT today has been postponed because there is too much wind for the six remaining Open 60s taking part to get out of the dock. Currently on shore breeze and tide is pushing the boats on to the pontoon and a decision is going to be made at 1800GMT as to whether or not the boats will start tonight.

For the forecast for the restart has been bad with 30 knot north northeasterly headwinds blowing that will see the boats beating into rough seas north towards the Straits of Gibraltar. The fleet were due to carry out a short round the cans course before heading out to sea. The wind is expected to shift to the west tomorrow.

The fleet is now down to six boats with 23 year old Antoine Koch, skipper of L'Heautontimoroumenos, the ex- Fila, has announced that he is returning to Lorient in order to get the boat back into the yard as quickly as possible, ready for his participation in the Route du Rhum in November. "Our goal was to learn how to manage the boat, to see what we could improve it for the Route du Rhum," explained Koch. "The first leg has given us all the training and data we need, and in view of the modifications we're going to have to make, I would prefer to put the boat into the yard considering the tight schedules between now and the start." Koch is sailing the boat with the world's most complicated name back to Lorient singlehanded as a qualifier for the Route du Rhum.

Other changes to the teams have been made, either planned in advance or following medical injuries in Leg 1.

French skipper Ronan Cointo, who came third in the Figaro class' recent two handed Transat AG2R race into St. Barths, replaces an injured crew member on Dominique Wavre's Temenos. Two more skippers from the AG2R have also joined this race - Jean-Christophe Caso on board Bobst-Group-Armor Lux and Vincent Riou on Jean-Pierre Dick's Virbac (Riou was Mich Des' technical manager for the Vendee on this boat).

Laurent Cordelle, the navigator on Tiscali, was injured during the first leg, and is being replaced by Tanguy Delamotte, who who raced leg one on L'Heautontimoroumenos. On Kingfisher, Ellen MacArthur is handing the helm over to Australian Nick Moloney, who brings with him fellow Orange crewman Hervé Jan, who is replacing Jonny Malbon.

Lastly, on the winning boat from the first leg, Sill Plein Fruit, Bruno Béhuret and Christophe Cudennec are handing over to François Scheeck and Jean-Baptiste Epron, the latter is another Orange crew member.

Some of the skippers and crew gave their reactions to the impending blow and tactics for the second leg:

Bobst Group-Armor Lux's Christophe Lebas: "The weather strategy is fairly simple. Before Gibraltar, the wind will shift to the west, as the high pressure ridge descends. So it's going to be important to find this wind. The crunch is to know when to turn north and for how long. The leg will be in part played at the entrance to the Straits. There will be a strong northwest breeze at this point so you don't want to be behind at the start!"

Leg one winner Roland Jourdain is aware of what the Mediterranean came throw up: "Even downwind, the Straits of Gibraltar is not going to be easy. We'll be cautious as we don't want to break anything as the wind will funnel through anywhere between 25-40 knots. Even then, between Corsica and the finish, it could all turn pear shaped. From experience, the tactics and fleet marking are very hard to prepare in the long term. It's totally possible that the boats could still be tightly grouped right near the end".

Virbac skipper Jean-Pierre Dick knows the potential pitfalls too: "Passing the Balearic Islands is also a crucial point. The direct route heads north, but there could be something to gain from going south. The effect of the thermal breezes along the French coastline and Gulf of Genoa can be very tricky".

Meanwhile Mini sailor Yannick Bestaven, navigator on the Italian boat Tiscali Global Challenge, believes that the first 36 hours will be the determining factor: "The upwind blow at the start gives us an advantage. We're being cautious about the Gibraltar passage with the wind easing off. The goal is to gain the maximum possible advance by the time we reach the Gibraltar Straits so we can control what happens next racing in the lighter airs, which is not our strong point. We're not after radical options, just pure boat speed".

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