Foncia leads the dogfight
As the fleet of MOD70 European Tour fleet close on the turning mark off Sines, some 25 miles downwind of the leaders at 0500 UTC, the battle for the leadership on Leg 3 – the Portugal offshore stage from Cascais – remains delicately poised.
After more than 120 miles of the 213 miles course which started from Cascais yesterday afternoon, Foncia and Race for Water are trading gybes downwind, in close contact, with all the intensity of a tight, inshore regatta rather than an offshore stage.
Although Michel Desjoyeaux’s Foncia had a clear lead around the northernmost turn at the Berlingas island archipelago last night around 2200, with some six miles of advantage over Stève Ravussin’s Race for Water, during the small hours of the morning Ravussin’s Swiss team caught up when the wind increased and changed on the downwind leg. Race for Water, with Franck Cammas on board as navigator, was able to sail a more direct fast course towards the mark while Foncia had to make two gybes, coming from an inshore line in lighter breeze to try and protect their lead.
Making more than 20 knots downwind Race for Water consistently sailed a more direct course reducing the deficit to just two miles as the leading pair again gybed offshore. After passing some five miles offshore of Cascais again at around 0200 UTC, as the two leaders sailed on opposite gybes Race for Water picked up more breeze offshore and ate still more into the lead of Foncia, catching to less than one mile. Then at one point Race for Water was credited with the lead, but Foncia rallied, perhaps gaining on one puff of breeze and had was back in front at 0500 UTC.
Foncia had nearly nine miles of distance on the chasing pack of Musandam-Oman Sail, Spindrift Racing and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. At the current speed averages the fleet should finish back in Cascais in the early afternoon, after a windward leg from the Sines mark. But considering the compression effect likely at the buoy, the probability of the breeze dropping at changing at sunrise and knowing what we have seen at each of the offshore finishes so far, anything can happen.