Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Dalin out in front

20 knots headwinds for Solitaire du Figaro fleet as they claw their way across Lyme Bay

Monday June 20th 2016, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

After a benign start to the 2016 La Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro, the southwesterly breeze kicked in over as a front crossed the fleet.

Since leaving Deauville yesterday on the start of leg one, the 39 Figaro Beneteau IIs have spent the first part of the night crossing the Channel bound for the Owers mark, six miles southeast of Selsey Bill. Yesterday evening the wind had filled into 15-20 knots enabling the boats to make a fast Channel passage, the toss up being between sail the rhumb line on a tighter sailing angle or to work high and sail a faster lower angle later with a more eased spinnaker.

Leading the charge at this point was Vincent Biarnes on Guyot Environnement with rookie Pierre Quiroga on Skipper Espoir CEM to leeward in second, while Artemis Offshore Academy rookie Mary...Rook was punching above her weight in fifth place. However by the time the lead boats reached Owers at around 2300 UTC, race favourite Charlie Dalin on Skipper MACIF 2015 had pulled into the lead ahead of Biarnes, recovering impressively after taking an early penalty for hitting a mark. Sebastien Simon on Bretagne -CMB Performance was up to third, neck and neck with Erwan Tabarly on Armor Lux. Among the Brits Prologue winner Alan Roberts was holding 10th place with Sam Matson down to 13th with Mary Rook down to 14th but still only 1.6 miles off the lead.

The fleet then turned WSW and upwind, with the aim being to get past St Catherine's Point 24 miles away before the tide turned foul at 0515. The majority of the fleet chose to stay around the rhumb line at this point with Sam Matson on Chatham taking an exteme inshore route.

At 01:34 UTC Rookie sailor, and skipper of Bretagne-CMB Espoir, Aymeric Decroocq, reported damage to his yacht's top port spreader. He has since headed for Cowes.

The leaders, with Dalin still out in front, passed St Cat's at around 0200. With Tabarly up to second, these two boats had eeked out a small advantage over those behind with Biarnes still third and Simon fifth. At this point Christropher Pratt on Sorinther-Un Maillot Pour la Vie was taking an inshore route by Thierry Chabagny on Gedimat had headed offshore. Leading Brit was Alan Roberts in 13th with Nick Cherry on Redshift up to 16th with Mary Rook down to 20th.

Since then the Figaro fleet had been continuing west down the English south coast bound for Wolf Rock between Cornwall and the Scillies. At the time of writing the boats had snuck into Weymouth Bay with Dalin having extended his lead to move than a mile. Dalin, holding a 1.2 mile lead at this point, tacked in the lee of Portland at around 0840 UTC this morning. So if anyone is in the vicinity now, there should be a very good view of the boats as they stream round Portland Bill, close in to avoid the worst of the wind and the tide.

At present the wind is a brisk 20 knots from the WSW so the boats will continue to have a beat across Lyme Bay however into this evening the wind is forecast to lighten and veer into the northwest before returning to the southwest tomorrow morning. 



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