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Sign up for this mornung's e-bulletin (see past editions here) for all the weekend's Irish sailing news, pics and results straight to your inbox.

This morning's edition includes photos and pics from Sunday's Figaro departure from Dun Laoghaire and the Rick Tomlinson's pics of the start of the Fastnet race from Cowes. Derry-Londonderry is on her way to Rio in the Clipper race. Regrettably there was no Gold, Silver or Bronze from Weymouth but we're in a strong position. See our video with Annalise here. Plus: The Topper Worlds at the National YC, John Lavery's win at the Flying fifteen South coast champs in Dunmore East, the J24 Nationals from Lough Erne, A local pair whitewashed the RS Feva Nationals in Cork Harbour, some great shots from Bob Bateman. The Oppy Nationals start in Howth and Afloat's Sailor of the Month for July Martin Byrne retained the Dragon Nationals in Kinsale. There's also the full weekend results from Dublin Bay SC.

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Published in Racing

Just 8 hours after National Yacht Club Commodore Paul Barrington bade farewell to the 47 brave Solitaire sailors starting their gruelling 420 mile sail back to France, he was raising the curtain on the Sovereign Ski Topper World Championship – one of the world's big sailing event for the professional sailors of the future.
The Figaro stopover was a great success – capturing the imagination of the visitors, the town and the thousands of locals who visited the ships, shops, and fireworks attached to the event.
The tight changeover from Figaro to Toppers was a challenge to the National Yacht Club organizing committee – but there were some great benefits as event Chairman Margaret Kneafsey explained:
" Friday night there was a wonderful fireworks display and festivities put on by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council – but by 7am on Saturday morning the marquee was cleared and taken down so the Topper competitors could take up their places. It has been very inspiring for the young sailors (all under 18) to see the professionalism of the Figaro race and the exciting lives professional sailors can lead."
Margaret and her large team of volunteers have been delighted to have 180 entries including the five young sailors who have travelled from Korea and sampled Dublin Bay waters for the first time yesterday ( Sunday) .
"It has given them some flavour for the currents and tides in Dublin bay, before the start of the qualifying races for the championship finals which will start today ( Monday)" said Margaret.
Today's ( Monday) qualifying races will be a an amazing blaze of colour across Dublin Bay with all 180 boats lining up for 3 races. Following the same tomorrow the fleet will split in silver and gold fleets and continue the white heat of final competition for 3 days and 8 races until World Champion emerges on Friday afternoon.

Published in Topper
At precisely 12:00 on Sunday 14th August, the Race Committee fired the start signal of the third leg of the Solitaire du Figaro, 477 miles from Dún Laoghaire to Les Sables d'Olonne, as public crowded the pier to wave goodbye to the sailors and dozens of boats enjoyed the show. But soon the sunny, warm, pleasant conditions sunny gave way to the rain, wind gusts and a roulette game for the 46 skippers.

Who thought that the most thrilling part of the third leg would be the finish? It's maybe too soon to tell, but clearly the 8 mile long inshore course and the following run along the green Irish cliffs delivered enough surprises for a whole leg, with continuous changes at the top.

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The fleet depart Dun Laoghaire in a rain shower. Photo : Courcoux/Marmara. More Photos on the gallery here

This morning on the pontoons of Dun Laoghaire, an unusual fatigue marked the sailors' faces, as everyone talked about the latest weather forecast. The hint was "be wary" of the apparent simplicity of the 477 miles to Les Sables. And wary they had to be since the very first minutes of the inshore race the situation appeared to be not the simplest one.

In extremely tricky conditions, breeze shifting, coming from all directions and going from 5 to 15 knots in a matter of seconds, it was hard for the sailors to "read" on the water where the next puff was going to come from and going from the top to the bottom of the fleet was just a question of not be stuck in a bubble of light air.

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Photo: Michael Chester

At the Radio France mark a trio formed by Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham), Vincent Biarnes (Prati'Bûches) and Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire) had a huge lead on the rest of the fleet, but then shortly later everything changed dramatically. As confirmed by Jeanne Gregoire's word: "For once I started well but now I'm trailing at the back of the fleet. It's a mess but you have to have fun anyway...When I was going downwind under spinnaker to the Radio France mark, I crossed Isa (Isabelle Joschke) and I told her: don't  worry there is always the CLS ranking. I had two or three miles lead on her but she just flew past me... Now I've got 25 knots and two minutes ago I had 2!"

