For one tantalising hour this afternoon Britain’s Figaro solo skippers held five places among the top 12 in what is proving to be a painfully slow first stage of the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro. As the fleet negotiated Lizard Point in light winds and strong tides, an inshore group lead by rookie Will Harris on Artemis 77 made a gain against the leading pack which was positioned some 12 nautical miles offshore.
But as the wind filled again from the south it restored the balance back in favour of the offshore group which had Charlie Dalin (Macif Skipper 2015) leading it. Dalin has set the pace since Sunday night when he moved to the head of the fleet at the Owers turning mark.
But within a short time Yoann Richomme on Skipper Macif 2014 took up the reins, making over seven knots under spinnaker. This faster progress towards Wolf Rock will be a welcome relief as the fleet had spent the morning and early afternoon at crawling pace, making just 2-3 knots over the ground.
With high water at Lizard Point at just before 1300hrs this afternoon the offshore group may have gained on the strengthening ebb tide which should accelerate the fleet to the turn at Wolf Rock where the fleet will head northwest for a short hitch up to the Runnel mark west of Penzance before they can point their bows east towards Cowes. The race officers have the option to shorten the course if they feel that the duration of this first of four stages might compromise the required rest and recovery time before Sunday’s restart.
After long night and morning fighting upwind in light airs with scarcely enough forward momentum to break through the boat stopping swell, a south-southwesterly wind finally appeared and the skippers were able to hoist their spinnakers. But it will only be this evening when the fleet finally rounds Wolf Rock that the real hierarchy will be established. With the change in tides, those that are further back could see the gap widen. At the moment the fleet is spread over 30 miles front-to-back between Skipper Macif 2015 and Theo Moussion, #Theoenfigaro.
They said :
Vincent Biarnes (Guyot Environnement) : “At the moment, the situation is very confused, as there is no wind at all, with big clouds everywhere over the race course. The wind is swinging around in every direction. We’re more or less lined up and progressing slowly towards Wolf Rock. I thought the wind would arrive from the southwest, so I headed a bit further west to find this wind. It arrived, but it didn’t last. At the Lizard, the others got ahead. Since then I have gone for an option further out to sea and that has paid off. It’s going to be very close at Wolf Rock, unless someone finds an extra puff of air and makes their getaway. The start of the race was tiring with lots of wind and rain. I was worn out. I have only nibbled a few bits since the start. I’m going to have my first real meal today.”
Erwan Tabarly (Armor Lux) : “I was quite pleased with the start of my race and was doing well until a while ago. I’m still in the group of leaders, but the wind has vanished. It’s now a bit complicated with just a few puffs across the water. No boat is advancing in the same way as another on this part of the race course. It’s a bit of a muddle. I wanted to get further south, as we’re expecting the wind to develop from the south for the final part of the tack to Wolf Rock, but for the moment, it’s coming from the north. For the moment, it’s too complicated. Each of us is advancing in turn, but we can’t go where we want. When we get a puff of air, we try to make the most of it to move forward. It’s impossible to go and rest. You can’t sleep as the wind is all over the place and the sails would soon be flapping.”
Standings at 1400hrs TU