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The 50th Solitaire Urgo-Le Figaro finished last Wednesday after a fourth and final leg won by Eric Péron, which confirmed Yoann Richomme’s overall first place. With hardly any time to get over this fourth leg, which was just as exhausting as the previous ones, a few skippers, who race in both the Figaro and IMOCA circuits looked back at this 2019 edition in which they took part. You really have to be an expert in Figaro racing to come out on top in the Solitaire, and for the IMOCA skippers returning to the Figaro circuit, it was not the easiest of tasks.

What are the similarities and differences when racing on the little boat (a Figaro) in comparison to on a big one (an IMOCA 60)? Do you really have to go through the Figaro circuit to win in major IMOCA races? Is it very hard to go back to a Figaro after racing on an IMOCA? We put these questions to Yoann Richomme (1st), Michel Desjoyeaux (12th), Yann Eliès (16th), Jérémie Beyou (20th) and Thomas Ruyant (38th)

And in an Irish context, solo sailors Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan who both finished the Figaro with mixed results and who have both expressed Vendee Globe ambitions, the question now will be: what next?

With a few months left to go to the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre and just over a year to the Vendée Globe, and with most of the new IMOCAs not yet in the water, the 50th Solitaire du Figaro offered some IMOCA skippers an opportunity to see how they measured up against Figaro racers. It was a way to measure their physical condition and their endurance levels.

The overall winner of the 2019 Solitaire, Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Groupe - Groupe Télégramme) could not hide his pleasure and praised the class and his new Figaro 3: “I really enjoyed myself with this new boat, thanks to which the class is going to become very important. In terms of the standard, nothing compares to the Figaro... It teaches you all about commitment and is a great school to learn more and make progress. Moving up to an IMOCA is quite logical in my opinion and I still hope to be there at the start of the Vendée Globe next year." The winner of the last Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in Class40 will now continue to train on an IMOCA with Damien Seguin alongside whom he will take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race in a month from now before competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre in the autumn.

For Thomas Ruyant (Advens - La Fondation de la Mer): “The Figaro is the Olympics of ocean racing. Performing well on a Figaro is proof of your talent and that talent can be applied on an IMOCA..., but for me it is not compulsory to go via a Figaro. Many of the big names like Jean-Pierre Dick, Bernard Stamm and Alex Thomson to mention just a few, did not need to compete in the Figaro circuit to get where they are today. Just doing the Figaro is not enough either. You need to have done other stuff such as the Mini or Class40, as these are just as important if you want to prepare for a move to IMOCA racing.”


Figaro racing to perform well on an IMOCA


Twice winner of the event (2009 and 2014), Jérémie Beyou (Charal) says openly and loudly: “You really have to be up for it. You don’t compete at such a high level if you are not motivated. The Solitaire is a reference in terms of preparation. Personally, it takes me two or three years to find the pace again and sail like a true Figaro racer. I won the Solitaire on two occasions, but it took me four years to get my second win. The 2019 race is no different. It really was an exercise for experts. You just have to look at the list of the first ten places. To win you have to be 100% a Figaro racer.” After a fortnight’s holiday, the skipper of Charal will be back out there training double-handed with Christopher Pratt, with whom he will line up at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre.

For Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird), three times winner of the event (1992, 1998, 2007), who was very pleased with his 12th place this year, “It doesn’t make any sense racing an IMOCA, if you haven’t raced a Figaro, as the biggest group of top class racers competes. Gaining experience of Figaro racing is something you simply have to do if you want to perform well in the Vendée Globe. Having said that, you have to understand there is a difference when you move to an IMOCA, as she is a much bigger boat, which is heavier and more powerful, so preparing is a highly technical affair.” Yann Eliès (StMichel) shares this opinion, declaring, “Going through the Figaro circuit is practically compulsory if you want to win in the IMOCA circuit. The Figaro is a condensed version of what you experience on an IMOCA, especially with the new boat. Racing in the Figaro class complements IMOCA racing, as you don’t get to spend enough time out on the water on an IMOCA and the Figaro enables you to maintain your level and continue to make progress. This year’s race was complicated for me. I thought I would end up much higher in the overall rankings. I wasn’t fresh enough for the race, and every leg was difficult. I may return next year, but for the moment, I’m busy looking for a partner for The Ocean Race, which really attracts me, and for the 2024 Vendée Globe."


