'The wind is picking up… you have to try to live with it' This verse from the Cimetière Marin by Paul Valéry holds doubly true for the start of this second leg. On the one hand, because the wind is set to gradually fill as the fleet drop down towards Sicily, but also because it’s the epitaph engraved on the tomb of a hallowed monster of Italian cinema, the actor Gian Maria Volonte, Sardinian of heart, buried in the archipelago of Maddalena.
Sardinia now lies in the wake of the solo sailors in the 'European Capital of Culture – Cap Istanbul'. The spinnakers are set and the pace of the race has picked up dramatically as the fleet gradually hit the open sea. The moderate W’ly wind observed at the start should rapidly clock round to the NW as it fills in to up to 25 knots. In principle, conditions are set to be ideal for the sailors, who should make rapid headway to the western tip of Sicily. Following that things are likely to become a little more complicated due to the effects of the coast and the disturbances linked to the landform.
These relatively stable conditions are something that race leader Eric Drouglazet really enjoys, as does Gildas Morvan, who relishes such opportunities to more easily control his adversaries for the title of French Champion. 'At first glance, it’s a stage which doesn’t involve a large number of tactical coups' analysed the skipper of Cercle Vert. 'We’re likely to have a gybe to negotiate, so emphasis will be on finding the right timing in which to perform it…' Aboard Luisina, Eric Drouglazet was of a similar frame of mind; 'We’re not going to be able to pull off moves on every leg. Our main focus has to be on getting the boat making headway above all else…' The hoard of Mediterranean sailors on his tail in the general ranking will doubtless be thinking along the same lines.
If there are any sailors with dreams of shattering this analysis, it’ll be those who didn’t come out of first leg too well. The members of the Port la Forêt training centre in deepest Brittany, namely Chabagny, Troussel and Tabarly among others along with Gildas Mahé were thus all scrupulously studying their grib files in a bid to detect the possibility of playing a winning move. By the windward mark, certain sailors who may have appeared to be a little out of sorts during the first leg were already demonstrating a fine appetite for competition. This was the case for Fred Duthil, author of a fantastic start, who was first around the windward mark, half a boat length ahead of Gildas Morvan. Thomas Rouxel, in a brilliant third place immediately behind the two leaders was also keen to show that he hadn’t yet digested his mediocre performance in the first leg.
Nicolas Bérenger, reigning champion, winner of the prologue and second in the initial leg, isn’t particularly concerned by this desire for revenge: 'I feel good in this race. I’m in the same frame of mind as last year where I told myself that nothing could happen to me. Kone Elevators, my sponsor, is delighted with the public relations operations carried out in Nice and the results and images from the first leg. Personally, I’ve never felt so serene. This race is mine, I can sense it.' A declaration of faith if ever there was one which, though it sweeps away a certain prudence, is certainly sincere. Nicolas rounded the windward mark of this second leg in sixteenth position but it would be surprising, given the aggressiveness which drives him, if he stays there for long.