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Photo: Michael Chester

According to the latest position report, at 16:00 it was Portuguese Francisco Lobato (ROFF) to have a slight advantage on experienced Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and on overall leaderboard leader Jérémie Beyou (BPI). First British skipper was reported to be young Sam Goodchild (Artemis) in fourteenth position and third in the special newcomers' "rookie" standing, chased by Jersey based Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence), also racing his first Solitaire du Figaro. Conrad Humphreys (DMS) was in 21st position while Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) in 42nd.

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Photo: Michael Chester

Up to the next mark at Wolf Rock (at the tip of Cornwall), that is to say over the next 180 miles, it is likely that the fleet will keep on sailing on a long starboard tack and positioning oneself well on the course will be key.

But, for now it's impossible to say who will take the best option. The answer will only be known tomorrow, around noon, when the sailors will be approaching the Scilly Islands.

Skippers' quotes

Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham): "An Irish kind of start..."
"Another Irish kind of start... Actually it's like starting all it over again. We had light wind, current, rainstorms. It's not so funny, I'm no longer in the lead. I hope this is going to settle and the wind stops to do the yo-yo, as long as we're we're sailing leeward of the Irish coast you have to get what you get."

Vincent Biarnes (Prati'Bûches): "Now it is gone"
"The breeze has been increasing since we passed the Radio France mark. Fabien and I we had such a lead, but now, it is gone. The wind turned so quickly, could not manage to take the spinnaker down and the boat was going her own way! It's very shifty and the air coming down the cliffs is strong and gusty. Fabien overtook me just before the mark, he got a better puff and jumped ahead, no more than ten seconds enough to cross the line in front of me."

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Photo: Michael Chester

Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) on the eve of the start commented:
"I'm quite pleased for how things are going actually. It's great to be up there with the front group, I've had a bit of a heck just before the finish of the last leg, lost lots of places there but I'm very confident on how things have gone. I'll try and keep it going, hopefully finish in the top ten another couple of times, it would be very nice. Keep things clean, that's what we have to do in this race. Keep the pace and be consistent, make the right decision make sure you don't burn yourself up for the finish. We're probably going to have south westerly so it's going to be reaching or close reaching, not much chance to use our spinnaker, not until we get to Brittany, and it's going to be tactical all the way. Some very interesting choices to make and particularly when we look at the time we will be approaching the raz de Sein which are crucial points to go around. That tack could change everything in the race, if you make a mistake there it can be very costly. Hopefully the tide will be with us, otherwise we won't be moving very quickly. I think you have to do a strategy to minimize the risk. I'm going to go for speed but keep risk very light. It's just not all or nothing. Having yourself in the top ten near the finish and making sensible decision to keep in there... Better than going for a wild strategy early on and then find yourself in the back of the fleet and be forced to make up two hours."

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Photo: Michael Chester

Sam Goodchild (Artemis)
"Looks like there will be less wind so it will be more racing than survival. That should be good, hopefully we keep moving all the time, but it's not guaranteed at the moment. I've got my spinnakers back. I don't really know why they keep breaking. We've reinforced everything we know that might break it and we've just got to try not to break them through Leg 3. I've learned a lot about management in the previous leg, learning about yourself, the boat, how to go fast, get the right way, it's a steep learning curve. Generally it's enjoyable, it's up and downs, you try to enjoy it, sailing is what I want to do so...."

Published in Figaro
Sign up for Monday's Afloat e-bulletin (see past editions here) for all this weekend's Irish sailing news, pics and results straight to your inbox.

Monday's edition includes photos and pics from Sunday's Figaro departure from Dun Laoghaire and the start of the Fastnet race from Cowes. Will it be Gold, Silver or Bronze from Weymouth? How will Peter, David and Annalise end up at the Pre-Olympics? Plus: The Topper Worlds at the National YC, Flying fifteen South coast champs in Dunmore East, the J24 Nationals from Lough Erne, Teens battle for the RS Feva Nationals in Cork Harbour,  the Cove People's Regatta, The Oppy Nationals at Howth and the Dragon Nationals from Kinsale. There's also the full results from Dublin Bay SC and Howth.

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Published in Racing
The 46 skippers are profiting from the quiet and relaxed atmosphere in Dún Laoghaire to recover from a very tough second leg. Each has his or her own way of recharging the batteries... a massage, a pint of Guinness, some shots on the green, a little jazz or a rugby match on TV...

