First victory to Humphreys and Young
Conrad Humphreys and Ollie Young won the opening cross-Channel leg of the UK Figaro Nationals between Cherbourg and Portland Harbour via the Needles Fairway buoy, after a lively crossing, tight reaching under kite in 25 knot southwesterly winds gusting up to 30 knots.
The race for the seven doublehanded 32ft Figaro Beneteaus started within the Grande Rade (inside the breakwater) in Cherbourg at 1700 local time Monday and after rounding a windward mark inside the harbour the boats had to round the EC1 buoy before heading cross-Channel to the Needles. En route the fleet split into two groups, with Humphreys and his former Pindar Iranian captive co-skipper (and one time nipper on Humphreys’ Extreme 40) nosing ahead of the two French boats competing, sailed by Nicolas Jossier/Alexis Loison and Jean Charles Monnet/Alexandre Toulorge.
“We had a 120° wind angle. Our top speed was 19.4 knots and we pretty much sat on 16-18 with the spinnaker almost the whole way,” recounted Humphreys. “We had the French guys hot on our heels the whole way across. We were never probably 100m apart. It was a like a Mini Open 60 picking up and surfing, with the occasional big wave over the top.
“It was pretty wild with everyone broaching. The Figaro on a shy reach like that it has a habit of just spinning out and we were all pushing the boatz very close to their limit in terms of pace and so I had a couple of pretty wild broaches and laid the boat over a few times.”
Humphreys successfully fended off the French all the way to the Needles before turning the corner for the beat towards Weymouth, the course taking them offshore to the Shingles in order to avoid the firing range on the Dorset coast. While the tide was leebowing them across the Channel, so it was foul until St Albans Head.
“We had good upwind pace,” said Humphreys. “I have been slowly making changes to the boat. we went back on the rake after this last event and we had good upwind speed and we just extended away from them.” But Humphreys points out that ‘extend out’ in Figaro one design terms means that they finished 1 minutes 30 seconds ahead of the second placed boat. “It is measured in millimetres. If you have a 100m lead over someone - that can last until the end of a race, because there is so little speed difference between the boats.”
Compared to last weekend's Solo Basse Normandie where Phil Sharp was up for 50 hours, the UK Figaro Nationals’ opening race was only 13.5 hours long, the boats arriving at 0600-0700 this morning. “We were on the rail the whole time, just nipping down to go and check where we were and to make sure we were on track. We ate some chocolate bars and biscuits and that was it,” recalls Humphreys.
Tomorrow four inshore races in Weymouth Bay are scheduled, mostly windward-leewards but the Artemis Offshore Academy’s John Thorn says they may throw a triangle into the mix.
The event is being supported by the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy. "The Academy is incredibly supportive," says Thorn. "Nothing is too much bother. It is brilliant. You couldn’t ask for more."
The event concludes on Thursday with a coastal race – that will be a double points scorer like the cross-Channel.
1. Conrad Humphreys and Ollie Young in Figaro 59
2. Nicolas Jossier and Alexis Loison in Figaro 64
3. Jean Charles Monnet and Alexandre Toulorge in 70
4. Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry on 23
5. Ollie Bond and Will Jackson on 77
6. Henry Bomby and Sam Matson on 43
7. Nigel King and Stephen Hopson on 93
Click on pics to enlarge them...