Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Recharging batteries before the final push

Morgan Lagraviere leads the charge across the English Channel to Wolf Rock on the final leg of La Solitaire du Figaro

Friday June 21st 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Over the course of today there has been a general northward push as the boats first rounded the Chaussee de Seine buoy at dawn before pushing on up through the Chenal du Four between Ouessant and mainland French, then setting off on the English Channel crossing towards Wolf Rock.

This morning the top 13 boats were all within one mile rounding the Basse Royale mark at the entrance to the Chenal du Four. There was then a ‘rich get richer’ moment as the boats rounded the Portsall mark at the northern end of the Chenal with the breeze going through a small shut down for those following the leaders. Unfortunately this included the newly adidas-backed Sam Goodchild on Shelterbox-Disaster Relief, whose deficit on the leader doubled from 2.4 to five miles over the course of an hour.

Among the Anglo-Saxons astern of Goodchild at this point, Nick Cherry on Magma Structures was lying 18th, two places ahead of Artemis Offshore Academy rookies Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell in 20th and 22nd places respectively. Henry Bomby on Rockfish was up to 27th, and Ireland's David Kenefick on Full Irish was holding 34th.

Mid-afternoon and the Solitaire du Figaro boats are now half way across the English Channel en route to the Wolf Rock turning mark. With the wind having veered into the northwest the boats were close reaching in 12-15 knots, still in dense fog, as the skippers kept watch, staying alert, their eyes glued to the AIS displays, amid the heavy shipping. At the same time they were attempting to gain some very necessary sleep after getting the precious little last night while wanting to be in the best shape possible for tomorrow when the wind is forecast to pipe up to 30 knots, gusting to 40, as they run down the south coast of the UK under kite.

In terms of the overall results, calculators are out. After leg 3 Fred Duthil on Sepalumic led the cumulative elapsed time results, 29 minutes 56 seconds ahead of leg 3 winner Morgan Lagraviere on Vendee in second place and 32 minute 28 seconds ahead of Yann Elies on Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir in third. At present in leg 4, Duthil still leads overall, but only just. He is 10th, 2.6 miles back from Lagraviere (in first place), while Elies is at present third 0.7 miles back from the leader.

Morgan Lagravière, this afternoon commented: "The sea is relatively flat, we are reaching - ideal conditions for rest, to eat and clean up. This doesn’t happen often so you have to make the most of it. We must take care of ourselves and prepare before the gale arrives at the end of the day.

“There had been a lot of twists so far and changes in leader. There has been a current strong and that has been the number one priority when working out my strategy.

“I am planning for the future. Everything is good at the moment - I'm were rested, I am enjoying the sailing and the boat is going well. Tomorrow the forecast is for up to 40 knots of wind. It will be a case of being seamanlike, while trying to hold the big spinnaker for as long as possible without taking risks.”

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