Solitaire du Figaro 2015 – Eric Bompard Cachemire – The sun is out, there is music in the air and the population of Bordeaux are out in force. Sounds like a music festival, but it’s not. We’re into the final countdown to the start of the leg one.
For the 39 skippers taking part in the race, it could be so easy to be distracted by the brilliants sights, sounds and incredible food and wine that Bordeaux has to offer and forget the almighty challenge that lies ahead. While the rest of the city parade the waterfront soaking up the sun and atmosphere of the race, 39 skippers and their trusted préparateurs are working hard on their boats and sweating over charts in preparation for the Classe Figaro Bénéteau event of the year.
Leg one of the race, although the shortest of all four, is still longer than any of the warm up races the 27 skippers and 12 Rookies have taken on this season. The leg also looks set to be a complicated one, with mix of light and strong winds forecast.
The 461 nautical miles between Bordeaux, France and Sanxenxo, Spain of leg one will see the fleet crossing an infamously rough stretch of water called the Bay of Biscay and rounding the notorious Cape Finisterre, before then taking on the relatively unknown and potentially light winds of the Spanish coastline. Sounds challenging? After working towards this race for a year, the eight Artemis Offshore Academy sailors can’t wait to get out there. Leg one starts Sunday 31st May at 1645 CET and you can track the race here.
“The first leg of this race is looking good for me at the moment,” Chatham skipper Sam Matson explained. “I really like the stronger winds, and it’s currently looking like we could get up to 25/30 knots upwind down to Cape Finisterre. The Bay of Biscay can be a bit of a trap sometimes, but it can also be a lot of fun to sail in. There will be a lot to be gained from sailing conservatively when we arrive at the more hazardous Spanish coast, being unknown and dotted with rocks and the islands.”
Before they start to think about open water sailing, the eight British, one Turkish and 30 French competitors have the tea coloured River Gironnde to contend with – as well as 38 other boats (all 33ft) crammed into half a mile of river. A winding passage from the heart of Bordeaux out into the Atlantic Ocean, the Gironde River is a 30 mile slalom of strong tides, sand banks and often debris: “The start of the race is going to be quite interesting,” Redshift skipper Nick Cherry explained, about to start his fourth Solitaire. “You’ve got the current against you to start with. There are plenty of things to hit. There are loads of sandbanks that move around with the tide and course marks that could be very costly if you go round them wrong. My goal for getting out of the river is just to be in a decent shape and not do anything terrible.”
Academy Rookies Rob Bunce, Andrew Baker and Robin Elsey are three of 12 first timers about to compete. Coming together for the first time in Bordeaux, the Rookies are both excited and apprehensive as they prepare to face the great unknown and battle it out for the coveted top Rookie position: “I’ve been training for this for a while, so I’m quite confident really. I’m just going to attack it in the same way I always do, but my main goal is to enjoy myself,” Robin said.
Andrew continued: “It’s a tough choice in leg one, do you really push it knowing that you can sleep and be okay for Leg 2? Or do you try and save yourself so for leg four so you’ve got energy left to fight? I’ve got to work out when to push and when to ease off. Leg one potentially could be quite a long leg, so you might not be in port as long as you’d like. In that sense, you don’t want to be so broken after the first leg that you can’t recover in time for the next legs.”
Read more from the three Rookies Andrew continued: “It’s a tough choice in leg one, do you really push it knowing that you can sleep and be okay for leg two? Or do you try and save yourself so for leg four so you’ve got energy left to fight? I’ve got to work out when to push and when to ease off. Leg one potentially could be quite a long leg, so you might not be in port as long as you’d like. In that sense, you don’t want to be so broken after the first leg that you can’t recover in time for the next legs.”
Read more from the three Rookies here.