Not many Solitaire skippers were on the pontoons today. As some are seeing the physiotherapists, who are working around the clock on the tired muscles, others are planning to spend a couple of hours to visit Dublin's historical city centre, some solo sailors relax just enjoying a beer and a quiet moment on the terrace of the National Yacht Club. Some of the most energetic ones, like race veterans Jean Paul Mouren and Gildas Morvan, opt for one or two rounds on one of the world-famous Irish golf courses. There is a rugby match to watch on TV, with a particular meaning to all, as it's France v. Ireland. And, Alexis Loison, who turns 27 today plans to have a very special birthday celebration.

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The Figaro fleet docked at the National Yacht Club. Photo: Michael Chester

And while the sailors try to get in top form again during the short stopover in Ireland, shore teams and sail makers are very busy before the start of leg three, suffice to say that during the crossing from Caen to Dún Laoghaire, no less than 24 spinnakers and 7 jibs were damaged...

Still, everyone seems to be greatly enjoying the friendly atmosphere in Dún Laoghaire, where the skippers were welcomed by the famous Irish warmness.

Sam Goodchild (Artemis): on his coming to Ireland, commented: "I got a very warm welcome, it was great to be greeted on the water, the people are friendly, its nice and relaxed. I'm looking forward to taking it easy and enjoying the jazz festival in Dùn Laoghaire"

Conrad Humpreys' (DMS): comments are as positive as his fellow countryman's: "This part of Ireland I've been to a few times, the yacht club here hosted us for several weeks during the Round Ireland Race. The craic is brilliant, it's great fun, very lovely people. There's a lot of interest in this race in Ireland, it always has a strong presence here."

Paul Meilhat (Macif 2011): "I slept 18 hours flat out. We had such a lovely welcome, like we always get when we go to Ireland. Great warm meal with a cold beer upon arrival. I went to bed on Wednesday at lunchtime planning on getting up for dinner later. I asked Fabien, Jimmy and Eric if they could wake me up to go. I thought they forgot me but in fact they tried, they knocked on my door, called me from the reception, managed to get a key card for my hotel room and came in. They shook me but just could not wake me up. I woke up at 10 am this morning after sleeping 17 or 18 hours. It was purely the hunger that got me up in the end!"

Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics): "It's good to be in Ireland, it's always nice to come here, I'm looking forward to a Guinness tonight, haven't had one yet! In the 2007 Solitaire we went to Cork and in 2009 we went to Dingle, now Dublin, it's always a great experience."

Today, Alexis Loison (Port Chantereyne Cherboug-Octeville) celebrates his 27th birthday in Ireland: "I may eat fish and chips with a candle on it, have a beer tonight to celebrate!  For once, I'm onshore and not alone at sea for my birthday. Taking stock of this second leg, my spinnaker is at the sail doctor being mended, physically my back hurts this morning and now I am on the waiting list to the one of the physiotherapists who are all busy today.  I have to just really try and make the most of opportunities that come my way.  This last leg I really had to work hard to climb up a few places so I am not too unhappy with my results.

While Loïc Le Garrec (Saveurs d'Evenements) turned 38 yesterday: "I could not really make the most of my birthday yesterday at the finish of the race. In fact, for the past three years, I have spent my birthday in the Irish Sea. I woke up alone at 1 am and by then it was too late to go for a drink with everyone. I was truly shattered after the race. It was a particularly hard one."

Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert): "Time to cheer up with a round of golf in Ireland and prepare to watch the France v. Ireland rugby match" "In 15 year editions of racing in the Figaro, I've never ripped a spinnaker. So I was not expecting it. Being let down by the material is not easy to accept. On this race I blew both my spinnakers. The bigger one first and then I hoisted the smaller one only to see it rip. I ended up sailing with my genoa off the spinnaker pole for 20 miles. It really was quite miserable and the results are hard to swallow. I am ready now to put that behind me and enjoy a tour of Dublin followed by a round of golf. Then there is the France v. Ireland rugby match to watch on Saturday."

Yannig Livory gets the chicken pox! On the second leg, around reaching Cherbourg area, the skipper of One Network Energies started to fee ill. Spots started to appear all over his body, which caused severe itching. He felt completely run down and permanently cold. "I was just shattered and everything itches. It was just awful with the wet weather gear on. The doctors diagnostic in Ireland is: I have chicken pox...I suppose that at 45, it is never too late!

