Speeding out of Dublin
Dun Laoghaire, Ireland bid a brisk, breezy farewell to the MOD70 European Tour fleet with Sébastien Josse’s crew on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild collecting the maximum three bonus points from the prologue circuit and leading the fleet out on to Dublin Bay for the leg to Cascais, Portugal.
In a brisk 15 knot southwesterly breeze the preliminary circuit of two triangles delivered great entertainment for the big crowd of spectators and challenging racing for the teams. Josse’s crew led Spindrift Racing, winner of the Dun Laoghaire City Races, through the scoring gate, with Race for Water taking one point for third.
Once more it is was Spindrift Racing which made the best start, but Groupe Edmond de Rothschild was better positioned for the first gust and were able to accelerate ahead of Yann Guichard's team.
It was not the start that the MOD70 European Tour leader Foncia wanted. She was slow off the start line and then fouled Musandam-Oman Sail at the outermost mark on the second round and had to take a penalty turn. Along with a temporary problem with a winch, Foncia already had their work cut out when they left Dun Laoghaire in fifth place.
The skies remained clear with some sunshine for the send off after two days of great City Races, but the weather outlook promises a tough tactical beat in a building SW’ly wind round to the Fastnet Rock.
The 200 mile leg round to the lonely light, known as Ireland’s teardrop as it was the last landmark that Irish emigrants saw as they set off for America in the 19th century, will not only see robust, potentially boat breaking seas but may offer an early split in the fleet depending on the timing of a cold front which is due there at around the same time as the fleet.
Teams will be working at maximum effort to gain every metre, expecting to pass Fastnet in the early hours of Monday morning, the first section of the 1218 miles course. Thereafter it will be a fast, almost direct reach towards Cape Finisterre. The leaders are expected to reach Cascais on Wednesday morning.
“This is an important leg for us to hold on to our lead over our rivals,” warned Michel Desjoyeaux, skipper of Foncia. "The downside of being in the lead that you have people who want to knock you off, but then there is also the extra confidence which comes with being in the lead with a points cushion.
"The route to Cascais is not direct and there will be some subtleties on the weather side of things to work on with stronger breeze one side and then options of a more direct course on the other. The routings show one thing but then on the actual race there are subtleties and local effects that you have to take into account and know how to read and work with. This is actually good because it is pretty much the only leg where we have offshore racing so on an open ocean race course after the Fastnet. We are going to have to be fast but also choose the right way across. So we are in ocean racing mode with interesting conditions on a really very strategic leg, probably the most open of the MOD70 European Tour.”
Before leaving Sidney Gavignet, skipper of Musandam-Oman Sail added: “The conditions will not be as tough as initially expected but there will be a few key moments I think. One as we leave Ireland where the wind is due to ease a bit so will have to not stay too close to shore and then the second one is roughly just at the Fastnet Rock when it will be important to not get stuck behind the front and then keep out west and not get tempted by following the more direct course. Another key moment could be the finish with little wind.”
Yann Guichard said: “It is going to be a key leg because it will mark the mid point on the MOD70 European Tour and we have to try and claw back some of the gain Foncia has on us. There are going to be a number of stumbling blocks on the leg and a key point of passage after Fastnet, which we have to leave to port. It is not very clear just after that and we will have to really be careful to negotiate the finish well. It is going to be a nice gull wing shape route. Like the first leg, we could see light conditions for the finish.”
Sébastien Josse, skipper Groupe Edmond de Rothschild added: “This is a traditional offshore ocean race leg with a weather forecast that is easier to work with, and with fewer oil platforms, course marks and so on to deal with. The first night is going to be pretty tough with some 15 upwind tacks to do to get to the Fasnet Rock before we head out and south to the nice weather! The key moments on this leg will be the passage at Fastnet Rock when we have the cold front coming over us that will give the favourable downwind conditions and provide the first with the chance of extending the gaps.”
Steve Ravussin, skipper of Race for Water: “It is a Franck Cammas Volvo leg! There will be some interesting moments with the various fronts to deal with and strategical decisions to be made, but then Franck is good at that kind of thing. We are going to have to be both fast on the helm and good on the strategy. Upwind, then some tough changes to negotiate to and at the Fastnet, but the boat is good for these conditions, then we have the better downwind weather for the finish in Cascais. I think it is going to be a nice race and we have to put the pressure on after the first leg, but then I feel good about this leg. We have some good helmsmen on board with Franck and my brother (Yvan Ravussin) and are going to work on smooth manoeuvers and maintain close contact with the fleet.”