The 44 skippers competing in La Solitaire du Figaro, left Kinsale this afternoon on the fourth and final leg.
Tension was high and the Committee resulted in two general recalls for the solo skippers. Sadly Swiss skipper and double Velux 5 Oceans winner Bernard Stamm aboard Cheminée Poujoulat was involved in a collision with Matthieu Girolet on Entreprendre both suffering serious damage to their boats. As both boats suffered serious damage to their boats both skippers decided it was not safe to continue racing and have been forced to abandon the Solitaire. Stamm’s Figaro had a conspicuous hole on the bow and despite many of the shore teams helping out working on it in an example of great solidarity in the class, the damage was too extensive to be repaired in a reasonable amount of time. Damage to Girolet’s boat was equally evident, and he also reported some parts detached inside the boat. He also doubted the integrity of the rigging. Stamm will be given a DNF in the final results which means the last’s time with two hours added.
“The accident was quite unfortunate," commented Stamm. "I heard on the VHF that the Committee was announcing a change of the pin end - I was trying to find a right spot to check and all of a sudden I saw Matthieu’s transom. It was too late - there was nothing I could do to avoid the crash. I was sailing pretty fast, 6 or 7 knots with ballast full and couldn’t change my course. It all happened in seconds. It was a big, loud crash. It’s a pity, I’m really sad and disappointed.”
Girolet added: “I’m really sorry - it was my fault no doubt about it [he was sailing on port tack when the collision occurred]. I couldn’t see Bernard coming because I was paying attention to the many spectator’s boats around, trying to avoid them. I did not see Bernard coming - I should have because I was on starboard tack. I definitely can’t start again, my boat is badly damaged, I guess it would be unsafe and uncosiderate. We fight and train all year long to be in the Solitaire and it is just sad, disappointing, to be finishing like this.”
Racing continued for the other skippers, who, before heading offshore had to sail a windward-leeward course between the Seamobile and the Radio France Marks. This they did in a good 10 to 12 knot breeze. Racing was very close and intense.
At the Radio France Mark, near Bulman, it was Laurent Pellecuer on Arnolfini.fr who rounded first, closely followed by Jean Pierre Nicol on Bernard Controls with the brilliant Portugese sailor Francisco Lobato on ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM showing very good speed under spinnaker.
It was then the turn of Jérémie Beyou on BPI and Yann Eliès on Generali Europ Assistance. Behind them boats arrived grouped together, creating a confused mass with more collisions and protest flags. The other non-French sailors were Pietro D’Alì on I.NOVA.3 in 11th, Jonny Malbon aboard Artemis in 15th and Isabelle Joschke on Synergie in 27th.
Competitors will now have to sail along the Irish coast to the Fastnet lighthouse, 45 miles away, which they will leave to port. The leaders should get there around midnight. According to the weather forecast by Météo France’s expert Sylvain Mondon, after having rounded the Fastnet on their way back across the Celtic Sea and English Channel to Lizen Ven, the fleet will encounter stiffer northwesterly breezes topping 25 with gusts over 30 knots.
Results at the Radio France buoy - here