Returning means accepting the danger


“Sometimes it can be good to start to question yourself and put yourself in danger in the Figaro circuit,” explains Yann Eliès, “ as the exercise is very tricky and the standard very high. This year only one of us handed in the perfect exam paper…" He was thinking of Yoann Richomme, who paid homage to all the IMOCA skippers, who return to the Figaro circuit. “I imagine it must be very hard for Yann, Jérémie, Armel and Mich’ to return to the Figaro circuit, where everyone can come a cropper very easily. You need to be strong psychologically to know how to deal with that.”

Published in Vendee Globe
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An eighth new IMOCA being built, 2018 Round Ireland Race competitor Nicolas Troussel has confirmed.

There will be at least eight new generation IMOCAs lining up at the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe. The latest announcement comes from Nicolas Troussel, who in a year from now will be launching his Corum l’Epargne, a Kouyoumdjian designed boat fitted with foils. Twice winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and the Transat AG2R sailing double-handed with Armel Le Cléac’h, the skipper from Morlaix is turning a dream he has had for a long time into reality by joining the IMOCA circuit and competing in the non-stop solo round the world race.

Published in Solo Sailing
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Paul Meilhat’s IMOCA victory in the Route du Rhum over the weekend is all the sweeter as he achieved it in the same boat he’d feared lost on an earlier transatlantic crossing almost three years ago.

The French yachtsman had been airlifted off SMA on 15 December 2015 and the 60-footer SMA was abandoned in the Azores — though it drifted towards Ireland in the following weeks and was eventually recovered some 100 miles off the coast and berthed in Crookhaven.

“It’s amazing to think that our efforts three years ago to recover that boat against pretty tough odds have now resulted in the boat and Paul winning the Route du Rhum,” says Kinsale-linked offshore specialist Marcus Hutchinson, who was Paul’s project manager for the first three years of his IMOCA campaign.

Meilhat Paul Meilhat (SMA) Route du Rhum's winner Photo: Alexis Courcoux

“He was a successful Figaro sailor when he turned to the IMOCA scene then and is now clearly in the top flight there, too,” Marcus adds.

Despite that serious incident in 2015, which left Paul with a fractured pelvis, Marcus said the Frenchman only grew with confidence over the years he was in charge of the project.

That was most obvious when, before a keel ram failure forced retirement in January last year, Paul sailed his way into third place in the Vendée Globe without the foils and newer boat technology employed by the rest of the field since his boat, in the hands of Francois Gabard, previously won that circumnavigation challenge.

Later in the year, Paul secured second in the Transat Jacques Vabre, again putting his foiling competitors to shame. It was at this time that his boat’s sponsor SMA decided to withdraw from offshore racing, meaning the most recent 12 months would be the last under their livery.

It’s quite the capper on that relationship that Paul has sailed SMA to victory in the Route du Rhum, says Marcus.

“I’m very happy for the team. I’m no longer a part of that group, but it is a small world and we see each other almost every day. Paul’s boat captain, for example, is a lodger in my house.”

Looking closer to home, Marcus sees the achievements of people like Paul Meilhat as an inspiration for Irish sailors with offshore ambitions, particularly with a new Olympic class on the cards for Paris in 2024.

“Irish offshore sailing is pretty well placed to step up to the next level and prepare to be competitive in 2024,” he says. “The kind of boat that will be used for that regatta is not really relevant to understanding and improving at the top end of offshore racing.

“The racing circuit in France, with the super competitive Figaro circuit in particular, is the place to be if you have any ambitions. Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan are currently fundraising in Ireland for next year’s Figaro circuit and potentially an Irish stopover for that race, too.”

Marcus adds that 50 Figaro Beneteau 3s have already been sold and will be released in January.

“I have two of them in my academy. These are the platforms to train on. Anyone who has ambitions for 2024 should start to consider getting involved in this type of racing.”

