Photos: Alexis Courcoux

Ouessant and Sein lap nearly complete

Yann Elies and Morgan Lagraviere jockey for the lead as the Solitaire du Figaro fleet heads through the Chenal du Four again

Friday June 21st 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

This morning the Figaro fleet is well on its way to completing its lap of Ouessant and the Chaussee de Sein turning mark in the south on the final leg from Roscoff to Dieppe. But overnight there have been casualties.

Joan Ahrweiller on Basse Normandie suffered damage to his yacht's boom and rigging and is heading for Cherbourg. Meanwhile Yannig Livory on Thermacote France suffered ‘blurred vision’ and was request to stop in Aber Wrac'h by race doctor Jean-Yves Chauve where he was taken to hospital in Brest. With Vincent Biarnes having had to return to Roscoff soon after the start yesterday with a broken forestay on his Prati'Buches, the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro fleet is now down to 37.

Last night the race also claimed two backmarkers, Claire Pruvot on Port de Caen Ouistreham and Jean-Pierre Mouren on Groupe SNEF, who were left stuck to the north of Ouessent, when they were caught on the wrong side of a tidal gate.

The boats spent yesterday evening and most of last night on the wind as they beat to get around the west coast of Ouessant. Most preferred to head offshore enough to clear the western end of the island. This group was led by Julien Villion on Seixo Habitat, early leg leader Michel Desjoyeaux on TBS and Anthony Marchand on Bretagne Credit Mutuel Performance. However a few others, led by Xavier Macaire on Skipper Herault, Gildas Morvan on Cercle Verte, leading Brit Sam Goodchild on Shelterbox-Disaster Relief and Adrien Hardy on AGIR Recouvrement chose to short tack along the island’s northern shore.

Once past Ouessant, this created an east to west spread across the fleet as they headed south to the next turning mark at Chaussee de Sein, with Morvan and Macaire in the east, edging ahead of Villion and with the potent duo of Yann Elies on Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir and Morgan Lagraviere on Vendee furthest west.

Despite already having had to beat around the north side of Ouessant, the boats were still hard pressed as they headed south overnight, the wind having backed into the southsouthwest with the onset of a front. This favoured starboard tack, but most, particularly those in the east, had to put a short hitch west in order to lay the Chaussee de Sein cardinal mark.

Through being furthest west already, Yann Elies was the first to sneak around the turning mark at 0247 UTC followed by Lagraviere and Villion. Significantly Fred Duthil (Sepalumic) was sixth, still close enough to Elies and Lagraviere to maintain his overall lead in this year’s Solitaire du Figaro.

First Brit around was Sam Goodchild at around 0300, with Ed Hill close behind in 16th, with Nick Cherry (Magma Structures) and Rookie leader Jack Bouttell on Artemis 77 together in 20th and 21st places, 15 minutes later. In 28th Henry Bomby's Rockfish passed at 0330, followed by David Kenefick on Full Irish at 0345.

Since then the fleet has been able to hoist kites and head back north, the course this time taking them through the Chenal du Four between Ouessant and the northwestern coast of mainland France.

Morvan led around Basse Royale cardinal mark at the southern end of the Chenal at 0515 UTC, alongside Elies, Lagraviere and Yoann Richomme on DLBC and Duthil in eighth, with Sam Goodchild holding firm in 14th, but with two time winner Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire in his rear view mirror.

This morning the wind has once again veered north of west and from Basse Royale the boats have been streaming north on a tight reach.

After yesterday’s misty start, this morning the competitors have been in thick fog. “I just see the front of my boat," reported Julien Villion.

Once they have passed the Phare le Four and Grande Basse de Portsall marks, the boats will then head across the English Channel towards Wolf Rock, off Land’s End in a freshening breeze. This will mark the beginning of what the forecasts still indicate will be windiest 24 hours of this year’s Solitaire du Figaro.

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