Beyou into the lead
Thanks to brilliant routeing and excellent speed down the Irish Sea so leg two winner Jérémie Beyou (BPI) has taken the lead on the third leg of La Solitaire du Figaro 2011. The fleet passed Wolf Rock early afternoon and has now to tackle with the complicated Channel crossing and the even more delicate approach to Brittany.
The Lorient-based skipper, and provisional overall race leader, at 15:38:33 was first across the line between Wolf Rock lighthouse and Runnel Stone mark, taking the Grand Prix GMF Assistance for the second time in a row. Beyou was followed a handful of minutes later by Nicolas Lunven (Generali) and by first leg winner, Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham). Britain's Phil Sharp on The Spirit of Independence scored the best performance among the non-French group, crossing this line in 10th place, and was also first rookie to pass Wolf Rock. Portugal's Francisco Lobato (Roff) was 16th, Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) 27th, Sam Goodchild (Artemis), the youngest skipper competing was 30th and Conrad Humpreys (DMS) 34th.
After reaching for 24 hours, the 46 solo sailors are now beginning the crossing of the English Channel upwind a southwesterly wind of around 10-12 knots bound for Ouessant. On this long stretch, where speed will be crucial, the key tactical option will be to arrive either at the Four or the Fromveur channel in favourable current, either tonight or early tomorrow morning.
As the Solitaire skippers were rounding the GMF mark at Wolf Rock another huge fleet was sailing in the same area, on opposite tacks. Some 300 boats from the Rolex Fastnet Race were on their way to Land’s End. French sailor David Sineau, who had to abandon the race shortly after the start of the second leg and who was racing on one of the Fastnet boats, fully crewed this time, immediately spotted his fellow solo skippers. Words of encouragement were exchanged on the VHF, before the two fleets continued on their separate paths.
Jérémie Beyou commented: “I knew that the start could be tough and it was. I made a good choice, going down along the Irish coast and I managed to come out right. Same for last night, I was on the right track. It’s a game of little adjustments, every now and then. One had to hoist and take down the spinnaker at the right time, and I had noted that down on my notebook… I took it down before anyone else. Generally speaking when I take an option I tend not to look too much at what the others do, all I think of is “my” wind and “my” route. Nicolas Lunven has been close behind me since the start, I could have decided to keep an eye on him, but I did go my way. I hope that the wind will not die, as now is going down. I have to decide how to approach Ouessant and Four, calculate at what time we’ll be there, and choose the course, considering the current too. I’m going to be busy…”
Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) reported: “I'm tired, much more tired than I expected to be on the first night. Maybe I'm not that well rested. I'm pleased on how things started, now I'm hooked into the race, hanging on to the first ten and to the top pack, I'm very determined and optimistic. I expect probably the wind to come round and get into that wind most across the Channel and hopefully not the bad way, it's going to be a lot less wet than when we came North.”
Nicolas Lunven (Generali) said: "Had fantastic conditions last night, full moon, dolphins, fast downwind under spinnaker. Now, we're approaching Land’s End. It's good to be in the game, and it's even better to sail in these conditions and not in a rainstorm! I haven't slept much, just a little bit in the early morning, the wind went down so I don't think I will be able to take a nap, maybe later. Now it's important to manage well the approach to Land’s End: offshore or inshore, you never know what's going to happen. Then, what can we expect? Getting to the mer d’Iroise looks like it's going to be tricky… “
Francisco Lobato (Roff) added: "I had a very good night: managed to sleep, but not too much. Those who were more windward went by me and Gildas (Morvan). From the forecast I had it looked like it was better to stay offshore, but in the end it was the other way round. Now it's important to be in the first pack, among the leading 15 boats at Wolf Rock. I need also to deal with the tidal current and the wind was further South than I expected: we have to be careful because the situation is trickier than what the forecast says...”