At 10.03 hrs BST today (17th August 2011), Devon based ocean sailor, Conrad Humphreys sailing ‘DMS’, crossed the finish line into Les Sables d’Olonne to complete the third and longest leg of La Solitaire du Figaro.
After just a few days recuperation in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland the fleet of 46 solo sailors left the Irish harbour last Sunday morning to head for Les Sables d’Olonne, in Western France. The port is famous for the start and finish of the coveted Vendée Globe round the world race, in which Conrad competed during the 2004-05 edition.
It took just under three days of continuous racing for the solo sailor to sail the 477 mile course. Conrad and the other solo Figaroists had to navigate through tricky conditions with shifty wind directions along the Irish coast during the early stages of the leg and then had the added stress of keeping a look out for the 300 plus boats that were competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race – the fleet were sailing full pelt in the oncoming direction as they approached the Isles of Scilly at tip of Cornwall.
After crossing the channel, the fleet passed through the ‘Chanel du Four’, a channel between the Ile d’Ouessant (Ushant) and mainland France notorious for its tide which rips through the narrow channel. The final 24 hours of the racing has stretched the already exhausted sailors to the limit as a high pressure ridge resulted in little wind and the competitors relied upon the sea breezes to propel them to the finish. Conrad finished under 2 hours 30 minutes behind the leg leader, Jérémié Beyou, who won the race overall in 2005.
Speaking from Les Sables d’Olonne, Conrad said: “That was a real tactical toughie actually. I got really stuck at the beginning, a group of 6 or 7 of us went a little bit offshore and we got becalmed and we just watched everyone else sail away. I lost a little bit twice, I slept and forgot to put the alarm on and I lost some tactics so there’s a valuable lesson to be learned. There was an amazing thunderstorm this morning. I had lightning and thunder simultaneously over my head. I was amazed the rig didn’t get hit, flashes were hitting the water either side of the boat. It was really quite terrifying.”
With no time to relax, the sailors will now prepare for the fourth and final leg which starts at midday (local time) on Sunday 21st August. The course for this leg takes the fleet 430 miles from Les Sables d’Olonne to Dieppe, in Normandy.
For more information about La Solitaire du Figaro, please go to www.lasolitaire.com.