Photo: Courcoux-Marmara/Le Figaro

And back across the Channel

Bulk of Solitaire du Figaro fleet around Needles Fairway buoy

Monday August 1st 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

30 hours into the first leg of La Solitaire du Figaro and the leaders have just rounded the Needles Fairway buoy on the western tip of the Isle of Wight fighting against the tidal current.

The lead continues to be a three way tie between Jérémie Beyou on BPI, Thomas Rouxel on Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance and Nicolas Lunven on Generali. Rouxel led mid-afternoon but Lunven has taken the lead at the 1600 GMT sched this evening, the boats rounding the Needles Fairway midway between these two scheds. As they head back south across the Channel at their present speed of around 7.5 knots and with 109 miles to go, should see them arriving at the first stopover in Caen tomorrow lunchtime.

On the charge are Gildas Morvan on Cercle Verte and in particular Phil Sharp on Spirit of Independence, Sharp in particular having had a storming day that has seen him move up the fleet to six place this afternooon and into fifth this evening, just 0.7 miles shy of the leaders. He now heads the rookie rankings.

Through the day have made the most of the favourable tide as they have run along the Devonshire and Dorset coasts and none of the leaders appear to have ducked to any of the headlands. Most prefered to stay off offshore at St Alban's Head and sail the direct route towards the Needles Fairway.

Just behind the leaders a breakaway group did head further into Christchurch Bay in the hope of finding a thermal breeze and they included  Laurent Pellecuer (Atelier d’architecture JP Monier), Frédéric Rivet (Vendée 1), Morgan Lagravière (Vendée), Charlie Dalin (Keopsys) and Jean-Pierre Nicols (Bernard Controls).

Earlier this afternoon the skippers commented via VHF (they are allowed no other comms on board):

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 standstill…"

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 Needles!"

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."


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