Thursday, 29 July 2010

Solitaire du Figaro: Figaro sailors head into second complex night at sea

Solitaire du Figaro leaders. Image copyright Courcoux-Marmara/Le Figaro.

by Sabina Mollart-Rogerson

The 45 Figaro sailors set off from Le Havre in Northern Normandy yesterday on their first leg, 515 miles to the Gijón, in Asturias on the Spanish Cantabrian coastline. Eric Peron (Skipper Macif 2009) grabbed Karine Fauconnier’s (Eric Bompard Cachemir) early lead shortly after the last position poll and has continued over the past twenty four hours to maintain a narrow margin over his immediate pursuers, Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat), Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement), Nicolas Lunven (Generali) Armel le Cléac’h (Brit Air). Sailors who opted for a more inshore course were rewarded with a lead this morning, however as the fleet rounded the Cherbourg headland filing down past and between Guernsey and Sark, the bulk regrouped. The coming twenty-four hours promises to be just as complex as the sailors attempt to get some rest and keep their keel and rudders clear of the seaweed before embarking on the passage at Four and the maritime traffic at Ushant on the turn south into the Bay of Biscay.

Eric Peron (Skipper Macif 2009) holds just a tenth of a mile lead over both Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) and Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement), all of whom opted for a more inshore route under the rhumb line. Twenty-nine sailors are within two miles of each other twenty-four hours into racing, proving once more just how high and level the standard of racing is. Each inch of a mile is eked out with effort and concentration. “What is annoying me most is the seaweed, every 5 minutes you have to get into the water to get rid of it” complained 2009 winner, Nicolas Lunven (Generali) over the VHF this morning. Seaweed, windless patches and currents are all impediments to the smooth boat handling that the sailors have to contend with constantly. Keeping up a regular performance whilst attempting to rest and prepare for what looks to be a second complex night at sea constantly eats away at the minds of the solo sailors throughout the day.

“Although we are sailing comfortably in 10 to 12 knots of westerly breeze, tacking our way up to the point of Brittany, we are likely to have a complex night ahead to get past Ushant and the heavy maritime traffic” reported Race Director, Jacques Caraës from the Race Management boat shadowing the fleet. “Tonight it is going to be tough once more.” Explained Isabelle Joschke (Synergie), lying in 18th place at 16:00 Wednesday, “we are most likely going to get round the Four under spinnaker against the current so we should have much of the same, maybe even tougher than last night”, she concludes.

Most agree that there will be choices to be taken and options that open upon rounding the next major point of passage, where the wind is forecast to veer round towards the north, northwest and “decreasing before increasing at the Raz de Sein” predicts Sylvain Mondon from Météo France, “the ridge of high pressure is expected to drift tonight just ahead of the fleet right up to Friday, when they will have to negotiate crossing it on the final approach to Gijón. Early forecast would expect to see the first to finish in Gijón in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Anthony Marchand (Espoir Région Bretagne) leads the rookies in 15th place, whilst Jonny Malbon (Artemis) from the UK lies in 20th place well positioned with the leaders. Pietro D’Alì (I.NOVA 3) has managed to catch up on the leaders and currently stands in 27th place and just 1.7 nm from the leader, after having lost ground on the more offshore option last night and Francisco Lobato (Roff / Team-Tempo) has narrowed his gap on the leaders to 7.4 miles bringing up the back of the fleet.

Dawn at sea for the Figaro sailors. Image copyright Courcoux-Marmara/Le Figaro.

Quotes from the sailors:

Eric Peron (Skipper Macif 2009) – Current leader talks over the VHF this afternoon:
There were a few options to be made…and right now I am really quite happy. You have to take care as there is loads of seaweed and you have to keep an eye to get rid of it. The wind is not quite what was forecast, which again gives you a few options, which I am keeping an eye on. Every time the position reports come out you see that we have closed in on each other. Right now I am getting a bit of rest…”

Damien Cloarec (Port de Plaisance Roscoff) – rookie and in 9th place 13:00 today
“Just coming out of my nap…the start was not all that easy with loads of seaweed and last night it was really tough getting past the Cotentin under the moonlight, the current….and then it was not all that easy round Guernsey this morning. I must say that I am happy to be here and should be sailing past home (lives near Carantec), but then looking at the level of the fleet, who know what they are doing, I do not think I have all that much of an advantage being local! Right now I am trying to keep up the pace…I still have not managed to make myself any food. Sailing close I have Bernard Stamm and Synergie downwind, then just about pretty much all the sailing greats are close by: Armel Le Cléac'h, Nicolas Lunven…so the intention is to try and carry on like this. The wind is pretty stable at 13 to 14 knots right now. I have moved toward the Douvres Roches to try and make the most of the current and hope it will pay off in the long run.”

Nicolas Lunven (Generali) – 4th on the 11:00 position report
“Not doing too badly but it is a bit complex in terms of the weather forecasts: the wind is oscillating a bit, which was not what was forecast…we were due to reach pretty much the whole way to Guernsey…but I would say it is more a matter of zigzagging. I am with the leaders, but not on the offensive, we would say I am on the defensive. It is not be best of situations to be in, but the conditions are pretty nice and I am not feeling all that bad; working on possible solutions. What is annoying me most is the seaweed, every 5 minutes you have to get into the water to get rid of them. They are all over the place…”

Frédéric Rivet (Vendée 1) at 11:00 was lying in 32nd place
“I managed to catch up a bit just after Barfleur, but the passage of La Hague was not all that good: having caught up with the leaders I got stuck with lots of seaweed and then lost further places. As I did not have a great first night I have left feeding and getting rest aside. This morning I have managed to get a bit of rest, so right now I am rearing to go. Average speeds right now but what is going to be tough is getting to the Four area where we are likely to go close to shore tonight. Right now I am not worrying and just getting on with it.”

Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) 12th at 11:00 this morning – talks about her first 24 hours at sea
“The first night was quite complicated, not only did we have seaweed all over the place, but we also had a complex and tactical passage with the wind varying in direction. You had to make decisions and follow them through to the end; basically it was not all that simple. I have to always feel there is more to do and at the same time maintain good energy levels for the remainder of the race, but then I am already feeling tired! The plan is to try and get some rest this afternoon. Tonight it is going to be tough once more. We are most likely going to get round the Four under spinnaker against the current so we should have much of the same, maybe even tougher than last night.”

Yoann Richomme (DLBC) –in 7th place and leading the rookies
“I had a pretty good start, nearly got caught at Barfleur but managed to get out of it. Then I dove south first just under Sark where I was nearly in the lead, but did not have much luck hitting a windless area, which reshuffled the fleet. I am a bit further south of the main bunch and about half a mile south of Eric Peron. My position is not all that bad, but as we do not have the wind forecasts it is hard to work out what is going to happen next. I just do a bit at a time and try and to be ready for tonight for the passage of the Four. There are two other rookies putting me under pressure, not least Bernard Stamm. It is not all that bad, but I am a little stuck towards the South, but should be able to be among the top 15 on the next crossing, so all in all it is not that bad.”

Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) – in 30th position on the last position report
“Conditions are pretty good and there is not much one can complain about. It was a bit difficult last night, what with a bunch of boats heading to shore in search of the current whilst we went further out in search of the stronger breeze; it was the shore option that paid off the best. The distance on the leaders at the morning position report is relative, there is till a long way to go. The boats are pretty spread out around me and I can see some ahead, behind, but I suppose a bunch is still grouped together and within site. Apart from last night, ahead we have the currents to deal with at Four and quite a bit of work ahead.”

Solitaire du Figaro