Published in Offshore

He is known as the Jackal in French sailing because of his relentless competitive zeal and Armel Le Cleac’h lived up to his name with an impressive win in the IMOCA 60 class of The Transat bakerly today – his first victory in the class in 10 years. It puts the French man as favourite for the non–stop single handed round the world Vendee Globe race that will have its first ever Irish competitor when Enda O'Coineen races on November 6th. 

Le Cleac’h’s elegant blue and white monohull, Banque Populaire, with its trademark dark blue sails, crossed the finish line under clear blue skies off Sandy Hook at 11:27 local time – 16:27 CET.

The two-time Vendée Globe runner-up had completed the 3,050-nautical mile course from Plymouth in 12 days, 2 hours and 28 minutes and 39 seconds. His total time includes a 31-minute penalty for the accidental breakage of his boat’s engine seal. Le Cleac’h informed the Race Director about this at 16:26 local time yesterday.

The French skipper had sailed a total of 3,751 miles through the water at an average speed of 12.91 knots. As he crossed the finish line, waving in his moment of victory to his shore team on their coach boat, Le Cleac’h’s main rival for line honours in the IMOCA 60 class, Vincent Riou on PRB, was 31 miles out to sea.

Ever since day three, as the leading IMOCA’s surged westward after turning to starboard at Cape Finisterre, Le Cleac’h has kept Riou at bay and covered his every move.

This was a fascinating battle between the foiling Banque Populaire and the more conventional hull on PRB as two of the favourites for this year’s Vendée Globe went toe-to-toe. In the end, it was as Le Cleac’h was docking his boat at Brooklyn Bridge Park, that Riou was crossing the line, just 2 hours, 21 minutes and 32 seconds behind him.

Riou reported earlier today that 24 hours after the fleet set sail from Plymouth on 2nd May, he lost two of his sails overboard, which forced him to rethink his tactics and routing for the race.

The Transat bakerly showed us two things. One, that even without two of his most important sails Riou can mix it with the best of the foilers, and two, that Le Cleac’h has a boat that is robust enough to deal with a full Atlantic storm. Just two days ago he said this race had given him the confidence he needs in his new rocketship to take on the Vendée Globe in it.

Speaking at the dockside, Le Cleac’h said he was delighted to take his first win in the IMOCA 60 class for a decade.

“I am very happy,” he said. “Ten years ago I came into the IMOCA class and this is the first time I have won. I have finished second a lot of times – in the Vendée Globe, The Transat, the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Route du Rhum, so today is a new day for me. I now I hope to be the first in the Vendée Globe.”

He paid tribute to Riou: “Vincent is a very good competitor. He has won all the races over the last year and he was favourite at the start. It was a pleasure to do this transatlantic race, because every day I could see Vincent behind me, and I said to myself, ‘OK, this race is for me.’”

Asked about his new boat, Le Cleac’h commented: “The foiling boat is a good choice. Last year it was the first year with this boat and we had some little problems and we didn’t have good speed.

“But now, we make a statement. And I hope it is the best boat for the next Vendeé Globe and I that I proved it during this race. So I am very happy for me, for Banque Populaire and for this very nice boat.”

Behind Riou the third-placed IMOCA 60 is Jean-Pierre Dick’s St Michel-Virbac which is still 138 miles from New York and expected to arrive at midnight tonight. Then comes Paul Meilhat on SMA who has been using The Transat bakerly as a qualifier for the Vendée. He still has 343 miles to go to reach the finish.

Two other IMOCA 60 skippers have failed to complete the course. Seb Josse on Edmond de Rothschild, retired mid-way through day two after the battens in his mainsail were damaged during a gybe. And yesterday Britain’s Richard Tolkien was forced to abandon his yacht 44, 880 nautical miles west, southwest of Horta in the Azores. After struggling with technical issues and sustaining an injury to his head, Tolkien has been taken on board the cargo ship Anton Topic which is bound for Philadelphia.

In the four-boat Multi50 class, Gilles Lamiré (Frenchtech Rennes St Malo) is less than 30 miles from the finish line, and is expected to arrive by 17:30 local time this evening, with a 320-mile advantage over Lalou Roucayrol (Arkema).