Penalties for leg 2

The jury gathered on Thursday 11th of August to decide the outcome of 10 cases put forward at the end of the second leg of La Solitaire du Figaro. Yanning Livory (One Network Energies) and Maurice Tannyères Louis (St Ericsson) get a one hour penalty applied for not completing the course correctly: they sailed round the wrong side of Mullins Island on the shore side just two miles from the finish. Yoann Richomme (DLBC), Isabelle Joschke (Galettes Saint Michel) and Damien Guillou (La Solidarite Mutualiste) get a 25 minute penalty for broken propellor shaft seals. Finally, Sam Goodchild (Artemis), Sébastien Picault (Kickers) and Xavier Macaire (Starter ActiveBridge) each get a 5 minutes penalty for a broken safety gauge seal. These penalties do not change the order of the overall standing for the top 10 positions.

Published in Figaro
Tagged under
The 2005 Solitaire du Figaro champion crossed the finish line Dún Laoghaire not only to win the second leg but take the overall lead in the four-stage sailing race.  Nicolas Lunven, the 2009 champion was second with Adrien Hardy, who won the stage to Ireland in 2010, third.  Morgan Lagravière, was top rookie in 6th.  The first of the four British sailors, Phil Sharp, was 23rd, just over an hour behind the leader.

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."

Published in Figaro
The ETA in Dún Laoghaire for the La Solitaire du Figaro yacht race is tomorrow morning.

The first arrivals of the 46 competitors of La Solitaire du Figaro yacht race and accompanying French Naval Patrol Ship (PSP Cormoran) and the race management boats are expected in Dún Laoghaire on Wednesday anytime between 08:00 to 11:00.

Times could change, depending on the weather conditions.

Published in Figaro
A new start in the Celtic Sea?

 

It's sounds incredible, but that is the La Solitaire du Figaro race! Efforts invested in the past 48 hours could come down to very little for the 46 skippers participating on the second leg of the famous single-handed race. At 166 miles from the finish (on the 16:00 position report), the notoriously tricky navigation through Celtic Sea could change everything. The race could start all over again, with some twenty boats lines up laterally across 30 miles from East to West.

Further East, Alexis Loison (Port Chantereyne Cherbourg Octeville, showing as leader on the position ranking at 16:00 is equidistant to the finish with Jérémie Beyou (BPI), positioned furthest West.  Soon the solo sailors are going to find radically different conditions on the water. With the breeze is due to back from North to Southwest, the spinnakers will be hoisted and likely stay up for the run to the finish in Dùn Laoghaire, where the fleet is expected to arrive on Wednesday morning.  The skippers must dig deep and concentrate, despite the exhaustion that has surely seeped in over the past two days of tough upwind racing, as they face a whole new weather scenario comes in for the final hours of the leg.

It was a two-day long and tiring passage for the sailors to reach the Celtic Sea. First to cross the virtual line placed between the tip of Cornwall and the Scilly Islands and thus winning Grand Prix GMF Assistance was Jérémie Beyou (BPI) at 7:13 this morning, after a long, tactical night ahead of Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) and Nicolas Lunven (Generali).  The sailors are opting for different routes according to a weather pattern which is all, but easy to decipher. The big question on everyone's mind is whether there will be a speedy rotation of the wind from the North backing to the Southwest and then South quickly or not.  The sailors are await this rotation to set them off on a speedy downwind delivery ride to the finish.

Skippers have reported improved conditions on the water today, with welcome sunny spells and some 15 knots of westerly breeze allowing for the fleet to ease out the sails a little after tacking.  This transition period, marked the end of the fight against the elements, strong winds and choppy seas, to a final, fast surf to the finish. The first ones to hoist their spinnakers will probably benefit from higher speeds and increase their lead.

Will it be Alexis Loison (leading at 16.00), Jean-Charles Monnet (Paris 15e), rookie sailor Xavier Macaire (Starter Active Bridge), the group further West with Jérémie Beyou (BPI) second in today's ranking, Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) third, Nicolas Lunven (Generali) fifth or even those who took a very radical offshore option like Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) and Thierry Chabagny  (Gédimat) come out in the lead?  Could it be a no-match situation? Not unlikely, if one considers that 30 out of the 46 competitors are sailing within 4 miles of each other, that is to say only 2% of the way to Dùn Laoghaire!

