La Solitaire du Figaro 2011
Monday, August 1st 2011
Inching forward against the tide
Thirty hours into racing on the first leg of La Solitaire du Figaro,
320-miles from Perros-Guirec in Northern Brittany to Caen, lower Normandy,
and the leaders are positioned just 5 miles from Fairways, off the Needles,
on the western tip of the Isle of Wight fighting against the tidal current.
Thomas Rouxel (Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance), moves into the lead
ahead of his two closest rivals, Nicolas Lunven (Generali) and Jérémy Beyou
(BPI), in what has been a cat and mouse game for the pole position since
Foto: Courcoux/Marmara – Le Figaro
Britain's Phil Sharp (Spirit of Independence) punches
his way up to 6th place overall and leads the rookies on their first
Solitaire race. What remains to be seen is if the light easterly thermal
breeze will hold up for the sailors as they battle against the strong tidal
current to get round the Fairways mark for the Southerly course back across
the Channel to Caen.
The light conditions for Sunday morning's start gave way to moderate
southerly breeze to allow the 47 competitors a Channel crossing towards
Plymouth and the Hands Deep course mark under spinnaker in relatively good 7
to 8 knots pace. The fleet then made the most of the favourable tide on the
run along the South coast of England, where the sailors each chose how best
to negotiate rounding the various headlands and associated current on course
for the Fairways. The wind gradually died out this afternoon just off Anvil
point ,12 miles from the turning point, leaving the skippers the choice of
either attempting to fight their way against the 3 knots of tidal current
and dying breeze or dropping anchor to sit it out until the tide turns.
The leaders (Rouxel, Lunven, Beyou) on the direct heading are followed by a
group made up of Eric Drouglazet (Luisina), Fred Duthil (Sepalumic), Erwan
Tabarly (Nacarat) and rookie sailor, Phil Sharp (Spirit of Independence).
Further north, a breakaway group looking for the shelter of Poole Harbour
and hoping for a thermal breeze to propel them round the Fairways and into
the favourable current is made up of Laurent Pellecuer (Atelier
d’architecture JP Monier), Frédéric Rivet (Vendée 1), Morgan Lagravière
(Vendée), Charlie Dalin (Keopsys) and Jean-Pierre Nicols (Bernard Controls).
If their gamble does not pay off, they could pay with a costly time deficit
on the leaders. Others have opted for more southerly and offshore course in
the hope that a veering wind could provide a good angle of approach to the
mark, but for now Thierry Chabagny (Gedimat), Etienne Svilarich (Volkswagen
Think Blue) and Alexis Loison (Port Chantereyne-Cherbourg-Octeville) can
just hope as they see themselves fall back on the position reports.
The situation is not so clear for the sailors, led by Michel Bothuon (Les
recycleurs bretons), who have not passed Anvil Point, where the tidal
effects are strong. Sam Goodchild (Artemis), Francisco Lobato (ROFF) and
Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) caught up in this bunch can only hope that
the leaders are forced to drop anchor to reduce the distance.
Phil Sharp (Spirit of Independence) from Jersey has made an astounding climb
over the course of the last 24 hours, having started in the bottom half of
the fleet, he is now well positioned 1.1 miles behind the leading trio in
6th place overall behind Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) and is currently heading
the rookie rankings. Phil has gradually progressed and moved his way up the
fleet opting for a more offshore course just south of the rhumb line and is
well placed to round the Fairways mark, just 5 miles away at 15:30. Devon's
Conrad Humphreys (DMS) stays within reach of the leaders at just 2.2 miles
in 18th place.
British skipper, Sam Goodchild (Artemis), enjoyed a brilliant start in
Perros Guirec on Sunday, to round the first course mark in 7th place,
holding on the the race leaders throughout the day. This morning the Race
Committee reported that Sam had torn his spinnaker, which would explain the
loss of ground on the lead and his current 41st place and 9.4 mile deficit
on the leaders.
Weather conditions have been better than anticipated since Sunday's start in
Perros Guirec, allowing for the solo sailors to keep up a pace that could
see them arriving into Caen from Tuesday afternoon.
Skipper's quotes over the VHF today:
Eric Drouglazet (Luisina):"We could well be anchored about ten miles from
the Fairway buoy. I did not sleep all that much last night, so have not
sailed all that badly. The leading boats are going to get round the next
mark with the favourable current, but for those left behind it is only get
to get worse and worse…"
Paul Meilhat (Macif 2011): "This is a beautiful leg with a lots of chances.
And there will be more to come! It's a bit like having a fresh start, this
passage from Portland Bill.We had light conditions and everyone came back
from behind. I am very happy right now and everything is going well…I have
good boat speed. I have been playing it bit by bit and think I'll try to
continue with this strategy. I'm in shorts and a T-shirt: it's very nice
after night in the drizzle. But there will be another difficult night. As
soon as the thermal wind is going drops we are just going to come to a
Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert): "It was not all that great at the start. Then
I managed to get back by sailing well up to Hand Deeps. Overnight got in
too close to shore. It was not a good idea trying to go in close round
Start Point. Now, I have come back a pit on round Portland Bill further
out. For now we have 8 knots from the West, but it is is going to drop and
it is going t be really very painful getting the turning tide at the
Thomas Rouxel (Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance): "There is a real battle
going on with the three of us, Jérémy Beyou, Nicolas Lunven and myself. All
is going well but it is not over yet! We are making slow progress with the
wind we have, but from 14:00 onwards we should have the current against us
to deal with too. I think that it is going to be complicated and a whole
lot of things could happen…"
Isabelle Joschke (Galettes Saint Michel): "For me, I see that there has been
a turnaround. The first group was caught in the calm. A large group came
back on this leader group. We are all under spinnaker, the wind is getting
up in the bright sunshine and flat seas: it's very nice. The first night is
always difficult to rest. I had a few naps and I ate well. It's hard to let
go of the pressure because we are all in contact. I'll try to go take a nap
now that the wind is established and before it once again becomes
complicated. We will find ourselves facing the current to get passed the
Isle of Wight. If we are forced to anchor, where I am, there a 30 metres of
depth… It will not be very nice!"
Morgan Lagravière (Vendée):"I had a good first 24 hours and then about two
hours ago mucked up the getting passed the transition area which needed
special care and managed to loose quite a few places. Not easy to decide on
which position to take but I am feeling good in terms of keeping up the
pace. I am annoyed with myself and so will have to work out my anger and
climb my way back up the fleet."
Official opening of the Race Village in Caen at 17:00 local time
The official opening of the village of La Solitaire du Figaro Eric Bompard
Cashmere in Caen will be held at 17:00 in the presence of Philippe Duron,
Mayor of Caen and president of the Urban Community Caen la mer, Laurent
Beauvais, President of the Region lower Normandy and Jean-Léonce Dupont,
Chairman of the General Council of Calvados.
Photo Credits: Courcoux/Marmara – Le Figaro
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