Trading places at the top of the Class40 fleet are Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires en Peloton–Arsep), and Phil Sharp (Imerys). Earlier today, Isabelle Joschke (Generali-Horizon Mixité) officially announced her retirement from The Transat bakerly, after discovering serious damage to her boat’s structure yesterday. She is now en route to Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon in Newfoundland.

Track the race here.

PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
The class rankings at 20:00 BST - updated every four hours

ULTIME
1. François Gabart/Macif - 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes and 39 seconds at sea
2. Thomas Coville/Sodebo - 8 days, 18 hours, 32 minutes and 2 seconds at sea
3. Yves Le Blevec/Actual - 10 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes and 59 seconds

IMOCA 60
1. Armel Le Cléac’h/Banque Populaire - 12 days, 2 hours and 28 minutes and 39 seconds
2. Vincent Riou/PRB - 2 days, 4 hours, 50 minutes and 11 seconds
3. Jean-Pierre Dick/St Michel Virbac - 138.nm to the finish

MULTI 50
1. Gilles Lamiré/French Tech Rennes St Malo - 34.8nm to the finish
2. Lalou Roucayrol/Arkema - 350.50nm to the leader
3. Pierre Antoine/Olmix - 763.50nm to the leader

CLASS40
1. Thibaut Vauchel-Camus/Solidaires en Peloton-ARSEP - 910.6nm to the finish
2. Phil Sharp/Imerys - 16.13nm to the leader
3. Louis Duc/Carc - 64.81nm to the leader

Published in Vendee Globe
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The 8th Vendée Globe, the non–stop round the world race will start in exactly 200 days and all of those hoping to compete are well aware of the clock ticking. Boats are being relaunched this week one after another. Some will be in Plymouth to take part in The Transat, which begins on 2nd May, while others will be heading straight for New York, in order to line up in the new transatlantic race from New York - Vendée (Les Sables), which starts on 29th May. Others campaigns remain under wraps. There is even the possibility of the first ever Irish entry. Here we take a look at what the skippers and their boats are up to, with six months to go to the start of the Vendée Globe.

A lot of IMOCAs have been put back in the water over the past few days after weeks spent in the yard. Jérémie Beyou's Maître Coq has been in the water for several days now with the two foils fitted on Monday. Immediately after that, Jérémie and his team set off to test the boat with her new appendages.

It was on Monday too that Yann Eliès's Groupe Quéguiner was put back in the water and underwent her righting tests. Groupe Quéguiner has spent four months in the yard with the steering system being completely replaced and the ballast tank layout being optimised.

Yesterday (Tuesday), SMA, Paul Meilhat's IMOCA (François Gabart's former Macif) was put back in the water after a lot of repairs were carried out on her after she was recovered after drifting for three weeks in the Atlantic.

Eric Bellion relaunched his CommeUnSeulHomme in Port La Forêt on Thursday 14th April. On the previous day in les Sables d'Olonne, Jean-François Pellet did the same with his Come in Vendée after two months in the yard.
After having her mast stepped last week, Arnaud Boissières's La Mie Câline has been off training this week with her new sails. Arnaud intends to compete in the Armen Race in early May.

As for Bertrand de Broc, he will be relaunching his MACSF tomorrow (Thursday 14th April) in Lorient, after three months in the yard. In the same place on the following day (Friday) it is Thomas Ruyant's Le Souffle du Nord which will be back in the water after her steering system was transformed with the wheel being replaced by a tiller and with her ballast tanks being rearranged. Thomas plans to take part in the Grand Prix in Douarnenez.
Further south, Stéphane Le Diraison is training for several weeks in the Mediterranean, before a solo delivery trip to New York.
Staying in La Ciotat, Kito de Pavant's Bastide Otio is still in the yard. Kito won't be competing in the transatlantic races, as he has decided to do a lot of work on his boat, which won't be relaunched until late May, meaning he will be able to take part in the Giraglia in June.
The same strategy (no transatlantic races, but a lot of work in the yard) is being applied by Louis Burton, who is travelling around France to present his project. His Bureau Vallée is being smartened up until June at BG Race in St-Malo.