The ever-consistent Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) has maintained his position in the top part of the fleet and was reported in 15th position, only 1.7 miles behind the leader.  Conrad Humphreys (DMS) from Plymouth has been climbing his way up progressively going from 39th to 25th and just 3 miles behind the leader.  The youngest competitor, Sam Goodchild from Southampton, who started prematurely and who spent the first day playing catch up, is 2.5 miles ahead of fellow countryman, Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) in 39th place.  Francisco Lobato (ROFF) from Portugal, not one to follow the pack, has opted for the most eastern position of the fleet, climbing 5 places since midday.

Apart from tactical options, a major role will be played by the skippers' ability to resist the fatigue from setting in over the final miles of race, as since Sunday's start in Caen they have grabbed very little rest. To be fast downwind they will need every single drop of energy and pay maximum attention to helm almost continuously in a damp and uncomfortable environment. Who will be the toughest one? The answer to this question will probably be given only tomorrow, close to the finish line...
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Published in Figaro
Tagged under
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 second leg of La Solitaire du Figaro got off on Sunday 7th of August in the Sein Bay, opposite Ouistreham in Normandy with  thousands of people lining the canal and outer harbour wall to wave the solo sailors off.  The start of the race was finally given under sunny skies with some 8 knots of southwesterly breeze and on a choppy sea. The course, made up of an initial 10 mile inshore preamble to the Radio France Buoy, is 470 miles from Caen to Dún Laoghaire Harbour, on the North East coast of Ireland, where the fleet is expected from Wednesday 10th of August.  Forecasts predict both strong wind and tidal currents for what unanimously agree will be a complex first 24 hours at sea.

The many spectator boats and thousands of people lining the Bay were treated fabulous conditions for the start of the second leg, which finally got underway at 16:49, some 50 minutes behind schedule.  The delay for Figaro, committee and security boats out of the lock in Ouistreham, due to an incident in the harbour, was then further increased when the committee was forced to re-set the start line.  Three individual recalls were called for Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert), Paul Meilhat (Macif 2011) and Sam Goodchild (Artemis) who were early over the start line, but managed to quickly repair.  Eric Drouglazet (Luisina) and Francisco Lobato (ROFF) enjoyed the best start at the committee boat end of the line.  Eric Peron (Macif 2009), Thierry Chabagny (Gedimat), Frederic Duthil (Sepalunic) and Jeremy Beyou (BPI) exchanged lead positions round the 10-mile windward-leeward inshore course to reach the Radio France buoy ahead of the competition.  Best performance from the international entries comes from Francisco Lobato (ROFF) who rounded in 9th followed by Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) in 11th place.

The solo sailors will now face "upwind conditions that could last 250 miles" explains Nicolas Bérenger, the experienced Figaro sailor converted to trainer, of a number of the 2011 edition competitors.  "It's going to be very technical. They must keep up the speed and make sure they reach Barfleur before the tide changes" at 23:00 tonight, continues
Bérenger.  The low pressure system that is due to sweep over the fleet tonight is forecast to bring 25 knots, with gusts of up to 35.  "The passage of the front we will get tonight over the Cotentin coastline, is going to be tough.  We should get the most wind on the approach to Guernsey but it is the passage at the raz Blanchard where we are going to have to take special care because it is where you get the strongest current in France", muses Vincent Biarnes (Prati'Bûches) just before the start.  "The interesting part of the first 24 hours of the race will be the passages of Barfleur and then the Cherbourg peninsula which you need to get right", agrees Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics).

Please check latest position reports on www.lasolitaire.com

Quotes from the skippers prior to the start of the second leg:

Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) ready for the start of leg 2
Leg 2 is probably 100 miles longer than leg one and it is probably going to be to be upwind as well, so could take three days really.  I have taken a lot of food and a lot of tea, just to keep my spirits going!  Granny's fruit cake is coming with me and that is going to be very good ballast, much needed ballast for maximum righting moment upwind.  It has been really quite relaxing in Caen.  I have managed to get things done gradually as we had quid a few days as opposed to it being chaotically at the last minute.  It is a beautiful city to be in, the fact that we were right in the centre with the boats is quite incredible really."

Nigel King (E-Line Orthodonitics) talks just before the start
"The morning before the start I mainly need to concentrate on and check the weather.  We should have fun for the start of the race with the inshore course in the Bay.  Then the interesting part of the first 24 hours of the race will be the passages of Barfleur and then the Cherbourg peninsula which you need to get right.  There is strong current there and you really need to get passed before the tide turns.  The later you get there the worse it will be.
For my trip I am taking some "Eat Natural" cereal bars, apparently the healthiest ones!  I really just want to enjoy the leg and not se myself any targets and just to enjoy the leg, sail well and not worry about the result."

Nicolas Bérenger, seven participations in La Solitaire du Figaro, in Caen, where he now runs a group of competitors ...
Talks about what the feelings are among the sailors he trains on the morning before the start: "In general, it is always a bit difficult to wake up. Whatever the conditions expected are, you still get exited.  The muscles might be a bit stiff and especially knowing that it is going to that you head out into into what is going to be t and cold you just might stay in bed that little bit longer, sit and enjoy the breakfast a few more minutes...
The leg in a few words: "It's close, the close and still close. The upwind conditions could last 250 miles. It's going to be very technical. They must keep up the speed and make sure they teach Barfleur before the tide changes and be alert and prepared for the wind rotation.  The last point is the passage of the ridge heading up to the Irish Sea, which will need to be handled well in order to maximise and not get left behind.  This is going to be a very a complete and tough leg."

Vincent Biarnes (Prati'Bûches) summarises the conditions for the second leg:
"Weather forecasts confirmed: there will be plenty of wind and strong seas and it is going to be a matter of upwind sailing pretty much all the way to the western tip of Cornwall. It is going to be full on and although we have all been preparing for this over the past few days, the passage of the front we expect t tonight over the Cotentin coastline, is going to be tough.  We should get the most wind on the approach to Guernsey but it is the passage at the raz Blanchard that we are going to have to take special care because it is where you get the strongest current in France.  We will be sailing at night, upwind against the current and in strong wind conditions all whilst keeping a very close eye on our screens to sail round the rocks.  We could see some gaps build on the crossing of the Channel and where the lateral distance will also build.  Towards the end of the race the ridge and low breeze will need careful negotiation before the long spinnaker run, in a good breeze to the finish.  There is lots of opportunities to make the most of and I foresee a lot of helming and careful boat handling in the rough conditions.

Fred Duthil (Sepalumic) "gives me confidence"
"Compared to what happened on the first stage (note. penalty by one hour), I have no choice but to tell myself that we must start from scratch and that things can be done.  This leg looks like it is going to be windy with some very complicated passages.  One particularly dangerous one is at the Raz Blanchard.  I think we could see some boats in trouble there and therefore see some gaps build.  We have to sail carefully and be vigilant.  When you sail on a direct course in the strong win, it is fine, but then trying to get round rocky areas in 30 to 35 knots of wind at night with rain, you feel a little less confident.  The leg is long and there will be opportunities later on after the Channel crossing when further gaps could be built and where the fleet could also compress.  I am going to be careful on this leg and try and do well to finish in the top five."

Arnaud Philippe Godard (Senoble) 43rd the first stage of the race: "This leg is completely different from the first: windy, upwind racing and rough seas...Then the wind will ease off after rounding the tip of Cornwall and we will have to negotiate getting across ridge with light winds.  You really want to be up with the leaders ere because the last run could be a spinnaker run with a fresh South Westerly breeze up the Irish Sea.  We are going to just have to be alert and react well to the change of conditions on the water.

Note: Tidal seas and straits
When we speak about the raz in French, we refer to the strong tidal current between two areas of land.  The straits through which this tidal current passes is at its strongest at the peak of the high and low tides.  In France there are two important straits with very strong tidal current: the Sein strait, or "raz de Sein" as the French refer to it, and the raz Blanchard on the tip of the Cherbourg peninsula or Cap de la Hague.  The name Blanchard comes from the rough and white sea spray that covers the straits when the sea is choppy.  The current can be up to 12 knots near the Hague lighthouse on a spring tide (over 110 coefficient) and 6 knots in the slack water of the neap tide, which we have today.  The Figaro sailors will therefore have the choice of either sailing further offshore to get the least tidal current or close to coastline at the tip of the Cherbourg peninsula to avoid the strong current at the Gros du Raz

Published in Figaro
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