The leaders on Stage 1 of the 49th edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro are through the worst of the first evening and night’s gale force winds which have resulted in damage for several key solo skippers.
As the head of the fleet races upwind, tacking ten miles offshore of Portland Bill at Weymouth, on England’s south coast, around 0630hrs (BST) this morning it is Xaxier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) – overall French solo racing champion in 2015 – who leads.
Macaire is closely matched by two title favourites, both of whom recovered fro modest midfleet starts. Second placed Sébastien Simon (Bretagne CMB Performance) and Charlie Dalin (Skipper Macif 2015), who are within quarter of a mile of the leader in the 18-20kts SW’ly breeze.
The tough conditions have seen the retirement from the stage of five of the 36 skippers who started yesterday at 1300hrs (local time) in Le Havre.
Among them are favourite Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) who was lying second before his spreaders broke, Frédéric Duthil (Technique Voiles) and English skipper Nick Cherry (Redshift) who suffered a rudder failure.
After a rapid crossing of the Channel and the passage of the South Pullar mark around 1830hrs (BST) in 30kts of wind yesterday evening, the fleet had a fast, bumpy upwind race outside of the Isle of Wight, passing Saint Catherine’s Point in confused seas around midnight (BST).
Briton Alan Roberts lead the fleet away from the Radio France Buoy just an hour after the start yesterday. He was in fifth during the early morning when passing offshore of Christchurch Bay but is in a solid ninth place less than two miles behind the leader.
Swiss skipper Justine Mettreaux (Teamwork) is 12th, British racer Hugh Brayshaw (Kamat) is 15th and Irish soloist Joan Mulloy (Taste the Atlantic A Seafood Journey) is 29th at some 10 miles off the lead during her first leg ever on a La Solitaire.
A disappointed Nick Cherry arrived in his home port of Cowes, pledging to replace his damaged rudder and make to St Brieuc to start the second stage. Retired from the leg he receives the elapsed time of the last Stage 1 finisher plus two hours as per the race rules.
The Redshift skipper reported “After slight mis-timing at the start I felt I was going well on the reach, making inroads back into the fleet. The reach was fast and exciting until the rudder went with a big bang snapping at the stock! After having spent time attempting to make the situation better, it was apparent the boat speed and manoeuvrability was bad. So so I was bitterly disappointed to take the decision to pull into my home port of Cowes to effect a repair and to change the rudder.”
Winds are due to ease through this morning which might allow a little recovery time, some micro naps of a few minutes at a time, and the opportunity to return the 32 foot Beneteau Figaro 2 yachts to better order. Top rookie this morning is Loïs Berrehar on Bretagne CMB Espoir in 21st place American skipper Nathalie Criou struggled with headsail problems during the night. The Richmond Yacht Club Foundation skipper declared herself “exhausted” on the VHF and reported she was considering stopping to stop. But after a few hours of rest she has resumed her pursuit of the fleet.
Stage 1 Abandonments:
- Thomas Dolan (Smurfit Kappa): Broken spreader, arrived back in Le Havre yesterday afternoon.
- Eric Delamare (Normandy Region): Diagonal D2 shroud broken and big tear in mainsail. Returned to Le Havre Sunday evening
- Nick Cherry (Redshift): broken rudder. Arrived Cowes during night
- Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola): Broken spreaders. Arrived Cowes during night
- Frédéric Duthil (Technique Voiles): Broken mainsail halyard. Arrived Cowes during night.
by La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro