Ready for leg 3

La Solitaire du Figaro heads for Kinsale tomorrow

Sunday August 8th 2010, Author: Sabina Mollart-Rogerson, Location: France

The 44 skippers are getting ready for the third leg of La Solitaire du Figaro in a surprisingly sunny and warm Brest while hundreds of supporters crowd the race village and the pontoons. Tomorrow at 14.00 they will leave Brittany for the 349 mile third leg across the Channel, the Celtic Sea, around the Fastnet Rock and then on to Kinsale in southern Ireland, where they return after a 13 year absence: 349 miles of close and demanding racing, in strong currents, choppy seas and strong breeze, also requiring some precise strategy towards the finish.

While this leg is the shortest, it certainly will not be the easiest. After leaving Brest and the Bay of Camaret, the fleet will sail back up the Chenal du Four which may prove difficult due to light winds, swell and the current. The Molène archipelago and Ushant have to be left to port.

The second part of the leg will take the fleet across the Channel, approximately 90 miles to the Cornish coast, leaving Wolf Rock to port. The direct route will take the 44 skippers between the Scilly Isles and Land’s End. The 165-mile long sail across the Celtic Sea will take the fleet to the Fastnet lighthouse, which is left to starboard before the boats head east. The last stretch of around 45 nautical miles will be very hard for the tired sailors who will have to make use of their last energy to get to the finish port of Kinsale. The passage along the coast of Finistère and the long and complex route from the Fastnet to Kinsale will no doubt be the hardest parts of this leg to negotiate.

According to the latest weather forecst issued by Meteo France expert Sylvain Mondon, the first part of the leg will be relatively good as far as wind is concerned, with a southwesterly breeze of 10-14 knots to the Scillies. The wind will then strengthen with a front hovering over the area and the sea state churned up.

Banque Populaire skipper Jeanne Grégoire commented: “You have to suffer, in the Solitaire. Hurt yourself on the first leg is ok… but in the second one I really had to push to the limits to get closer to the top. This is what I did, worked hard, slept very little but still tried to think on the long term. And the leg was shorter. Everyone tells me that I’m in top form but I feel as usual, maybe I’m a bit sad because I miss my little one a lot [Jeanne had to skip last year’s Solitaire to give birth to a baby girl] when I’m ashore. I could go home for a while and see her. I feel ok and my position suits me all right, five minutes from the fourth (Jérémie Beyou) but I only have a 30 minutes lead on the 14th, need to be on the lookout.”

Romain Attanasio on Savéol commented:  “The third leg looks promising: at least we will have wind! But I’m wary, the shortest could be the trickiest. You will have to take a good start, deal with the contrary current, be in the leading group to the Scilly, then choose the right option in the Celtic Sea, tacking upwind. And watch out for the last 50 miles along the Irish coast, I hope we won’t meet all together again in front of the finish line like it happened in Dingle. Experience show us that anything can happen up there. I find this year the technical level of the so called rookies is incredibly high. In the past being in the Top Ten was a big success, today being among the first half of the fleet is a feat! It takes twelve months for the young sailors to learn what we acquired in ten years!”

Apart form the French stars such as Le Cleac’h, Gabart, Rouxel, Beyou and the best placed female skipper, Jeanne Gregoire, and the first rookie Anthony Marchand, the international skippers are also ready to improve their places in Leg 3 or improve on disappointing performances. So far the top spot among the non-French is veteran round the world solo sailor Bernard Stamm (who is is also third placed in the Solitaire first timers ranking) in 18th, Italian Pietro D’Alì is 31st, Portugese former Mini sailor Francisco Lobato is 38th and unlucky Briton Jonny Malbon, who suffered an autopilot failure in Leg 2 and was forced to steer for three days, is in last position, but ready to strike back.

Bernard Stamm commented: “From a racing standpoint it’s an average performance, I’m 18th, at mid fleet. I still make so many different mistakes, I guess I’m still far from the leaders’ level but it does not come as a surprise. I find what I came looking for and I’m pretty satisfied, all considered. In the second leg I made a huge strategical error after Penmarch, that could have been even more costly. I didn’t in the first leg, just had some speed issues and lost ground. I’m enjoying this close racing very much, it’s funny to have always someone next to you. It’s useful to keep learning, I’ll try to keep the faults to a minumim and go up in the general ranking.

"I would like to do more but the schedule for the 60’ is already quite intense, the Figaro is not for amateurs , it’s also physically very demanding, it’s fun but hard.”

Kinsale will welcome the 2010 Solitaire du Figaro for the 19th time in the 41-year history of the race. Kinsale still is the location to have hosted the highest number of legs of the race. No doubt the skippers will be eager to discover or rediscover this charming village, which has so strongly marked the life of the event.

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