If the first stage of the Sardinha Cup, the first offshore races for the Figaro Beneteau 3, proved to be something of a gentle baptism, the 405 nautical miles second stage which starts this Tuesday afternoon at 1600hrs local time, should be a much more complete test of boat handling, speed, strategic choices and stamina.
Ireland’s Figaro duo Tom Dolan and Damian Foxall, co-skippers of Smurfit Kappa, are relishing the next challenge. Well rested and debriefed after their 13th on the short first stage, the duo feel they have a good handle on what will be key on this stage.
The course is expected to last around 48-50 hours, starting and finishing off Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie on the French Atlantic Vendée coast. If light winds marked the opening stage which was shortened because of the calms, this leg will see the 33 duos make a high speed downwind run off the start line in 25-30kts of wind to turn at the entrance to the Saint Nazaire channel at the entrance to the Gironde estuary (by Bordeauz) is followed by a long 150 nautical miles upwind return to turn off the Glénan.
“This will be our first real test in breeze and we are raring to go. It looks like it will be a long, fast night. It will be good to be double-handed for this leg in this breeze as if something goes wrong the other pair of hands can keep you in the game. It will be fast and it will be wet. And cold. This is polar air coming in so at least downwind tonight it might not be so cold.” Said Tom Dolan as he and Foxall prepared to dock out from the pretty Vendée haven renowned for its sardines.
“We were going well through the first leg. We had speed upwind and were good until we made that little mistake. The wind did come in from the east so our strategy was good, we just went too far and were too early for it.” Dolan recalled.
He explains: “The key tonight will be when and if to gybe and that will be determined by a shift coming through which we will need to monitor very closely, and also to keep a very close eye on what we see the fleet are doing. Spinnaker choice and handling will be important. The on the upwind, another crucial decision will be a left shift which looks like it could determine the lay line to the finish and that will be around four or five on Thursday morning, just when we might be at our tiredest, before dawn on the last morning. Lovely!”
This will be the first big downwind ever for the whole fleet and Dolan anticipates that this may be key to the race. Sail choice will be key, between the Code Zero, A4 and A2 spinnakers, going for maximum power but still being able to survive the bullet cold fronts coming through.
“In general when the foil is humming you are fast, so you focus on that. The boat has much more feel and is much more fun than its predecessor and that will make a difference through the night tonight.”
And Dolan feels he is profiting from his partnership with the hugely experienced Foxall.
“I know we Irish are always cool calm and collected on all boats, but Damian is a very cool customer when it gets difficult, his experience really shows and it is great to see how to stay calm and work things out rather than getting in a flap.” Dolan concludes.