On day 2 of Leg 1 of La Solitaire du Figaro, the Race Committee Boat at the head of the fleet reported at 09:30 from the south coast of England, “it is grey from sea to sky this early morning. Milky grey and drizzly with a metallic grey sea which is smooth as silk. The is coming through from the south-southwest and began to back slightly, so the spinnakers are packed away and stored.
The 47 solo sailors now progress under genoa, sailing under 7 knots. Forecasts are for the wind to really drop and the big question is how the current will affect the fleet on the approach to Fairways. The big risks at Portland Bill have been left aside now and the fleet should have favourable currents. Once they reach the deep waters near Saint Alban on the approach to Poole and on to the second course mark, Fairways, the question will be how will they fare with the turning tide? It is pretty sure that not all of the fleet will get passed with the right tide. If the wind remains light, it really could be quite a big disadvantage for those at the back of the fleet.”
Meanwhile, a small breakaway group has taken shape with Jeremie Beyou (BPI) leading and Thomas Rouxel (Generali Credit Mutuel Performance) and Nicolas Lunven (Generali) within 0.5 of a mile of each other. These are followed by Eric Drouglazet (Luisina), Favien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham), Alexis Loison (Port Charntereyne Cherbourg-Octveille) and Paul Meilhat (Macif 2011).
At the 1500hrs BST fleet positions, Briton, Conrad Humphreys (DMS) is sitting comfortably in 18th position, just 2.2miles behind the current leader Thomas Rouxel (Generali Credit Mutuel Performance). Fellow Briton, Phil Sharp is the lead rookie in 6th place.
As the wind abates and backs to the South, South East together with the turning tide, which started at 13:30, things will get complicated for the solo sailors. Those well positioned could get away and make big gains, whilst those lagging behind, struggling against the tide, will loose lots of valuable ground and time.
The first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro Eric Bompard Cashmere could be played on this stage of the journey between the tip of Portland Bill (off Weymouth, future water venue for the London Olympics in 2012) and the Fairway Buoy (at the entrance of Needles, and access to Cowes through the Solent). Less than thirty miles to go to the next mark, but probably at a snail’s pace, and for some it may even be a matter of having to anchor to limit the damage!
The current is stronger than 2.5 knots and will not change until 19:00 this evening. We could well see the fleet bunch again whilst the tide turns.
The next fleet positions are due at 1800hrs BST. For more information about La Solitaire du Figaro, please go to www.lasolitaire.com.