More than one transatlantic race
To better understand what is going on with 200 days to go to the start of the Vendée Globe, we need to look at their race programmes, as some still need to complete their qualification for the Everest of the seas. That explains why so many are registered for the New York-Vendée race, which will leave the Big Apple on 29th May with no fewer than 18 IMOCAs competing. To take part, they first need to cross the Atlantic to get there… Some are carrying out delivery trips, allowing them to test and adjust their boats. Others are in race mode on their way to the United States, via the two solo transatlantic races: The Transat Bakerly, which starts from Plymouth on 2nd May after a prologue in Saint-Malo this week and the new "Calero Solo Transat", between the Canaries and Newport.

Already racing across the Atlantic
In the sunshine in the Canaries, Alex Thomson and the team around the new Hugo Boss have set up their winter quarters in Puerto Calero. They are taking advantage of the exceptional conditions to train and optimise their foiling VPLP-Verdier designed boat. After arriving there on 9th April, the British team took advantage to greet the sailors, who set off on the first "Calero Solo Transat" to Newport: Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Alan Roura (Un Vendée pour la Suisse). These two boats set off on 12th April, while Sébastien Destremau's FaceOcean set sail three days later on Friday. The three boats risk being separated throughout the race, as Pieter Heerema, way out in front for the moment, has opted for the North, while Alan Roura has gone the opposite way heading due south down the coast of Africa… A huge difference in opinion. Pieter Heerema and Sébastien Destremau are registered for the New-York Vendée, while Alan Roura has not yet taken a decision, but it remains a possibility.

A delivery trip and race for The Transat
For the six sailors competing in The Transat in the IMOCA class, it's time for the delivery trip to get to Plymouth for the start on 2nd May. While Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) saw the clock ticking and will be heading directly from Brittany to Plymouth and the British sailor Richard Tolkien and his 44 are already there, the other three competitors began their delivery trip in race mode yesterday. The Finistère offshore training centre came up with a start line for them to put them under race conditions from Concarneau Bay to St-Malo, where the prologue will take place for The Transat. So the fight is on already in strong NE'ly winds between Vincent Riou's PRB and the two new foilers, Jean-Pierre Dick's St Michel-Virbac and Armel Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire VIII.
While he is not competing in The Transat, Jérémie Beyou also decided to take part in this race exercise with his Maître Coq. These four boats are due to reach St-Malo on Wednesday evening after around twenty hours of sailing, which is bound to teach them a lot.
The Transat will also be a real battle with two of the top traditional IMOCAs, PRB and SMA, up against three new generation foilers: Banque Populaire, Edmond de Rothschild and St Michel-Virbac. This race is also a qualifier for the Vendée Globe, but in itself it is a legendary race, which they will want to shine in, as some other Vendée Globe heroes did in the past - Philippe Poupon, Michel Desjoyeaux and Loïck Peyron on three occasions.

See you in New York
Between the Calero Solo and The Transat, nine Vendée Globe hopefuls will be crossing the Atlantic from East to West to moor up at the foot of the skyscrapers in Manhattan to await the start of the New York-Vendée (Les Sables). Others, already out there training will be delivered there directly. That is the case for example for Morgan Lagravière and his new Safran, Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss and Jérémie Beyou's Maître CoQ. The same goal of training and fine tuning during this delivery trip to New York is hared by Tanguy de Lamotte aboard his Initiatives Cœur, Fabrice Amedeo and his Newrest-Matmut, Nandor Fa's Spirit of Hungary and Conrad Colman. The same goes for Yann Eliès, who will be setting off with a short-handed crew on Groupe Quéginer (with three aboard) and Bertrand de Broc with his MACSF, which is also registered for the New York-Vendée, which is proving to be very popular. With no fewer than 18 boats registered, this will be the last big battle and the final major fleet race before the Vendée Globe.

Elsewhere in Europe
To finish, some other candidate are working on their preparation for the Vendée Globe. The Catalan sailor, Didac Costa, for example, has just relaunched his boat in Barcelona. He will be setting out to complete his 1500 mile qualifier in the coming days. As for the American, Rich Wilson, he is in Britain preparing his Great American IV. As for the French, Romain Attanasio has just returned after six days of solo sailing in tricky conditions on his Sixième Océan. Next up, he will weigh the boat, carry out the righting test and continue to search forn partners to complete his budget. With a similar problem, Jean le Cam and a few other sailors are also busy looking for sponsors. They all have one goal: to qualify as quickly as they can to be in the best of shape for the start in Les Sables d'Olonne on 6th November. So in 200 days from now!

