English coast approaches in final leg of La Solitaire

Finally, in open water and a breath of air for La Solitaire URGO le Figaro fleet. After negotiating their escape from the complex and grueling Breton coast between strong currents, rocks and zones with no wind, the 43 skippers of La Solitaire URGO le Figaro began the crossing of the Channel, heading to Wolf Rock this morning. The first 48 hours of racing was incredibly intense and tired the sailors out, micro siestas will be the on the program this afternoon!

At 11.30 this morning the wind switched from south-easterly back to a south-westerly direction forcing the skippers to gybe and approach the remaining miles to Wolf Rock on port tack – tight reaching in 10 knots of breeze the skippers racing along at 7/8 knots down the rhumb line, this probably the first time the solo sailors have filled their ballast tanks since Concarneau! This afternoon the majority of the fleet are well over half way across the English Channel with the leaders due to round the Wolf Rock lighthouse later this evening, when the standings will be decided. With the wind forecasted to move around to the north-west 14/15kts through the evening, the tempo should accelerate and positions will no doubt change further before the Wolf Rock lighthouse.

Charlie Dalin – Skipper Macif 2015 – 2nd at 16h rankings
There is a great sun, it is 26 degrees on board, I have between 4 and 5 knots of wind on a relatively flat sea. It’s necessary to be alert and on to the wind, the slightest change of conditions, especially as the weather files we have are no longer good so we are really 100% on the weather we see and VHF reports. There's work to be done, we're a good group. I think I'm at Wolf Rock in about ten hours in the early evening.

Benjamin Dutreux – Sateco – 11th at 17h ranking
It’s super warm on our boats, it’s a bit painful to sleep actually, I tried to rest a little after nightfall. I was in the back of the pack in the first 24 hours of racing, so I failed to sleep, and in the softer conditions when the regrouping was done I really had trouble to get any sleep. So I went to bed and took a little distance. The conditions are a little more peaceful now, it brings a little serenity on board. In addition we are under spinnaker, the boat slips along and it’s flat so it is a little more friendly. I'm happy with my positioning, I managed to get back into the group I lost last night. I am quite satisfied. The match is rather tight and it's nice to race like this. We're far from finished, there's still a long way to go and that's why we'll have to remain vigilant until the end.”

Once around the Wolf Rock lighthouse the fleet will bear away and head east down the south coast of England – with a forecasted north-westerly breeze and the wind coming off the land throughout the evening all will not be straight forward with gusts and direction changes a plenty. Key tidal gates at the Lizzard Point, Start Point, Portland Bill and Saint Catherine’s Point will all need to be negotiated with care and attention as the fleet make their way down the coast, these tidal gates offering additional opportunities and hazards for the chasing pack.

The Standings at 17:00hrs:

1. Sebastien Simon, Bretagne – Credit Mutuel Performance – DTF 312nm
2. Charlie Dalin, Skipper Macif 2015 – DTL 0.19 
3. Adrien Hardy, Agir Recouvrement – DTL 0.27 

6. Jeremie Beyou – DTL 0.96
14. Justine Mettraux, Teamwork – DTL 1.79
15. Alan Roberts, Seacat Services – DTL 2.12
17. Nicolas Lunven, Generali – DTL 2.21
32. Milan Kolacek, Czeching The Edge – DTL 6.38
33. Hugh Brayshaw, The Offshore Academy – DTL 7.16
34. Mary Rook – Inspire + – DTL 9.01
38. Tolga Ekrem Pamir, Freedom Services a Domicile 1 Jour 1 Homme 1 Arbre – DTL 21.43

Justine Mettraux, Teamwork – 14th at the 16:00 rankings
It's been quite complicated since we started and apparently it’s not finished! It’s very cool though. I have had a good race so far and we have been playing with the others so it’s been fun. I am going to do my best to finish well for this last leg, even though I am not used to dealing with such strong current!

Alan Roberts – Seacat Services – 15th at the 16:00 rankings
It’s always quite complicated to sail in this weather. I have to play a lot with the spinnaker or the genoa; we drop and we hoist constantly depending on the wind changes and it’s not easy.  The autopilot doesn’t work very well with this unstable wind so I have to helm a lot. I was stuck in a zone of no wind for quite a while, but it seems to be picking up again, so it should get a bit easier for me.” 

Anthony Marchand, Ovimpex-Secours – 18th at the 17:00 rankings
I am not very well positioned with the return of the Southwest, but in any case, it is good to stop roasting in full sun. The heat was beginning to become exhausting. It was not necessarily a choice to be underneath, but with the gybes, I found myself there. My position is not so favorable because the fleet tends to crush me a bit. I hope there will still be some play after Wolf Rock. I think we have this flow to the lighthouse.  I slept well this morning, I had not slept since the start, it was starting to be hard. There is a quiet and soothing side with this mist. I look at the AIS to see which boat I can land at Wolf Rock.” 

Selden Asymetric Rib Technology