Photos: Alexis Courcoux

Transat AG2R sets sail

Fred Duthil and François Lebourdais lead as 40 knots is forecast for Sunday night

Saturday April 21st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

At 1300 local time the Figaro class' Transat AG2R La Mondiale set sail from Concarneau, the 16 doublehanded 32 footers having 3,890 miles to sail before they reach St Barts.

Surrounded by an enthusiastic spectator fleet, the race got underway cleanly in 17-25 knots with Gildas Morvan and Charlie Dalin on Cercle Vert, making the best start in the middle line. However it was Fred Duthil and François Lebourdais aboard Sepalumic led upwind to the first mark, six miles away across the Bay of Concarneau. She was followed by Nacarat (Erwan Peron and Eric Tabarly), Skipper MACIF (Paul Meilhat and Fabien Delahaye), Cercle Verte (Gildas Morvan and Charlie Dalin), Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance (Anthony Marchand and Romain Attanasio), La Solidarité Mutualiste (Damien Guillou and Ronan Treussart) and then Artemis Offshore Academy duo Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry.

Prior to leaving the crews had attended a weather briefing. At this Cyrille Duchesne of Météo Consult said: "The forecast for the first 24 hours of the race will be relatively quiet, but the situation will begin to change from tomorrow, Sunday with the approach of a quite active depression, the wind will begin to strengthen and more importantly, it will turn to the southwest." Duchesne warned that this southwesterly should be avoided as over Sunday/Monday night it could built to 35-40 knots.

Artemis Offshore Academy Performance Director, John Thorn recounted: “The race started with a chilly northwesterly wind of around 15 knots, (gusting up to 25 in the rain squalls). Conditions were sunny, with patches of heavy rain. The spectator boats have turned out in force off Concarneau churning up the sea, and cheering on the double handed sailors as they head out to open ocean. Sam and Nick set off in great spirits buoyed on by a good first leg and rounded the first windward mark in 4th position. Nearing the next mark, Artemis 23 is creeping into third. As usual for a race start in France, there are masses of spectator boats, creating rough and confused waves making it a very difficult race start, especially for the boats towards the back of the fleet.”

Prior to the race, Goodchild reported: “I’m feeling good, looking forward to getting out there after months of preparation. We have fairly bad weather predicted for the next three days, so I’m looking forward to getting through that and eventually seeing the Caribbean on the horizon.” To which Cherry added: “Conditions from tomorrow (Sunday) are looking pretty heinous, with strong winds and rough seas.” Weather conditions are set to take a turn for the worse with rain, big waves and winds of up to 50 knots setting in off Cape Finistère, a point on the course notoriously difficult at the best of times."


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