Surfing Celtic Sea
It was a fast and demanding first night for the 44 skippers racing the final leg of the 2010 Solitaire du Figaro averaging speeds of more than 11 knots in 20-25 knot winds gusting to more than 30.
In the traditional midday radio show, all the skippers spoke of the fun and excitement sailing downwind full power with spinnaker up, at plus knots in identical boats, with their competitors just metres away.
Despite not featuring in the latest position report at 16:00, Armel Le Cleac’h and BritAir is assumed to still be leading once again showing exceptional control of the race. If this is the case then immediately behind him is Corentin Douguet on E.Leclerc Mobile with 231 miles to go and Eric Péron on Skipper Macif 2009 and François Gabart on Skipper Macif 2010, just 0.2 miles, or 370 metres away!
“The first part of the race was all right," recounted Le Cleac'h. "As for now we’re heading right for Brittany on port gybe, still a good breeze. It’s fast - I don’t know if the others have gybed yet and are further east… We had some nice surfing, at 18 knots and the wind shifted a bit and we’ve a terrific angle to go full speed: we’re always above 11 knots, right now 14/15. For the Channel crossing I guess the wind is going to decrease a little and veer west, but it’s going to be full downwind with some gybing. I’m in a pack of four or five boats - we’re close and I need to focus on boat’s speed, keeping the pace. I think I dozed off earlier this morning but sailing fast keeps you focussed at the helm. I keep vigilant not to break the spinnaker or anything on board.”
As forecast the wind has eased to a more manageable 15 knots over the course of the afternoon. The fleet is now looking for the right place to gybe, probably between 2000 and midnight tonight in order to lay the Lizen Ven mark, just off the Ile Vierge. This they are expected to reach between midnight and 08:00 tomorrow. From here it will become clearer who made the best option prior for the final 140 miles along the northern coast of Brittany and through the Channel Islands to Cherbourg -Octeville, where the leaders are expected to finish on Wednesday late afternoon.
Sébastien Josse on Vendée reported: “We’re surfing at 10 to 16 knots, it’s nice, the front is gone there’s quite a big swell but it’s a bit less confused now on port. Life is beautiful but it’s not easy to get some rest. You don’t have to look at your speedometer because you feel like you’re flying and then you realise the top speed is only 15 knots… It’s good though, fun. I gybed well and I’m in control, I reckon I even went up two or three places. I have no idea where I am in the fleet, I know there is Erwan Tabarly in front and Nicolas Lunven is half a mile away, Yann Eliès is leeward, but the group is spread out. It’s a tough last leg, I fight. I’ve been having some technical issues, I’ve broken a halyard just minutes ago. It’s like on the second leg when I blew my spinnaker. We’ll see with the new positions but if the wind will keep at around 15 knots I don’t think there will be any huge changes.”
François Gabart reported from Skipper Macif 2010: “I must confess it’s been fun, up to now. I don’t know how the fleet is positioned but I’m sailing in a small group of four boats with Eric Drouglazet, Armel Le Cleac’h Corentin Douguet, we’re fighting against each other. I’m pretty confident and the boat is fast. I was really quick earlier this morning, since then I lost some ground on Armel and Eric.”
Jérémie Beyou reported from BPI: “Not bad, I’m ok. I was sailing fast under spinnaker, behind Armel (Le Cleac’h) and in front of Gabart, I decided to gibe I was at the bow when the autopilot went its own way… result: spinnaker pole into the water, the sail slashed so… If you attack you may break something, that’s it. I managed to repair the big kite, I dried it near the engine, cleaned it with acetone, put some adhesive cloth and hoisted it again. Il look like it’s going to last but it was a bad blow. The game is not over but I’ve been so busy I couldn’t sit down at the nav station for a long time. The current is going to be crucial. The leaders may fall into a lower wind area, up there in front. I can still see them so I have to be hopeful. I haven’t slept much since the start and, maybe, if the weather is a bit better I can have a short nap. That would be good, if I don’t rest next night could be tough!
Elsewhere in the fleet the young Portuguese skipper, Francisco Lobato on ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM and the Italian, Pietro D’Alì on I.NOVA.3 showed excellent speed and strategy lying in fifth and seventh palcesrespectively, while Jonny Malbon on Artemis was 33rd and Isabelle Joschke on Synergie, 37th.