Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Gildas Morvan leads out of Gijon

Leg two of La Solitaire du Figaro sets sail

Sunday July 1st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

The second stage of La Solitaire de Figaro-Eric Bompard Cachemire started from Gijon, northern Spain today at 12.30 with a 440 mile race across the Bay of Biscay to St Gilles Croix de Vie. The 36 Figaros set off from the Spanish coast in around 12 knots of breeze with 2m waves first on a coastal race around inshore markers, before heading out to sea towards the Raz de Seine.

Rounding the buoys, it was Transat AG2R winner Gildas Morvan on Cercle Vert who made the best start, leading around the Radio France Buoy after an hour of racing. He was closely followed by Thierry Chabagny on Gedimat and the first rookie Julien Villion on Seixo Promotion. But it was close with all 36 boats passing the Radio France mark within three minutes.

There were individual recalls: Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls), Morgan Lagravière (Vendée), Sam Goodchild (Artemis 23) and Nicolas Jossier (In Extenso Experts Comptables).

The fleet is now streaming north in light westerly wind. The key challenge for all will be negotiating a ridge of high pressure this afternoon with better breeze arriving this evening first from the SSW, before veering into the southwest. The boats which are first into the new breeze will gain a significant advantage on this first section of the course.

Race leader Gildas Morvan on Cercle Vert is on the right-hand side of the main group in anticipation of the shift, while the most westerly boat is Portugal's Francisco Lobato on Roff. Second-placed Erwan Tabarly on Nacarat is holding a central position, with third place currently held by Thierry Chabagny.

Chabagny made clear his determination before the start, saying: “Statistically, I'm sure to finish second on this second stage. In 2006, I was second, in 2009, second ... so every three years. But we will try to go one better and win one finally. Because after 11 years of loyal service in the Figaro class, it is time to win a stage!”

Leg one winner Yann Elies on Groupe Queguiner/Journal des Enterprises is currently lying 18th, towards the west of the pack. First of the international skippers is Henry Bomby on Artemis 37, who made a good start to the day, rounding the first windward mark in 10th, and was lying 21st in this afternoon's sched.

Before racing began Bomby commented: “The start is very important weather-wise. There's a ridge from then through until midnight, which will be the make, or break of the leg, the biggest gains and losses will be made right at the beginning. Hopefully it will be a good leg for Nick, Sam and myself and we can all improve on our positions and work our way up the leaderboard through the two remaining legs.”

Fellow Brits Sam Goodchild on Artemis 23 holds 28th while Nick Cherry on Artemis 77 holds 31st.

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