Mini-Pavois dogged by fog and light winds
Inevitably Frenchman Ronan Guerin is leading the prototype class. A Figaro sailor of some seven years standing Guerin won the first leg to Portsmouth despite his Magnen/Nivelt design being launched just three weeks ago. His performance is indicative that sailing in the Figaro class is the best training solo sailors can have.
Behind Guerin is British skipper Brian Thompson with madforsailing correspondent Sam Davies in fourth place. Prior to the start Davies stripped all the extra gear off her Mini, Aberdeen Asset Management, to make it as light as possible and now seems to be finding her form in what is her first long distance singlehanded race. There are no positions for the other British competitors, Paul Peggs, Ian Munslow and Mike Inglis.
But it is the light, fickle conditions that are the dominant feature of this leg. 24 hours out from Portsmouth the leaders had covered just 80 miles and many just half that amount. The lights air have resulted in some competitors having to kedge. These conditions combined with the dense fog are potentially hazardous for a race that must cross the Channel and the shipping lanes en route for France. Fortunately some boats are fitted with radar transponders, which should help prevent them being involved in a collision.
One skipper has already come a cropper. Last night designer/skipper David Raison (who despite an English sounding name is French), ran aground and his boat Savoy Ruffle began taking on water and was towed into Poole by a lifeboat. His is probably the worst boat in the fleet to go aground as it has a particularly complex keel that is attached to the hull by a giant ball and socket join. This allows the keel to cant fore and aft and side to side and there is an added function that allows the keel bulb to be cranked back to the horizontal when the foil has been cranked forward or aft. Crazy stuff!
Raison has already developed something of a reputation in this fleet. He entered the Mini Transat in 1999 and when during a Bay of Biscay storm the keel fell off his boat he, cool as a cucumber, took down the rig and sailed the boat home under a much reduced jury rig.
An equally good performance is being put in the one design class by Rodolphe Jacq, who this morning was just 10 miles astern of the leader. Jacq has a five year deal with his sponsor K&B Communications/Murphy & Nye, and plans to go into the Figaro class next year. His boat is a standard Pogo (a Pierre Roland design and most modern of the boats in the series class) except he has spent a great deal of money on sails which he replaces every regatta and at stopovers uses top French weather expert Pierre Lasnier to advise him. This seems like overkill for what is supposed to be the cruiser racer class but when madforsailing asked why he was not racing in the more Grand Prix-like prototype class he explained that he wanted to get the experience in one designs.
Jacq was leading the first leg in the one design class and was lying tenth overall, to within sight of the finish line. Unfortunately the tide turned before he was able to make it across the Solent and into Portsmouth. Instead of kedging he tied up to a cardinal mark by Horsand Fort, but when a cargo ship passed by the wash rammed the bow of his boat into the cardinal mark damaging the internal structure at the bow.
The first boats are due to finish in St Quay Portrieux tomorrow morning.