Celtic Sea restart
Leg two of La Solitaire du Figaro and the hard yards earned in the last 48 hours could mean very little as into the Celtic Sea the 46 remaining skippers have effectively restarted with 166 miles to go to the finish and the fleet lined up laterally with 30 miles across the race track and just 8.5 miles the top 40 boats with Alexis Loisin's Port Chantereyne Cherbourg-Octeville and Jeremie Beyou's BPI in the lead, Loison further east while Beyou leads the charge in the west.
And conditions are soon to change. The wind is due to back from north to southwest, when the tired skippers will hoist spinnakers which are likely stay up for the run to the finish in Dùn Laoghaire, where the fleet is expected to on Wednesday morning. The skippers must dig deep and concentrate, despite the exhaustion they will certainly be feeling over the past two days of tough upwind racing, as a whole new weather scenario arrives for the final hours of the leg.
Skippers have reported improved conditions on the water today, with welcome sunny spells and some 15 knots of westerly wind allowing for the fleet to ease sails a little after two days on the wind.
It was a two-day long and tiring passage for the sailors to reach the Celtic Sea. First to cross the virtual line placed between the tip of Cornwall and the Scilly Islands and thus winning Grand Prix GMF Assistance was Jérémie Beyou on BPI at 0713 this morning, after a long, tactical night ahead of Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) and Nicolas Lunven (Generali). The sailors are opting for different routes according to a weather pattern which is all, but easy to decipher. The big question on everyone’s mind is how quickly the wind will back to the southwest and then south.
Whoever will be first to hoist their spinnakers will benefit from higher speeds and will pull into the lead. Will it be Alexis Loison (leading at 16.00), Jean-Charles Monnet (Paris 15e), rookie sailor Xavier Macaire (Starter Active Bridge), the group further west with Jérémie Beyou (BPI), Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat), Nicolas Lunven (Generali) or those who took a very radical offshore option like Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) and Thierry Chabagny (Gédimat) that out in the lead? Could it be a neck and neck situation? Very possible, if one considers that 30 out of the 46 competitors are sailing within 4 miles of each other...
Among the Brits the ever-consistent Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) has maintained his position in the top half of the fleet and was reported in 15th position, only 1.7 miles behind the leader. Conrad Humphreys (DMS) has been climbing his way up progressively going from 39th to 25th, now just three miles behind the leader. The youngest competitor, Sam Goodchild, who was and who then spent the first day playing catch up, is 2.5 miles ahead of fellow countryman Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) in 39th place. Portugal's Francisco Lobato (ROFF), not one to follow the pack, has opted for the most eastern position of the fleet, climbing five places since midday.
Apart from the tactical options, a major factior will be the skippers’ skill in managing their fatigue over the final miles of this leg, as since Sunday’s start in Caen they have managed to very little rest. The answer to this question will be given only tomorrow, close to the finish line…