Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Advantage Chabagny

Solitaire du Figaro fleet moves into the Bay of Biscay

Sunday July 3rd 2016, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

As a high pressure starts to take hold of the Bay of Biscay and, correspondingly, the strong breeze drops away and the sun shines, it is the five skippers who are at the top of the overall ranking for La Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro which are setting the pace in this stage, currently heading towards the BX buoy where they turn towards the La Rochelle finish line.

Thierry Chabagny on Gedimat took a slender lead at around 0600 this morning, as the leaders were hard on the wind along the north coast of Brittany. Chabagny split on to the opposite tack from the stage leader Yoann Richomme on Skipper Macif 2014, coming inshore towards Ar Men, and when the two converged again Chabagny was ahead.

Since Ushant around midday in big, unruly seas and strong westerly winds, Chabagny has extended his lead to just under two miles over Charlie Dalin on Skipper Macif 2015 and Richomme who was one tenth of a mile behind Dalin, considered by many to be the outstanding pre-race favourite.

It is probably not too much of a surprise that the five leaders monopolising the top places on this 410-mile stage from Paimpol to La Rochelle are the five solo skippers which hold the top five spots on the overall La Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro leaderboard.

Second and third on this fourth stage, Richomme and Dalin are first and second on the overall championship standings. The 2009 Solitaire winner Nico Lunven on Generali, who holds fourth on the Stage, is fourth overall. Stage leader Chabagny is fifth on the Solitaire leaderboard. And the Stage 1 winner Erwan Tabarly on Armor Lux– third overall - is 3.7 miles behind the leader in fifth place on this leg to La Rochelle. 

Having passed the latitude of Brest and the Bay of Douarnenez, and then west, outside the rocky Ile de Sein, the leaders are making steady progress on a southeasterly course on the Bay of Biscay towards the BX buoy. Conditions now are much more benign, offering a chance to recuperate, to steal a few more naps, tidy and put their boats back in best order as they slow down for what promises to be a slow passage to the mark in very light airs.

Briton Nick Cherry on Redshift is holding firm in the top 10 for the leg, moving up from 11th earlier in the day to eighth. Cherry is going well but will admire the biggest gain which has been that of the ‘green giant’, Gildas Morvan on Cercle Vert. The genial veteran of 20 Solitaires, racing in his Breton backyard where he knows every rock and eddy, has propelled himself from 23rd this morning – albeit only three miles off the lead – to hold sixth, at just over six miles behind the leaders.

As per the pre-start weather models the second half of the stage is looking to be a sharp contrast to the first half. This afternoon the wind has moved more to the northwest, dropping to just eight to 10 knots as the anticyclone envelops the Bay of Biscay this Sunday evening. During the night the wind will continue to drop to around five knots on the northern edge of the high pressure ridge, meaning slow but steady downwind speeds. The tidal currents are less part of the navigational mix but there will be a residual northwesterly swell. Through Monday the wind carries on veering into the north and north east, building to a maximum of eight to 10kts allowing a direct course to the BXA buoy. On Tuesday the climb back towards La Rochelle should be in a brisk northerly, the winners expected late afternoon.

They said:

Xavier Macaire (Chemins Ocean): “It is pretty feisty here at Ushant, 15-18kts of wind, quite rough seas and the current has slowed us. The first boat went from eight knots to six knots there and I am in it now. But there is always a fight to be had. I am in tenth. I wish I was closer to the action at the front but you never know I might get there tonight or tomorrow. At the moment I am just thinking about the present, getting past here and then I will devote some time to looking at the future.”

Benjamin Dutreux (Team Vendée): "The wind is 20 knots, there is some sunshine between the clouds. I should arrive in about two hours at Ushant. Last night I rested a little. I had something stuck on the propeller so I moored to a fairway buoy and and I had to dive to free it. I lost a lot of energy doing that.”

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