Lack of wind in Bay of Biscay for Solitaire skippers

A severe lack of wind has hampered the Solitaire fleets progress allowing them to only complete half of the offshore ‘Bay of Biscay’ crossing. The weather files now offer more opportunities since daybreak this morning as the fleet continue the ascent of the Bay to Chaussée de Sein albeit at a slow pace. 

After the first night sailing away from the start venue of Gijon the Asturian halo was still sparkling in the south and the full moon illuminated the fleet in very little wind, morning brought a zephyr of breeze allowing with the fleet to make their way north westward.  

The wind brought with it decision time for the 43 competing skippers , it was necessary to choose a side; The left for those who were then at the front of the pack led by Pierre Leboucher (Ardian) and Gildas Mahé (Action against Hunger); The center for a pack of pursuers from which emerged Sébastien Simon (Brittany CMB Performance), Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Espoir CEM-CS), Martin Le Pape (Skipper Macif 2017); The right for latecomers such as Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leukemia Espoir) or the Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services)

Finally, it was the center that came out the best, to the surprise of several competitors who “took off” at nearly seven knots when their pursuers still struggled at five knots … In short this new wind brought about a general compression in the fleet, six of the top ten of the first stage: Alexis Loison ( Custo Pol , 6th in Gijón) was the loser in this double wind shift, relegated to last place nearly 20 miles from the leader! Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement, 2nd in Spain) who had once led the fleet, was in fifteenth place.

In that central group Justine Mattreaux leads the international sailors holding 7th place in the front pack with just 3.1nm to the leader, Hugh Brayshaw (Offshore Academy) is positioned a further three miles back in 19th place chasing down the group. Choosing the easterly route Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) sits in 30th position with good company of experienced Figaro and Vendee sailors Jérémie Beyou (Charal) and Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leukemia Espoir Yann) close by, opting for the more Westerly route Mary Rook (Aspire +) sits in 36th place 11.5 miles back from the leaders.

With the wind set at about eight knots from the north-west the fleet are making their way to the goal in the west at the Chaussee de Sein whilst seeing the fleet having to negotiate the three forbidden traffic separation zones. For Sébastien Simon who leads the main group he has traveled only a hundred miles from Gijón and there are 150 miles to go before turning right towards the lighthouse Penmarc'h, this evening will also not be simple with the fleet having to negotiate the northerly breeze which will impose many strategic tacks.

Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Espoir CEM-CS) 2nd in the 12h rankings
It's not too bad. It was more complicated last night, and now the conditions are much more pleasant than the beginning of the night … With nine knots from the West, it's pretty cool and it's going well. Last night I put my pilot in compass mode, and I made a lot of naps, about ten, ten-minute breaks. Pretty happy: I thought that the group with Adrien Hardy would be before us this morning and it was a pleasant surprise to learn that with Sébastien Simon, we had escaped well with the group of Erwan Tabarly and Martin Le Pape.

Martin Le Pape (Skipper Macif 2017) 3rd in the 12h rankings
We are not badly placed with Sébastien Simon and Pierre Quiroga who is too leeward: now the next one is going to be whether to slip to get the upcoming rocking or whether to stay on the direct route. I managed to sleep a lot and right now I'm on rillettes… After a little coffee and a little nap. Today it's pretty cool, while last night was complicated with the wind being a bit erratic, in the morning we touched a bit of breeze and it was better. These are conditions that I like.

Hugh Brayshaw (Offshore Academy) 19th in the 12h rankings
It’s been very unpredictable so I have strategically positioned myself in the center of the fleet, when the new wind comes in maybe there will be an opportunity to pass some more boats and keep climbing the fleet. I’m very happy with where I am at the moment, I must say I’ve been a little bit bored with going slowly so looking forward to a little more wind.

Race Yachts
JPK August 2023
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