Already approaching Start Point this morning after a brisk, upwind first night of Stage 2 of the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro, the solo skippers are having to work hard because the gusty southwesterly breeze is so irregular, oscillating back and forth in direction and varying between 10 and 17kts.
Nicolas Lunven (Generali) the overall race winner in 2009 held the lead in the 0500hrs position report this morning, but as the leaders pass Exmouth the most inshore pair, Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and Yoann Richomme (Skipper Macif 2014) have made a small gain and lead by just over one nautical mile. Britain's Nick Cherry (Redshift) is well-positioned, two miles behind the leader.
Morvan reported briefly by VHF radio this morning: “It's not easy, the wind is moving back and forwards, shifting right then left.”
This was confirmed by both Vincent Biarnès (Guyot Environment) and Charlie Dalin (Skipper Macif 2015) who had to drop the VHF handset suddenly to tack.
Only Tolga Pamir has broken away from a relatively compact pack. The top-15 sailors are within just over two miles of each other. Official weather suppliers MeteoConsult predict the wind will veer to the northwest and ease slightly. Blowing cross-offshore from the coast, the breeze is then likely to vary in strength and direction, offering no respite or settled rhythm for the 39 solo skippers sailing from Cowes to Paimpol.
Speaking at 0400hrs this morning Biarnes, third on the ranking, said : “There is a front that is coming to us and it is a big thing because it is nearly stationary. One part of the fleet will pass one side and the other part of the fleet on the other side and we will converge. I am to the south of the fleet and expect the right shift to come to me. I am hoping we will be able to tack and cross the fleet that stayed inshore. The southwesterly breeze is about 16-17kts and it will go more west after the front. We have had the current against us but it is changed now, flowing south. It was a difficult night, rainy, and I slept only one or two times for 10 minutes. The routings converge at Start Point where it should become clearer who is doing well, in a couple of hours time.”