Race Director Francis Le Goff commented this morning from on board the monitoring catamaran the ‘Etoile’ shadowing near the fleet on the first period of Stage 1 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, “The fleet is just a little ahead of the (predicted) routing. The only thing is the breakages which we are sorry for. But, except for Nathalie Criou, the fleet is still in a good sized group which – in terms of us keeping an eye on everyone is good news. And the fact that no one passed south of the TSS (forbidden shipping lane area). It is not surprising to see Charlie Dalin, Seb Simon or Alexis Loison at the front after they all made average starts. That really is and an indication of their ambition and their ability. Alan Roberts has proven he is fit and in the match. The big question which we will see answered in the next 12 hours is what the choices will be as the wind drops away (with the return of high pressure, and summer!). It will be complicated all the way to Wolf Rock.”
"I had been under heavy spinnaker for a mile or two in distance and we were just passing the Radio France Buoy and I heard a thud"
Thomas Dolan (IRL) Smurfit Kappa this morning in Le Havre: What happened exactly? TD: "I had been under heavy spinnaker for a mile or two in distance and we were just passing the Radio France Buoy and I heard a thud. It was not a normal thud and straight away you have that feeling inside. I did think straight away about the spreader and had Lois right beside me and so I shouted 'Is my spreader OK?' He looked and said it was OK. And then I saw the leeward shroud (which holds the mast up) banging around. It did not sink in. But automatically to save the mast like, I dropped the sails and tied on a couple of halyards. Then it settled in for me. It took a while to realise the leg is over. I rang Francis Le Goff( Race Direction) and said 'here how does it work, can I fix and go on?' and he said 'Afraid not because you have passed the Radio France buoy. You can't go back. And so I had a bit of a cry about that. As soon as I dropped the job there was a lump of metal dropped on to the deck. I thought 'that's it' I can't fix it. I took the seal off the engine and that is it.
How did you feel then and now, the morning after? It is weird to come back into the village with all the flags being taken down. It is the first time it has happened to me. I did my first race in 2012 and have sailed the equivalent of a lap of the world at least, and have never had to give up. I broke a rudder one year in the Mini Fastnet but still finished. I guess if you do so many miles over the years it is going to happen, but on the first leg of your first Solitaire, it's hard to take.
The Rookie podium may be gone then? I guess so. That is a one-shot thing. It is more or less cooked. I will head off this evening with Eric Delamare (Region Normandie). It is such a pity for us Gildas Mahé (retired into Cowes with broken spreader too) was my coach for a while and Fred (Duthil) helped me out with sails a while ago, and so for us, all to drop out is hard to take.
What's the plan? I will head off this evening with Eric for a little leisurely sail to Saint Brieuc.
It is more frustrating because you were going well with a decent start? "I was going well, I was happy with my speed. And I saved all my sails.
Does it make it better or worse to know there are other good guys dropped out of Leg 1? Worse probably, I am quite close to them so it is worse. Gildas was almost first and has had a tough few years. He deserves much better.