Having led the 33 strong La Solitaire du Figaro fleet since the early hours of this morning Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) has had to see his hard earned margin evaporate in a fast failing breeze off the Baie de Morlaix this evening.
For the 30 year old solo racer who placed twice on the podium of warm up Figaro races this season and who, on Sunday, started the 492 miles Stage 3 from Dunkirk in third position overall, seeing the fleet fall in on his stern was not unexpected as the forecasted shut down in the light easterly breeze arrived.
Goodchild has sailed an outstanding leg so far, fast in all conditions, focused and making assured, relatively low risk moves. But the final 195 nautical miles, around the tip of Brittany, and south to the finish line at Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire look set to be painfully slow.
“We are just coming up to the north Brittany coast. Forecast-wise now we only have what we get from MeteoConsult and that leaves some grey areas, they are not very precise. At the moment the idea is to get to coast quickly to be able to hide or anchor if we need from the strong tide,” reported Goodchild today as he raced side-by-side with Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who won Stage 1.
The Leyton skipper added, “I took advantage of my investment to the SW yesterday and managed to round the Cap de la Hague in the lead with Xavier Macaire who was further out to sea. Achilles Nebout went off Alderney and Adrien Hardy sailed off towards Guernsey, but we may all get back together again depending on what happens to the weather. We’re waiting for the next weather forecast to see what is coming up. We’re expecting to come to a stop off Northern Brittany and we’ll see how things get going again. As usual, there is a lot of seaweed. There are a hundred miles to sail now with very little wind. Guernsey looks good from here. I have never been there but we’re sailing close to the rocks and enjoying the view. Conditions have been easy and pleasant so far.”
Sounding relaxed today Sam Goodchild has already shown considerable maturity and serenity so far and worked carefully with Corentin Douguet on a weather strategy, his friend and rival French skipper being forced out of the race with a damaged vertebrae in his back.
“Sam really has followed the game plan we developed beforehand to the letter,” commented Douguet. “He is sailing very quickly, always making the right decisions, without ever taking any risks and so far the conditions have been to his advantage. Certain options taken by skippers after passing Dieppe surprised me, but it is not in my philosophy to choose extreme routings when conditions are uncertain. We can still see guys like Eric Péron (French Touch) and Adrien Hardy (Ocean Attitude), who like to bang the corners. The crucial phases went well for Sam, who is having a very good season. But the remainder of the leg seems more complicated. It seems to me that the hardest part is yet to come.”
With Armel Le Cléac’h more than 12 miles, or two hours behind, in 24th today these two sailors would top the General Classification, but this promises to be an exceptionally challenging, slow night as small, localised low pressure systems such away all of the breeze.
Macaire, who took a narrow lead back from Goodchild this evening, a matter of 150 metres of so, said today, “The sun is out, so it is fairly pleasant today. It’s nice to be out at the front of the fleet. We have got away from the pack behind. The wind is going to drop off this evening and during the night. So a lot could happen. The pack could catch up. I don’t know what to expect. It looks like it is going to be a long one. We knew what was going to happen back at the start with several areas of calm ahead of us. We have just been through one on this second day of racing. And there’s a second one late this afternoon or this evening. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. I have a rough idea of what lies ahead, but I can’t say for the moment what my strategy will be. That will depend on how the wind shifts. We may be close to the coast or further off. We’ve certainly got plenty to amuse ourselves with.”
The six leading boats were compacted back to within one mile of each other. The favourable ebb current should work with them from 1800hrs this evening to help them pass the entrance to the Baie de Morlaix. This is probably the most familiar stretch of coastline for the Figaro racers but there will certainly be elements of good and bad luck come into play tonight. The tide will help for the first part of the night but by Portsall, on the corner, the strong tides will be against them and anchoring may be required before Ushant.
“These small low pressure systems are lurking around the tip of Brittany. From tonight they will suck up all the wind, pretty much for whole of the night. In the end this leg is going to be around 96 hours of racing,” said Race Director Le Goff, holding on to the idea of a finish time in Saint Nazaire on Wednesday afternoon. He has already postponed the start of the final leg.
Among the notable recoveries in the light airs Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) was back up to eighth at three miles behind the leaders and Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) was in 12th 4.3 miles behind his compatriot Goodchild.