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Jean-Pierre Nicol slips through into Figaro Lead

8th August 2011
Jean-Pierre Nicol slips through into Figaro Lead
There has been plenty of action in the first 24 hours of racing on the second leg of La Solitaire du Figaro from Caen to Dún Laoghaire, Dublin.  Jean-Pierre Nicol, racing on board Bernard Controls moves into the lead following the bold decision to race in close to shore through the rocky area round the Cherbourg peninsula this morning, whilst David Sineau (Britanie Cosmetiques) is forced to abandon the race as a result of the damage suffered after hitting the rocks close to Barfleur.  Twenty to twenty five knots of established breeze from the West, North-West continues to propel the fleet on the upwind slog across the English Channel towards Land's End, the next point of passage, where the leaders are expected late Monday and early hours of Tuesday morning.

Soon after Sunday's start the fleet was hit by a strong squall which left Louis Maurice Tannyères (St. Ericsson) with a ripped genoa and the accompanying French Naval Patrol ship, PSP Cormoran salvaging some drifting paddlers and holidaying fisherman from being swept out into the Channel. Overnight the solo sailors covered the first 120 miles from Caen across the Cotentin coastline, round the Cherbourg peninsula and down between Sark and Hern to round Guernsey a relatively strong 25 knots of wind, gusting 35.  Local knowledge of the tricky tidal currents and rocky seaboard came in handy as the fleet negotiated the complicated passages; Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) being the boldest to sail on the inside of the Gros du Raz lighthouse through a very narrow channel in rough seas.  The gamble paid off to give him a mile advantage over the chasing pack.

Fourteen miles now separate the fleet laterally, with Eric Peron (Macif 2009, 17th and 2.6 miles from the leader) positioned furthest out to the West and Sam Goodchild (Artemis, 36th and 5.4 miles from the leader) out on the Eastern side.  Average boat speeds have slowed to just over 6 knots as they make headway to Land's End.  "We have clear blue skies this afternoon with a swell and choppy seas, 20 to 25 knots of established breeze " described Jacques Caraës, the Race Director from the sea. "I imagine that now is the time for the solo sailors to try and get some rest in, let the autopilot do its job for a bit in the upwind conditions.  There will be one more tack to realign and pass round Land's End which we should reach late tonight or early hours of the morning Tuesday", he continues.

Jérémie Beyou (BPI), Frédéric Duthil (Sepalumic), the rookie sailor Morgan Lagravière (Vendée),  in 4th,  Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat), Eric Drouglazet (Luisina), Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert), and a list that reads like the Who's Who of Figaro sailing race are within a few hundred yards of each other as they continue to make inroads on the 290 miles that remain to the finish in Dún Laoghaire.  Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) is the first British sailor, currently lying in 15th place and just 2.2 miles from the leader.  Anthony Marchand (Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Espoir), who reported a non-functioning autopilot shortly after the start, holds to 28th with a 4.3 mile deficit. With twelve miles now separating the leader from the trailing boat, Sébastien Picault on Kickers, the time gap under the current 6 knots of average boat speed, builds to two hours.

The 40 strong members of the shore operations and race management have arrived to Dun Laoghaire's National Yacht Club to prepare for the arrival of the 46 skippers expected on Wednesday 10th of August.

Quotes from the skippers at sea:
Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) – leading on the 16:00 position report rankings: "It has gone well for me so far: the first part of this leg was important off Cherbourg when I had to come in close to shore to shelter from the tidal currents.  Then I went through the rocky are, which was pretty hairy.  I just stayed below deck and used the autopilot and concentrated on watching the nav screen to get through the narrow passage.  I did not want to be outside, it was too frightening!  Now we are pretty much all on a port tack.  It feels good being in the leading position, lets hope it lasts!
This afternoon, we are making progress with the wind to the left (west) and in the coming hours, we should have a new rotation to the right (Northwest). We are expected to reach Land's End (tip of England) in the night or early morning ... "

Anthony Marchand (British Espoir Crédit Mutuel) – limiting the damage: "I have had a few problems which started just outside Ouistreham.  Firstly it was no electronics whatsoever.  I have basically been stuck at the help since the start.  The inshore start racing with the spinnaker was not easy at all in the waves.  Then the night was difficult because I had no wind information.  But all that is old news now.  I have to limit the damage and keep the time deficit down to a minimum.  Now I have changed to the solent jib, which means that there are 25 knots and it is shaking out here!"

Eric Drouglazet (Luisina) – in sixth place and 0.4 miles from the leader: "These are my kind of conditions and it was nice to go race in through the rocky area.  We did that for the Tour de France à la Voile, but there, all alone with the screen on your knees, it's quite something to be right in the middle of the rocks and race round inside the lighthouse at La Hague. But then at night, you see nothing, so there is less fear!  Since then, I have put the solent jib on and I have managed three short naps. Currently we are on a port tack.  No glitches to report on board: it's pretty good and normal, but then conditions should ease off a little.  The only real issue is the seaweed which you have to keep clearing from the rudders.

Published in Figaro
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The Solitaire du Figaro, was originally called the course de l’Aurore until 1980, was created in 1970 by Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault.

Half a decade later, the race has created some of France's top offshore sailors, and it celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new boat equipped with foils and almost 50 skippers Including novices, aficionados and six former winners.

The solo multi-stage offshore sailing race is one of the most cherished races in French sailing and one that has had Irish interest stretching back over 20 years due to the number of Irish stopovers, usually the only foreign leg of the French race.

The race has previously called to Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

In 2013 Royal Cork's David Kenefick raised the bar by becoming a top rookie sailor in the race

In 2018, for the first time Ireland will have two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who join the rookie ranks and keep the Irish tricolour flying high in France. 

The 2019 course is more Than 2,000 miles between Nantes, Kinsale (Ireland), Roscoff and Dieppe and is the longest in the race's history.

 

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

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