Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Drying out

Charlie Dalin out in front in La Solitaire du Figaro

Monday June 20th 2016, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

After a tough, physically and mentally demanding first 24 hours of the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro's opening leg, the solo skippers racing to Wolf Rock – southwest of Land’s End – will have given themselves a short time this afternoon to dry out, recover and eat a little as the wind finally eased and the sun came out.

Winds gusting to 35-40 knots over the first night made for a fast and challenging passage across the Channel from Deauville to the Owers turning mark, there was then no respite during a wet, bumpy upwind slog along the south side of the Isle of Wight in rain and poor visibility.
These conditions only abated early this afternoon as the 38-strong fleet beat upwind along the Dorset coast.

With Charlie Dalin on Skipper Macif 2015 out in front, the leaders are now preparing to pass Start Point, one of the key headlands of this stage from Deauville to Cowes. A major tidal gate, and with high water around 1930hrs this evening, the leaders have been staying close into Start Bay looking for the first of the ebb tide and avoiding the worst of the flood.

“Get through the first night in contact with the fleet. Survive it and then wring yourself out, get some food into you, some sleep and then carry on with the rest of the race.” That was the sage advice to the Rookie sailors in the fleet from Nick Cherry, the most experienced British solo skipper on the race, taking on his fifth Solitaire. Such advice will be well heeded as light winds are now forecast for the return passage to the Cowes finish line.

Current predictions derived from the latest weather models suggest the first boats will not now finish before Thursday morning. This would make the first leg up to 24 hours longer than initial predictions and reduces the recovery time for the skippers before Sunday’s leg 2 start from Cowes.

Dalin, who has finished second and third in previous editions of the Solitaire, was just under one mile ahead of Thierry Chabagny (Gedimat) – winner of this year’s Transat AG2R La Mondial transatlantic race from Concarneau to Saint Barths. In turn Chabagny is close to third-placed Erwan Tabarly (Armor Lux) who was his winning co-skipper on the two-handed race to the Caribbean.
The best-placed British skipper remains Alan Roberts who lies 12th with Cherry (Redshift) in 14th and Will Harris 15th (Artemis 77) – the top Rookie.

“At this stage of this race, to be sailing in 12-to-15th place is just fine for the British guys,” said Charles Darbyshire of the Artemis Offshore Academy. “In many respects this is like a Keirin cycle race where the first days are just about holding the pace, managing yourself and being in a position to attack towards the end. I think the opportunities will come on the leg back from Wolf Rock when you need to be in good shape mentally. It will be a chess match in the light winds and strong tides and you really need to be able to make clear decisions. It is too easy to fry your brain looking at too many options and ‘what-ifs,’” Darbyshire added.

Positions at 1600 UTC
1 Charlie Dalin (Skipper Macif 2015) 302nm to finish
2 Erwan Tabarly (Armor Lux) +0.6 miles behind
3 Thierry Chabagny (Gedimat) +1 mile behind leader
4 Vincent Biarnes (Guyot Environnement) +2.2 miles behind leader
5 Yoann Richomme (Skipper Macif 2014) +2.1 miles behind leader

GBR skippers
13 Alan Roberts (Alan Roberts Racing) +4.3 miles behind leader
14 Nick Cherry (Redshift) +4.5 miles behind leader
16 Will Harris (Artemis 77) +4.7 miles behind leader (rookie)
21 Hugh Brayshaw (Artemis 23) +5.2 miles behind leader (rookie)
23 Robin Elsey (Artemis 43) +5.8 miles behind leader
24 Mary Rook (Artemis 37) +5.9 miles behind leader (rookie)
28 Andrew Baker (#seachange) +7.5 miles behind leader
31 Sam Matson (Chatham) + 8.8 miles behind leader

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