There was just enough breeze to allow the 52 competitors a gentle morning sail out to the start area this morning, but after that it was ‘deja-vu' for skippers and race committee alike as the light south-westerly faded and the ‘AP' flag was hoisted to indicate the beginning of a waiting game, just as in last year's Vigo stopover. The delay lasted no more than a couple of hours however, and at 1559 the fleet ghosted over the start line, embarked on their 365 mile journey to St. Gilles Croix de Vie on France's Atlantic coast.
In such light airs the traditional inshore course was radically shortened , the Radio France buoy on this occasion doubling as the windward mark, a mere 1.5 miles from the start line. The prize money for the first to round stays the same however, and Armel Tripon (Gedimat) will be no doubt be very happy at picking up an early €800 bonus. Jeremy Beyou (Bernard Paoli) on the other hand may be ruefully reflecting on the traditional race superstition of the perils of winning the prologue, being the only boat to cross the line early and receive an individual recall.
The delayed start had earlier been compounded by a general recall, as at the first attempt a number of over-eager boats crowded the line, eager to get away. There was then a further delay to allow a merchant ship to clear the port. When the fleet did finally get away they were quickly scattered by the light 5-6 knot north-westerly, the two more distinct groups splitting onto opposite sides of the Ria de Coruna; one hugging the shore near the city's famous Hercules Tower, the world's only surviving Roman lighthouse, the other heading further out to sea from Seixo Blanco Point.
Yesterday's forecast is so far being borne out, with the early light south-westerly breeze swinging into the north-west. The big challenge on this first night of the leg will be to successfully avoid a windless zone just to the north of Coruna, and carry the new breeze all the way across the Bay of Biscay to the turning mark off St. Nazaire, before heading down to St. Gilles. Britain's Nigel King (Nigel King Racing) was in buoyant mood on the pontoon this morning, keen to get going on a leg which he hopes will play to his strengths: “It's going to be a test of boat speed essentially, the first we've really had this year, one long drag race. I'm very happy with my boat's upwind performance so hopefully I should be able to keep up. One way or another we're going to learn a lot about each other on this leg.”
Franco-German sailor Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) is also leaving in good form, resolved to improve on her first leg performance: “I'm leaving refreshed, I've had plenty of rest during this stopover. I'll be looking to avoid spending too much time on the tiller this time, that was one of my mistakes in the first leg – too much time hand steering, and neglecting the trimming and stacking. This leg won't exactly be easy, but less physical than the first, which is good for me. Staying in touch with the fleet will be crucial though.”
Leg 2 : first 10 boats to Radio France buoy (provisional ranking before jury)
1 Tripon, Armel GEDIMAT
2 Pellecuer, Laurent ARNOLFINI.FR
3 Le Cleac'h, Armel BRIT AIR
4 Caudrelier-Benac, Charles BOSTIK
5 Elies, Yann GENERALI
6 Tabarly, Erwan ATHEMA
7 Veniard, Gérald MACIF
8 Bouillard, Didier MEDEVENT
9 Koch, Antoine SOPRA GROUP
10 Duthil, Fréderic BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM