Black Saturday off Belle Ile
Upwind conditions and wind gusting up to 30 knots while sailing along Brittany's Atlantic coast have caused two significant casualties today on La Solitaire du Figaro's third and penultimate leg from Gijon to Roscoff, as Morgan Lagraviere on Vendee continues to hold first place.
Worst affected has been Yann Eliès, overall leader of this year's Solitaire du Figaro - Eric Bompard cachemire after two legs, as well as being the event's defending champion. At 0930 UTC his Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir broke her forestay while lying in 17th place, just south of Les Glenan islands near Concarneau.
Despite being on the wind at the time, Eliès managed to prevent his Beneteau Figaro 2 dismasting. "I didn't change my forestay after the Transat, which was stupid. It is not great, in fact it sucks,” a sorry-sounding Eliès admitted.
All is far from over for the former Vendee Globe skipper. With the wind forecast to free up between now and the finish into Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany, Eliès has jury-rigged his forestay and opted to continue. Until the wind frees up he won't be able to sail at full pace with this set-up and this is certain to cost him his overall lead in this year's La Solitaire du Figaro – but how much will he fall back and will it be irredeemable with one leg to go?
At the end of leg two Elies’ cumulative elapsed time was 1 hour 53 minutes and 36 seconds ahead of Lagravière, who held fifth place overall. As it stands at present Elies is unlikely to lose his lead to the 26-year-old. However most threatening to Elies in the overall results is Fred Duthil on Sepalumic who was 57 minutes 6 seconds behind him in the overalls after leg 2 and is currently less than nine miles ahead of him on the water.
Three hours before Elies' incident, the race's sole female competitor, Claire Pruvot, broke the port spreader on her yacht Port de Caen Ouistreham. At the time she had just passed Belle Ile. Pruvot managed to secure the rig laterally and this prevented Port de Caen Ouistreham from dismasting. Pruvot was subsequently heading to Lorient under motor where she was expecting to make a repair to the spreader before continuing on to Roscoff.
Back on the race course
After the boats rounded the turning mark of Ile d'Yeu yesterday evening, they have spent Saturday heading northwest up France's Atlantic coast. Throughout this time they have been hard pressed on port tack or upwind with the westerly wind building to 20 knots – some way from the light winds forecast prior to the start.
Morgan Lagravière has been the leader for most of this period - the talented 26-year-old briefly lost first place after a costly offshore tack earlier this morning, but regained it soon after.
He led the fleet around the Raz du Sein at 1422 UTC, and since then the skippers have been able to ease sheets, while the tide is now also running favourably for them. As a result boat speeds have increased to over 10 knots. However with the wind in the southwest, the race has become processional with little by way of tactical options other than to follow the shortest course around the coast until the boats reach the finish. At this point it is all about drag speed, holding or improving position, and, given that all the skippers will be extremely tired, not making any mistakes that would cause them to lose places.
At the time of writing in the Chenal du Four, Lagravière is holding a lead of 1.5 miles over second placed Nicolas Lunven on Generali with the legend that is Michel Desjoyeaux on TBS a further mile back in third.
Among the Brits Sam Goodchild aboard Shelterbox-Disaster Relief has recovered one place, moving up to 14th since this afternoon, 6.5 miles astern of Lagravière, while rookie division leader Jack Bouttell on Artemis 77 has nosed up to 26th placed just ahead of Nick Cherry's Magma Structures. Henry Bomby on Rockfish is 32nd, a mile ahead of Ed Hill's Artemis 37 in 33rd with the nipper of the race, David Kenefick on Full Irish in 36th.
With 38 miles to go and making 9 knots, Lagravière’s ETA into Roscoff remains 2300-0000 tonight local time. What the outcome of the overall cumulative elapsed times is anyone's guess.