Following a general recall which really underlined how competitive and keyed up the 46 strong fleet was to get under way, the 460 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro started this afternoon from Roscoff on the famous Bay of Morlaix in the north of Brittany.
After some early disappointments, Irish solo skipper Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) is hoping the course which is much more confined will offer him the opportunity to post his best result so far of the four-stage race.
Stage 3, Roscoff to Roscoff, started in 12-15 knots of SW’ly wind which proved perfect for the initial 10 miles circuit on the bay. With thousands of spectators watching in one of the crucibles of French solo offshore racing, the home waters of Vendée Globe winner Armel Le Cléac’h, the first 10-mile circuit was fast and intense.
The challenging course comprises a loop across the Channel to Hands Deep mark by the Eddystone Lighthouse and down to the west of the point of Brittany before a 40-mile leg to finish back to Roscoff. A succession of tidal gates, especially at the Alderney race tomorrow, may divide the fleet. The race finishes back in Roscoff on Wednesday afternoon, perhaps evening.
Dolan said on the dock in the Blocson port before he left "It looks complicated. This is a potentially difficult stage. But the good thing is that the weather files we received this morning show some more wind than we saw yesterday. So we should be a bit quicker on this first leg across to Videocoq mark at Granville, when the tide will turn. Then we have to go play in the rocks to stay out of the tidal current. The most complicated bit will probably be the passage of the raz Blanchard (the Alderney race between the Channel island point de la Hague) where you really have to get there with the tide, otherwise we can expect huge gaps to open up.”
Having been careful to bank as much sleep as possible these last three days and night in Roscoff Dolan added, “It will be a long time before we will get the chance to sleep, really not until we are across the Channel. Until then it will be really full on and you will need to stay alert. I have been in the position on Stage 1 where I made a mistake because I was just waking up, so I need to guard against that. It is a hell of a battle this race but I can’t wait to be out there again.”
Race tracking here