The length of the Channel in just nine hours
With the MOD70 European Tour leaders Spindrift Racing and second placed Foncia making 22 and 31 knots respectively on the early morning ranking, the high speed chase west down the Channel sees Yann Guichard’s crew hanging on to a lead of just over seven miles as the MOD70 fleet close fast on Land’s End, which they should reach between 08-0900 UTC this morning. The leaders have made the best part of 190 miles in just nine hours...
It has been an express run down the Channel, after easing slowly past Dover around 1550 UTC yesterday, speeds built in north to northeasterly winds of 12-20 knots after Brighton, making more than 20 knots as they passed south of the Isle of Wight around midnight. This morning Spindrift Racing skipper Yann Guichard reported that they have been sailing mainly between full main and one reef and Solent or gennaker depending on the wind angle.
Spindrift Racing has taken a slightly more inshore, northerly track as they pass Start Point, with Michel Desjoyeaux’s Foncia just over 6 miles further out into the Channel.
In the eastern Channel, Spindrift’s smooth trajectory making two longer gybes allowed their lead to grow to 11 miles, but Foncia has been on the ascendancy and is some eight miles behind Spindrift Racing. In turn Foncia has done a nice job of escaping a little from Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, now 6.4 miles behind. Fourth and fifth placed Race for Water and Musandam-Oman Sail are less than one mile apart in terms of distance to the finish.
At Land’s End the fleet will start the 200 mile climb north to Dublin in moderate headwinds. They should continue to make good speeds until the final 60 miles late this evening and tonight when the winds are still set to drop to just three or four knots as the high pressure system over Ireland moves slowly east. Meantime crews will try and maximise their rest today, knowing that Dublin Bay can be where this first leg is won and lost.
Yann Guichard skipper of the leading MOD70 Spindrift Racing said at 0430 UTC this morning: “It will soon be daybreak and it will not be too bad at all. The only problem is that the wind is quite unstable in direction and strength and so all night we were changing between gennaker and jib, one reef or not. The wind was between 13 and 22 knots from the N to NE since about Brighton. We chose to be a little closer to the shore and that has made the breeze we had a bit more unsettled but now we are crossing Falmouth Bay and will see The Lizard in an hour. The seas have been flat all night but now we are starting to feel a bit of the ocean swell.
"We should be able to turn right at around 0830 and then it will be upwind. We know what that feels like okay since we’ve been more or less upwind for two days now. The wind will ease at the end, the finish into Dun Laoghaire will be complicated and so anything can happen there. Our lead is certainly not enough to be secure. We have seen this since we left Kiel. We have no technical problems with the boat, it tends to turn a little right, we don’t know why and we need to use both hands to control that sometimes. We have not slept much since the beginning, especially on the passage of the Pas de Calais. But as we get to the Irish Sea we will be able to rest a bit ready for the finale, but it helps having three Figaro sailors aboard.”
The Foncia crew reported this morning: “The rhythm has changed a bit with speeds since the middle of the night that we have not seen since leaving Kiel. We have regularly seen more than 30 knots on the speedo. But there are variations and shifts in the breeze, so we are between gennaker and jib. The mainsail has had one reef since midnight and have been on regular watches but it is not easy to sleep, it reminds us of our recent express Transatlantic. We have seen Gitana from time to time, but not now.
"We saw a small boat in the Channel which was going upwind, they were making maybe 5 knots and passed them at 32 knots some 100 metres off. We’re downwind of Start Point, then Plymouth Bay, the Lizard and Land’s End and then tackle the climb up Celtic Sea, and the upwind is something we know well!”