Rounding the north-westerly turning mark of the Wolf Rock Lighthouse the 43 boat fleet competing in La Solitaire URGO le Figaro have this morning finally picked up the pace getting some miles under their belts running down the South coast of Britain.
First to the lighthouse last night and taking the Turkey Trophy at the half way point of stage four it was Sébastien Simon (Brittany Crédit Mutuel Performance) who lead the fleet around the Wolf Rock before heading east setting a course for the next turning mark ‘Owers Buoy’ to the east of the Isle of Wight.
The gaps at the rock were very small with his pursuers Charlie Dalin (Skipper Macif 2015) and Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement) close behind at 1 min22 and 2 min40. These three did not stop yesterday, nursing their position at the west edge of the fleet, and changing from spinnaker to genoa at every variation of the wind which was still unstable in the English Channel yesterday evening.
Nicolas Lunven, 15th at the lighthouse only 15 minutes from the leader puts pressure on the Generali skipper. He is virtually only 12 minutes ahead of Adrien Hardy in the General Classification and a cushion of less than an hour on Simon and Dalin… knowing that there are still 300 miles to run to Dieppe.
As they passed the lighthouse, each Solitaire bearing away under spinnaker with the solo sailors continuing to get the most out of their machines. Each one riding the tide until 9pm then needing to choose the optimal time to gybe and return to the land and the protection of Lizard Point from the adverse current later in the evening.
Overnight the fleet have made good progress to the east and are led once again by Alexis Loison (Custopol) at the 8h standing. The bulk of the fleet have once again dispersed to find their optimum line and 12 miles separates the most northerly and southerly competitors: Sébastien Simon (Brittany Crédit Mutuel Performance) in the very north and Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement) in the south. These tactical choices making the battle of England undecided until the Isle of Wight, 90 miles away when the fleet will come together again to round Owers Buoy.
It was between two opposing variables that the skippers had to juggle last night. The favorable current picked up early as Sébastien Simon protected himself on the water and made the most of the tidal affect at Start point. Whilst the rotation of the wind forecast on the right today justified sailing a more offshore route and getting down to the south and under the fleet after the jibe. For Gildas Mahe (action against hunger), no question of playing the mavericks: ‘I am well ranked, I do not want to take too many risks. In any case, it is important to stay in the fleet to keep speed markers at this pace.’ The same goes for Jeremy Beyou, who complained about the return of Nicolas Lunven (Generali): ‘All night long, I had a red boat that irritated me in my wake. Nicolas (Lunven) is really fast.” The skipper of Generali fourth place in the 8h rankings this morning, perfectly repositioned. Lunven responded at the right time, before the planned crossing of the front that could have further increased the gaps within the fleet.
The good news for all skippers is that the algae has disappeared, ‘a gift from the English, they know how to clean their ribs’ joked the skipper from Charal to the VHF. The English Channel posing another threat though, the heavy traffic. Etoile, the race direction boat was forced to avoid two cargo ships in the middle of the night, aware that the spreading of the fleet north to south multiplies the risks of collision. Especially as these long legs of sailing in a well-established wind without much sea will offer rest bite for the sailors to nap under pilot …
Between Charlie Dalin (Skipper Macif 2015) and Nathalie Criou (Richmond yacht club Foundation), the fleet stretches … 103 miles, a gap that could reduce if the tail of the fleet receives the front before the leading group.
Words from the skippers:
Charlie Dalin – Skipper Macif 2015 – second at the 8h rankings
“I managed to make a lot of naps last night. We are under pilot, the boat does not move, it was the perfect time to recover. It is very good, considering my position to go to the mark, the problem is that at the moment there is more wind in the South, so I’m digging my head to take a small offset south. We are used to having info that run on 4-5 days, we always have one or two files under the arm. There, it is not the case, since very early on the English Channel. It involves a slightly different way of navigating. There are still plays to play, it’s never over … until Dieppe there will be things to do.”
Gildas Mahé – Action Contre La Faim – seventh in the 8h rankings
“We apply to make the boat work and we take the opportunity to rest a little. There is a lateral shift, I do not know what that will give in the end. The boat is well under pilot, so I will try to catch up with my sleep.”
“A wind rotation in the Northwest is planned, it is probably why people play the sea, but it is not obvious. For my part, I stay with the fleet and I do not take too many risks. I am well ranked in general, the idea is to accompany the fleet and to make the boat run at best. It makes it possible to take quick fixes, not to be alone, not to take big risks and to make small tactical shots rather than major strategic moves. It’s good to make miles at normal speeds, it gets more slippery, … more pleasant for my taste. I did a lot of naps, but very short, because you had to be careful. There are fishermen, cargo ships … on the other hand there is no algae at all, it is the pleasant surprise. We do not have reliable weather information since the start. We only have wind direction info according to Weather Consult, which often lacks a bit of clarification. We have a big edge to Wight to do, and it’s hard to give an ETA.”
by Event Media