• Light Winds Plague Leg 3 Le Solitaire

    Leaders Change Throughout Light Winds Sunday But Overall Leader Simon is Poised, Ireland’s Dolan Top Rookie, Lying 11th. It may be Fred Duthil (Technique Voile) and Alexis Loison (Custo Pol) who share the lead after just over 28 hours of a very light wind, slow Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, but lying in fourth place Sébastien Simon (Bretagne CMB Performance), the overall race leader, is perfectly poised at less than half a nautical mile behind the leading duo. His assured strategic choices and speed in the light airs are further evidence in the growing belief he is on course to win this edition overall come Friday of this week.

    Cape Finisterre and the north west corner of Spain is one of the most feared areas on European ocean racing routes. On Stage 2 of this 49th edition of La Solitaire weather advisers warned the solo skippers to, typically, expect up to twice as much wind as on the approach. It might appear that the reverse is true on the reciprocal passage. Only this evening were the leaders starting to climb the lower reaches of the Bay of Biscay and free themselves of the calms of A Coruña,.

    Through a long, dark first night the breeze was never more than five knots from the north. The offshore route paid initially for Éric Péron (Finistère Mer Vent) who led at Cap Villano, the Radio France buoy.

    Then Vincent Biarnes (Baie de Saint-Brieuc) was passed again by Péron off the island of A Gagada Grande where the fleet split into groups, heading offshore, sticking close to the direct line or some, like the British pair Alan Roberts, Hugh Brayshaw, Corentin Douguet (NF Habitat) and Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Espoir CEM) taking their time to climb north and paying a heavy price, sailing over a knot slower for a long period.

    Finally climbing clear of the capricious winds and strong tidal currents of the Spanish coast the fleet are into the northerly breeze which should veer more east during the early hours of Monday morning. But once again the night will be marked by very light, unstable airs and – again some 11 hours of darkness with hardly any moon. The conservative strategy will be to ascend northwards close to the rhumb line staying with the making, most direct angle. But there will be more bubbles of calm. The breeze in the east and south of the bay is forecast to diminish.

    Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) has stuck to his game plan, paced himself against his key rivals and made better strategic plays than on Stage 2. His choice of listening to comedy routines to keep himself awake and focused through the long, intense hours in the light winds may be contributing to what appear to be consistently decent speeds, well in touch with the lead group.
    He has worked offshore, in the west, and has avoided the worst of the light winds potholes, to lie 11th, top Rookie.

    all images ©Alexis Courcoux

    After having to retire from the first leg due to rig damage which threatened his mast, just 90 minutes out from the Le Havre start, followed by a poor strategic decision at the key point on Stage 2 which cost him 10 miles on the leaders and a dozen places, Dolan is in a strong position just 2.6 nautical miles behind the leading duo and three nautical miles up on the overall leader of the Bizuth or Rookie Division, Thomas Cardrin (Team Vendée Formation).

    Dolan told the media team aboard the Race Direction’s motor catamaran L’Etoile, “I’m happier right now than last night. I made a terrible start, as usual. All night long, with Justine (Mettraux), Éric (Delamare) and Xavier (Macaire), we made a good recovery by staying offshore. My night was long and sleepless but I’m happy to be up here in the lead group. It’s nice. At one point, we will have to tack before getting too much to the South because there will be no wind. I aim to I stay between Thomas Cardrin and the leading group if I can. “
    While Dolan is going well, it has been a bitterly frustrating opening 24 hours for the British duo Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) and Hugh Brayshaw (KAMAT). They were caught out inshore in lighter breeze and has suffered relatively heavy losses in terms of the distance that they now both trail behind the pacemakers.

    Roberts’ chances of holding on to his seventh place overall look to be severely compromised as he is just under 20 nautical miles, or on this course at least two hours, behind the leaders in 33rd place.

    And, equally as painful, he and Brayshaw have some thirteen miles to make up to break back into the top 20 in the 36 strong fleet. Roberts has proven able to climb back through the fleet on both previous legs, to a lesser degree, but now needs an overnight slowdown by the leaders.
    The 415 nautical miles stage to Saint-Gilles-Croie-de-Vie, home of Beneteau, builders of the Figaro, should see the winners finish Wednesday morning.

    They said:
    Frédéric Duthil (Technique Voiles): “Last night, we had to be very focused on the choice of when to tack. I was one of the last to go further offshore and it paid off. We are on the edge of the ridge and the wind is coming from the left. You have to reposition each time above the fleet to keep with the best of the breeze. It is getting us in the right direction. We must get north as quick as we can. I’m pretty happy because I have good speed. But the Bay of Biscay is full of pitfalls and traps. “

    Charlie Dalin (Skipper MACIF 2015):“This morning, I was not very fast and now it’s better. In fact, I had strands of weed or something, I do not know what stuck on the keel and it was impossible to remove with the flossing rope. The only solution was to dive. I waited for daylight and there was not much wind. I warned the race direction that I was going to dive. I put the boat head to wind slow the boat. I jumped into the water from the front of the boat wearing my diving mask. As the boat is a wee bit ahead of us, we jump and we catch the keel passing. Once you’ve cleaned it you go up the ladder at the back. To be sure I always stream the knotted rope out the back in case I miss the ladder. Currently, there is little wind to South. The breeze will shift right and we must find the right compromise going East and North.”

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Solitaire URGO Le Figaro: The Oceanic Single Handed Tour d' France started by Photoboy View original post