Published in Vendee Globe
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The SMA 60 recovered 100 miles off the Irish coast three weeks ago has been undergoing repairs afloat in the County Cork harbour of Kinsale. The team have been making the round the world yacht seaworthy again and despite of damage to its mechanical propulsion system, the 60–footer is ready to sail again with a new sail wardrobe.

Since Paul Meilhat was airlifted off SMA on 15th December, during the transatlantic Race in which Ireland's Enda O'Coineen finished third, the IMOCA class yacht drifted up from the Azores to Ireland over the past twenty days, during which the SMA team attempted several recovery operations, in spite of some horrendous weather.

The French led recovery crew plan to depart Kinsale for the French port of Port La Forêt next week.

Published in Kinsale
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With SMA now abandoned from fourth place the breakaway group forming the vanguard of the IMOCA fleet is lead by Banque Populaire VIII which is just over 20 miles ahead of PRB, Vincent Riou and Seb Col with Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir, Yann Elies and Charlie Dalin at 36 miles behind. Then there is a 280 miles gap back to Ruyant and Hardy. Bellion and Goodchild are ninth with 11 of the 20 starters still actively racing in the direction of Brasil.

In Class 40 the leaders are lengthening their stride too, Le Conservateur now 56 miles ahead of V and B but the top four boats are still within 100 miles of each other.

But, perhaps contrary to some expectations, the closest match on the race course is the duel between the two leaders, Sodebo Ultim' and Macif. Since 0430hrs this morning they have been pacing each other at near identical speeds 27-28kts, making around 530 mile days. Francois Gabart and Pascal Bidegorry still have the upper hand, five miles up on Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nelias.

The attrition rate continues:

* Hugo Boss crew helicoptered to safety

Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill, skippers of yacht HUGO BOSS in the Transat Jacques Vabre set off their emergency beacon this afternoon at 13.25UT. The Spanish Coastguard was informed and sent a rescue helicopter to their location 82 nautical miles from the Spanish coast.

Update: Alex Thomson and his team are back onboard HUGO BOSS which is now in a stable situation. Alex's IMOCA 60 is undergoing the necessary checks in order to tow her back to La Coruna, Spain.

* Technical problem on board the Ultim Actual

At 0400hrs UTC Friday morning, Yves le Blevec, skipper of the Ultim Actual and his co-skipper Jean-Baptiste Vaillant, informed the Race Management of the Transat Jacques Vabre that they have technical problems. Actual was sailing in manageable conditions, reaching in 20-25 knots at the latitude of Gibraltar.

Actual now route towards the European mainland making a speed of 7 knots in a W -SW'ly wind. Both co-skippers are well.

* Technical problem aboard Adopteunskipper.net

Nicolas Boidevezi , skipper of the IMOCA 60 Adopteunskipper.net competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2015, has told his shore team they have a technical problem with the bottom of the starboard running backstay . The safety of the two skippers is not compromised right now . Nicolas and co-skipper Ryan Breymaier (USA) head towards a haven. The problem occurred as the boat was in 12th position after four days and a half of racing.

* Technical stop in Madeira for JP Dick and Fabien Delahaye.

Jean-Pierre Dick and Fabien Delahaye contacted their team to report two structural ribs have broken in the front of the boat by the middle of the sail locker. The duo aboard St-Michel Virbac are now routing towards Madeira.

* Creno - Moustache Solidaire en route to Spain

Following the breakage of a starboard spreader, Thibault Hector and Morgan Launay have secured their rig and decided to sail to Spain to make a repair. In a sustained wind of 30-35 knots SW'ly and high sea, a stainless fitting broke but the crew was able to quickly change tack to save the rig. But as the wind is veering NW Creno Moustache-Solidaire will be able to make a course towards La Coruna and Vigo in the next hours. The duo expects to quickly repair to return to the course.

* Eric Holden and Morgen Watson, O Canada, are heading to Vigo, Spain

Since yesterday Eric Holden and Morgen Watson have been struggling with a damaged mast track on O Canada. They are heading to Vigo, Spain where they hope to fix the problem.

* Spirit of Hungary (IMOCA 60) dismasted

This afternoon a little after 1700hrs UTC the IMOCA 60 Spirit of Hungary was dismasted while they were 65 Nm north of the island Madeira. They were in 15 knots of northwest wind. Nandor Fa and Peter Perenyi are well and warned the Race Direction they are on their way under engine to Madeira.

* Arthur Hubert and Valentin Lemarchand on the Class40 SNBSM Espoir Competition expect to make a pit stop in Madeira. They duo are now missing a part of the mainsail mast track which was ripped off. And so that prevents them from being able to hoist their mainsail above the second reef. They will have to take a minimum break of 12 hours in Madeira, according to Class40 class rules before they can resume racing after making repairs.

Published in Offshore
To the south of Ireland, on an isolated rock some five miles from land, the Fastnet Lighthouse is a mythical mark for the world's sailors. Created in 1925, the Rolex Fastnet Race brings together this summer 323 boats measuring between 10 and 40 metres, including six 60-foot IMOCA monohulls. Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès will be at the start on Safran at 1 p.m on 14th August as they prepare for the Transat Jacques Vabre...

There have never been as many entrants before for what is one of the world's oldest races. 323 crews will be setting out from the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes (Isle of Wight-GB) with a finish in Plymouth after rounding the Irish lighthouse and completing the 608 miles of the race course, in what are often windy conditions. The Fastnet, built in 1854 on the Carraig Aonar, the lone rock in Gaelic, was the final part of the European coast that the emigrants saw as they made their way to the United States in steamers... Organised every other year in odd years by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race is the 44th edition of the race, with the record time of 1d 20h 18' held by the monohull ICAL Leopard since 2007...

Time to practice

For Safran which has just completed a training period in La Trinité-sur-Mer after smashing the Round Britain and Ireland record, the Rolex Fastnet Race is above all a taster before the main event of the season, the Transat Jacques Vabre: "The five other IMOCA 60 boats will be racing double-handed, so this is a good way to see how we can do against the latest generation like PRB, Cheminées Poujoulat, Virbac-Paprec3, but also Hugo Boss and DCNS 1000. After our training in La Trinité-sur-Mer, we needed a complete change with a technical course with a range of wind, sea and tidal conditions," explained Marc Guillemot, who arrived on the Isle of Wight on Wednesday.

The 608-mile course tests not only performance capabilities on coastal courses, but also the sailors' abilities in an ocean race. It requires a lot of preparation as well as a good speed potential. "The start is to take place with a North-westerly wind blowing between 10 and 15 knots with squalls likely in the Channel Approaches. In the Celtic Sea, a front should be passing over before the Fastnet Lighthouse and then there are likely to be high-pressure conditions becoming established with an easterly wind accompanying them all the way to the finish in Plymouth. The race will essentially be an upwind affair in moderate winds locally reaching 15-20 knots... They can look forward to at least two days at sea," explained Sylvain Mondon of Météo France.

Finding their feet

Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès know 60-foot IMOCA boats and double-handed sailing well, having already sailed together in these difficult and sometimes rough seas. That was the case in the Solitaire du Figaro, at the finish or start of transatlantic races and indeed during the Round Britain and Ireland trip. "The Rolex Fastnet Race is a rehearsal for us, a mock exam, a chance to try some double-handed racing. As Safran is a demanding boat and this year's race looks like being rather rough, it means it is going to be similar to what we can expect at the start of the transatlantic race with the exit from the Channel and the voyage across the Bay of Biscay. I raced in this event in 2007 sailing double-handed: it was my first chance to get to know IMOCA 60 sailing and it was an excellent way to rehearse. The course itself is something we know well having taken part in the Solitaire du Figaro: The Fastnet Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful sights from the sea there is in Europe..." explained Yann Eliès.

In the middle of the choppy waters of the Solent, the stretch of water separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland, more than 300 boats will be setting off with a series of starts scheduled from 1200 hrs local time on 14th August. Safran and the five other Imoca 60 boats taking part will quickly be out there with the serious stuff facing the opposition: Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès will have to find their feet very quickly ...

Published in Fastnet

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