The pewter grey skies cleared briefly to let some bright sun through to spotlight the first Figaro on the horizon and reveal the breakaway leader of the 46 solo sailors competing on the second of four legs that make up La Solitaire du Figaro race. The second leg, 440 miles from Caen to Dún Laoghaire close to Dublin on the East coast of Ireland, set off last Sunday and took just over 65 hours for the winner to complete. Jérémie Beyou (BPI), blew his spinnaker in the shifty breeze just a couple of miles from the finish, but had been surfing downwind at a blistering average of 14 knots, whilst keeping a close eye on his pursuers as he helmed his boat to victory at 10:15 in the morning. The successful and experienced French solo sailor, averaged 6.7 knots over the 65 hours and 25 minutes and 16 seconds. He was both jubilant and exhausted upon arrival.
Nicolas Lunven sailing on Generali from France was just under 20 minutes later in second place with Adrien Hardy on Agir Recouvrement finishing third a further 18 minutes astern. Members of the National Yacht Club, international visiting media, and support shore crew welcomed the skippers on the arrival pontoon with champagne to celebrate. Rookie, or first time participant to complete the gruelling race was Morgan Lagravière in an impressive 6th.
The four British entries, was headed by Phil Sharp on Spirit of Independence in 23rd, just over an hour behind the leader then Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) in 32nd, Sam Goodchild, the youngest skipper at just 21, Sam Goodchild was 33rd in Artemis, and Conrad Humphreys (DMS) in 40th just over two hours behind the winner. Francisco Lobato on Roff, who comes from Portugal, finished in 28th place.
The race was really tough and the conditions, with upwind sailing though squalls, strong tidal currents and rocky channels at the start, were truly demanding. But the adrenaline rush come back for the downwind overnight reach up the Irish Sea to the finish.
All 46 competitors remain in Dún Laoghaire Harbour until the start of leg three on Sunday 14th of August: 475 miles from Dublin to Les Sables d'Olonne in France.
Jérémie Beyou (BPI) – winner in Dún Laoghaire after 440 miles racing from Caen: "Oh my, it feels good to get to the finish line... and in first. I've worked a lot for this race and sometimes it just pays off. It's not easy to be in front and stay there. All in all I feel very happy. Winning is something magical, impossible to explain what you feel, it's just great. It was a though one, squalls at the start and at the finish...it looked like it was going to last forever. The wind on the last part was coming in from all over the place, shifting continuously. My big spinnaker just exploded in the final miles of the race, but then I guess it was taking its revenge as I treated it so badly! And the boat too, I reckon Fanch (his shore team ed. note) is going to be busy with the repairs. Last night there were three of us, Nico Lunven, Erwan Tabarly and myself sailing side by side... I really took the gamble by going along the coast on the most direct route, not an easy decision to sail so close to the Irish coastline. We all knew it was going to be a hard race. I was the first one to hoist the spinnaker yesterday, the others were waiting and I said to myself: Go Beyou, you can do it! I did not sleep much on the first night and on the first day either. It was impossible, but I had some rest on the second one, sailing along under the southern British coastline towards Lands End. O would not quite call what I had sleep; it was more like a few siestas on deck to keep an eye on Erwan Tabarly.
Morgan Lagravière (Vendée) sixth and first rookie to finish in Dún Laoghaire 41 minutes and 59 seconds behind the winner: "It's been the toughest leg I've ever sailed. Three hard days and nights in strong wind and choppy sea and not progressing much... I can't say it was fun, I wanted to sail well but it was also frightening, downwind with 35 knots! It was not easy to keep the boat going straight. I'm obviously happy with my result but I need to rest, eat and take a break, think about something different. Honestly,. I'm glad to get into the game, these are very special and interesting races, but they're so tough! It was hard since the very start in Caen and then I was helming all the time. At the finish, when you are already tired, it's not easy to sail under spinnaker in 30 knots, boats surfing at 18: amazing! One realizes that it is so easy to fall overboard, when the boat is rocking and jumping. I've started this project with Vendée and I would do anything to race well, even if it's cold, the food is awful, no sleep and you end up totally exhausted. It's nice to be back ashore and put things into perspective: I'm more experienced now and I got a good result."
Francisco Lobato (ROFF) from Portugal finishes 28th and 1 hour 46 minutes and 26 seconds behind the winner: "This second leg was not much better than the first one. I started well, but then almost all my options were not right and I kept loosing ground on the leaders. Between Land's End and the St George Channel I decided to go East, it didn't pay off... Only on the final downwind part, while approaching the finish, I managed to climb back some ten/twelve places by staying more inshore. I can't say I'm happy with the result."
Phil Sharp (Spirit of Independence) – first Briton to finish in Dún Laoghaire: « It was a hard race, it was very testing in certain places but they were actually very exciting and enjoyable conditions. I hit a particularly good set of waves and I was just Surfing along at 18knots for about half a minute. Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable, we're all insane! »
Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) and Sam Goodchild (Artemis) were fighting neck-and-neck for much of the leg: "We had a chat last night, we were close enough to talk to each other! I've had a better leg than last leg but I didn't sail the first eighteen hours very well. I don't know what's going on, I lost a lot of time in the first twenty-four hours and then spend the rest of the race trying to figure out how to recover."
Conrad Humphreys (DMS) decided to stay to the right fleet to avoid an area of high pressure initially forecast, but now questions that decision: "I realised I'd made a mistake by not crossing over to the Irish coast early enough but I'm happy, we've got here in one piece and I'm still in very close contention with the rest of the pack, so that's the most important thing. I love Ireland and I'm sure there's a very good pint of Guinness waiting for me!"
Sam Godchild (Artemis) whose decision to tack early upon rounding the Channel Islands: "That was a bad idea, I got my timings wrong. There were three big tactical decisions, the first two I made were wrong which was disappointing and I think I could have done better in this leg. The third was ok and I made up for a lot of time lost after Land's End."