Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Gildas Morvan heading for leg two victory tonight

Conditions expected to lighten as the Figaros approach the St Gilles Croix de Vie line

Tuesday July 3rd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

At the latest 1648 GMT sched leg two leader Gildas Morvan on Cercle Vert had just 37 miles to go to the finish St Gilles Croix de Vie finish line of La Solitaire du Figaro's second leg where they are expected to arrive late this evening.

Race Director Gilles Chiorri provided an update: “We are to the south of Ile de Groix, conditions are stable, the wind coming from the southwest with a small southerly element, so all the Beneteau Figaros are going quite fast and their skippers are staying focused on their trim. I do not expect them to rest a lot. Under these conditions, it's hard to pick up the phone, to leave the helm, it's the final sprint... everyone puts in what they can, they know that the next night, or soon, they can be in bed. The wind is slightly stronger than predicted, so the first ETA is around 10pm.”

In second place, Nicolas Lunven is 0.8 mile from first place. He commented earlier: “We are near the end, sailing in home waters - not just for me, I think a lot of the skippers are in the same situation, which is always nice. We have a 15 knot reaching wind, we're sailing well, making nice speed. I'm still second, so it could be worse. I am only a mile behind but frankly we should be realistic: Gildas Morvan can still make a mistake. You never know, but in normal conditions I do not know how I can catch up one mile on Gildas... except if he falls asleep at the chart table. We will only have to negotiate one island as we will remain offshore at Groix and Belle-Ile. It might get tricky next to the Ile d'Yeu that we should reach tonight. Care must be taken especially with calm patches and the light wind expected as we approach the finish. But I do not think there would be too many pitfalls towards the end. The actual ETA is shortly after midnight. I still have 86 miles to do, so it's a bit more than 12 hours of sailing.”

Despite ongoing autopilot problems, Leg 1 winner Yann Eliès on Groupe Queguiner-Le Journal des Entreprises and as the fleet streamed south, the overall race leader has been making small gains on second placed Nicolas Lunven, despite today's prolonged reaching presenting limited opportunities. However, any evening shut-down in breeze could yet open up chances for the chasing pack as behind Eliès the margins remain ultra-tight with a further four skippers separated by just half a mile in the race for fourth, with Erwan Tabarly on Nacarat currently holding the advantage.

Eliès commented: “I still have my electronic problem, so I am sailing blind, with no NKE, just an autopilot following the course. All the important data  like wind speed, direction, boat speed... I don't have them, so I must remain on the helm. To sail in these conditions, I try to use the pointers that I am used to having. I have sailed a lot in contact with others, so it enabled me to make adjustments, but it's frustrating not to know how fast you're going, even if it looks okay.

“It is clear that my goal is to close the distance as much as possible between myself and Nicolas Lunven. He was at 2, 1.9, 1.8 miles... and then behind that there is Erwan Tabarly who hasn't given away anything and there's a great fight going on between the two of us. We're taking very little time to sleep and eat and it'll be like this until the end.”

Nowhere in the Figaro fleet is the contest tighter than that for the first rookie position. Currently fastest of the ‘Bizuths' is Nick Cherry on Artemis 77 in 23rd, sailing neck and neck with Corentin Horeau on Bretagne – Credit Mutuel Espoir in 25th. Between the two lies Artemis team mate Sam Goodchild on Artemis 23.


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