Tuesday, August 9th 2011
A new start in the Celtic Sea?
It’s sounds incredible, but that is the La Solitaire du Figaro race! Efforts
invested in the past 48 hours could come down to very little for the 46
skippers participating on the second leg of the famous single-handed race.
At 166 miles from the finish (on the 16:00 position report), the notoriously
tricky navigation through Celtic Sea could change everything. The race could
start all over again, with some twenty boats lines up laterally across 30
miles from East to West.
Further East, Alexis Loison (Port Chantereyne Cherbourg Octeville, showing
as leader on the position ranking at 16:00 is equidistant to the finish with
Jérémie Beyou (BPI), positioned furthest West. Soon the solo sailors are
going to find radically different conditions on the water. With the breeze
is due to back from North to Southwest, the spinnakers will be hoisted and
likely stay up for the run to the finish in Dùn Laoghaire, where the fleet
is expected to arrive on Wednesday morning. The skippers must dig deep and
concentrate, despite the exhaustion that has surely seeped in over the past
two days of tough upwind racing, as they face a whole new weather scenario
comes in for the final hours of the leg.
It was a two-day long and tiring passage for the sailors to reach the Celtic
Sea. First to cross the virtual line placed between the tip of Cornwall and
the Scilly Islands and thus winning Grand Prix GMF Assistance was Jérémie
Beyou (BPI) at 7:13 this morning, after a long, tactical night ahead of
Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) and Nicolas Lunven (Generali). The sailors are
opting for different routes according to a weather pattern which is all, but
easy to decipher. The big question on everyone’s mind is whether there will
be a speedy rotation of the wind from the North backing to the Southwest and
then South quickly or not. The sailors are await this rotation to set them
off on a speedy downwind delivery ride to the finish.
Skippers have reported improved conditions on the water today, with welcome
sunny spells and some 15 knots of westerly breeze allowing for the fleet to
ease out the sails a little after tacking. This transition period, marked
the end of the fight against the elements, strong winds and choppy seas, to
a final, fast surf to the finish. The first ones to hoist their spinnakers
will probably benefit from higher speeds and increase their lead.
Will it be Alexis Loison (leading at 16.00), Jean-Charles Monnet (Paris
15e), rookie sailor Xavier Macaire (Starter Active Bridge), the group
further West with Jérémie Beyou (BPI) second in today’s ranking, Erwan
Tabarly (Nacarat) third, Nicolas Lunven (Generali) fifth or even those who
took a very radical offshore option like Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard
Controls) and Thierry Chabagny (Gédimat) come out in the lead? Could it be
a no-match situation? Not unlikely, if one considers that 30 out of the 46
competitors are sailing within 4 miles of each other, that is to say only 2%
of the way to Dùn Laoghaire!
The ever-consistent Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) has maintained
his position in the top part of the fleet and was reported in 15th position,
only 1.7 miles behind the leader. Conrad Humphreys (DMS) from Plymouth has
been climbing his way up progressively going from 39th to 25th and just 3
miles behind the leader. The youngest competitor, Sam Goodchild from
Southampton, who started prematurely and who spent the first day playing
catch up, is 2.5 miles ahead of fellow countryman, Nigel King (E-Line
Orthodontics) in 39th place. Francisco Lobato (ROFF) from Portugal, not one
to follow the pack, has opted for the most eastern position of the fleet,
climbing 5 places since midday.
Apart from tactical options, a major role will be played by the skippers’
ability to resist the fatigue from setting in over the final miles of race,
as since Sunday’s start in Caen they have grabbed very little rest. To be
fast downwind they will need every single drop of energy and pay maximum
attention to helm almost continuously in a damp and uncomfortable
environment. Who will be the toughest one? The answer to this question will
probably be given only tomorrow, close to the finish line…
Photo Credits: Courcoux/Marmara – Le Figaro
Jérémie Beyou (BPI)