As public crowded the pier to wave goodbye to the sailors and dozens of boats enjoyed the show, the 46 skippers left for the third leg of the Solitaire du Figaro, 477 miles from Dùn Laoghaire to Les Sables d’Olonne. But soon the sunny, warm, pleasant conditions gave way to rainstorms, wind gusts and light air bubbles: a roulette game for fleet.
Who’d think that the most thrilling part of the third leg would be the finish? It’s maybe too soon to tell, but clearly the 8 mile long inshore course and the following run along the green Irish cliffs delivered enough surprises for a whole leg, with continuous changes at the top.
This morning on the pontoons of Dun Laoghaire, an unusual fatigue marked the sailors’ faces, as everyone talked about the latest weather forecast. The hint was “be wary” of the apparent simplicity of the 477 miles to Les Sables. And wary they had to be since the very first minutes of the inshore race the situation appeared to be not the simplest one.
In extremely tricky conditions, breeze shifting, coming from all directions and going from 5 to 15 knots in a matter of seconds, it was hard for the sailors to “read” on the water where the next puff was going to come from and going from the top to the bottom of the fleet was just a question of not be stuck in a bubble of light air.
At the Radio France mark a trio formed by Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham), Vincent Biarnes (PratìBuches) and Jeanne Gregoire (Banque Populaire) had a huge lead on the rest of the fleet, but then shortly later everything changed dramatically. As confirmed by Jeanne Gregoire’s words: “For once I started well but now I’m trailing at the back of the fleet. It’s a mess but you have to have fun anyway…When I was going downwind under spinnaker to the Radio France mark, I crossed Isa (Isabelle Joschke) and I told her: don’t worry there is always the CLS ranking. I had two or three miles lead on her but she just flew past me… Now I’ve got 25 knots and two minutes ago I had 2!”
According to the latest position report, at 16:00 it was Portuguese Francisco Lobato (ROFF) to have a slight advantage on experienced Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and on overall leaderboard leader Jérémie Beyou (BPI). First British skipper was reported to be young Sam Goodchild (Artemis) in fourteenth position and third in the special newcomers’ “rookie” standing, chased by Jersey based Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence), also racing his first Solitaire du Figaro. Conrad Humphreys (DMS) was in 21st position while Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) in 42nd.
Up to the next mark at Wolf Rock (at the tip of Cornwall), that is to say over the next 180 miles, it is likely that the fleet will keep on sailing on a long starboard tack and positioning oneself well on the course will be key.
But, for now it’s impossible to say who will take the best option. The answer will only be known tomorrow, around noon, when the sailors will be approaching the Scilly Islands.
(Taken from www.lasolitaire.com)