Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Nick Cherry in first place!

British skipper leads a major Figaro event

Tuesday September 22nd 2015, Author: Emma Harris, Location: France

British solo sailor Nick Cherry at the helm of his Figaro Redshift, is now leading one of the top solo races in the French Classe Figaro calendar after following up a strong performance inshore in Sete with a podium result offshore in Nice.

Approaching the halfway point in the Generali Solo Mediterranée, which combines inshore and offshore racing over a fortnight, Cherry sits atop the overall rankings in the 22-strong fleet with four more days of inshore competition and an offshore race still to come. The first time a British skipper has led a Classe Figaro event.

A delighted Cherry, from Southampton, was happy to finish the first offshore race – a 350-mile marathon from Sete to Nice – in third place. “I’m really happy with my result, a bit frustrated to be just one minute off first, but it’s a great result none the less,” he said. “The first night was absolutely wild, we were howling along in a ball of spray in about 40 knots of wind. I was in two minds about whether to drop the spinnaker and play it safe. I’m glad now that I didn’t."

Also achieving his best Figaro result to date, Britain’s Sam Matson finished the leg in sixth – putting him in seventh place in the overall rankings.

Sailing in the lower teens for the first 24 hours of the race, Matson pushed through the fleet up to second after rounding the Giraglia lighthouse off Corsica. A close battle soon developed between French skipper Xavier Macaire, Cherry and Matson, with just 0.1nm separating the three front-runners before the wind shut down a few hours from the finish line.

“Sixth is a great result. I’m really happy with my performance and that I was up there with the best sailors,” Matson enthused. “But I was second until the last 40 miles and I thought it was going to be a battle to the finish between me, Xavier (Macaire) and Nick (Cherry). Then the wind dropped out and three boats came from nowhere and I fell the wrong side of the transition and watched them sail past. But that is just the name of this game. It was a marvellous race, great conditions and great to be up there in the top-10.”

Alexis Loison of France won the leg in a time of two days and 16 minutes, with second place Macaire and Cherry just seconds behind.

The race was intense from start to finish with the fleet bunched together for the full 350nm. The first night was a baptism of fire in the strong winds of the mistral, leaving skippers with torn spinnakers, broken poles, missing rudders and very little sleep. By day they had sun and light airs, with the Brits enjoying the novelty of sailing in shorts and t-shirts in September.

“I’ve never sailed a Figaro race where I’ve wanted it to get light and for the wind to ease off," Matson admitted, usually favouring the rough conditions. “On both nights the weather was howling. The waves were three metres high and when the boat crashed into them, it just stopped. It was like repeatedly hitting a brick wall at speed. I was thrown all over the deck as the cockpit was constantly flooded."

Despite the challenging conditions out on the course, just 22 miles separated the first and last Figaros across the finish line. Magma Structures skipper Alan Roberts – the third Brit in the fleet – finished the leg 16th, putting him 13th overall.

“I had a good start, but then I broke my spinnaker pole and got a twist in my spinnaker. Very early on I was sailing on my own,” Roberts reported, a little disheartened on the dock. “The conditions out there were full on, those nights were what Figaro sailing is all about. If you weren’t clipped on, you would have been overboard. I got 20 knots of boat speed at one point.”

Racing restarts on Friday 26 September with another two days of inshore competition. The final offshore leg of the Generali Solo Mediterranée starts Sunday 27 September at 1430 BST.

The fleet will sail 420nm from Nice to Barcelona after two days of inshore racing.

Results of the first Generali solo offshore leg – Sete to Nice

1. Alexis Loison (Groupe Fiva) in 2 days 0h 16 ‘0’
2. Xavier Macaire (Skipper Hérault) in 2d 0h 16mn 34sec
3. Nick Cherry (Redshift) in 2d 0h 17mn 17sec
6. Sam Matson (Chatham) in 2d 0h 21mn 20sec
16. Alan Roberts (Magma Structures) in 2d, 0h, 42m, 41s

Overall results at the half way stage

1. Nick Cherry (Redshift)
2. Alexis Loison (Groupe Fiva)
3. Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert)
7. Sam Matson (Chatham)
13. Alan Roberts (Magma Structures)

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