The sudden appearance of this sirocco is currently forcing the 27 skippers to sit it out in port prior to being able to envisage contesting this 4th course between Aghios Nikolaos and Bozcaada in safety.
Faced with forecasts of a further violent gale as the fleet approach the Turkish coast, Race Management – in close dialogue with the organiser, Cumali Varer – and in respect of a desirable weather window, have taken the decision to postpone the start until tomorrow, Saturday at 10:00 hours…
The inhabitants of Crete call it the 'Kadhafi'. A warm southerly wind with an incredibly fiery breath to it which is as sudden as it is virulent, this famous Sirocco, hot off the shores of Africa, kicked in over the course of the night. In the early hours, 35 knots of breeze gusting to 40 knots loudly whistled its orders for the entire fleet to remain in port.
The start of the 4th leg is therefore postponed for a day in order to enable the 27 skippers, who are all set to take to the open water, to race in manageable conditions which won’t place their safety in any danger.
Gales from north to south
However, this is not taking into account an additional storm forecast as the fleet approach the finish in Bozcaada.
'35-40 knots of SW to W wind gusting to 50 knots between Saturday evening and 1500 hours on Sunday', details Pascal Landure from Météo Stratégie, who has been continuously getting the measure of this storm as well as the disturbed weather context at work from north to south of the Aegean Sea.
'On zone in Bozcaada, wind is forecast to be excessive and is likely to pick up very big seas with waves measuring a good 4 metres. The situation is improving from Sunday afternoon.' It’s obviously out of the question to envisage a start which favours an arrival on the outskirts of the Dardanelles Strait during the throes of a storm.
At 14:30 hours, Christian Gout, Race Director in contact with Cumali Varer throughout the morning, announced the solution, they have retained for the start of this 4th and penultimate leg, in conditions favourable to sport and the smooth running of the competition.
'Setting off on a start phase today with 30-35 knots of breeze was clearly too dangerous. It is scheduled that this southerly wind which is currently blocking us in port is set to ease midway through the afternoon. However, there is an added problem forcing us to study every possible scenario, which is the evolution of this violent gale that is threatening to place the skippers in survival conditions as they approach the finish' specifies Christian Gout.
He goes on to add: 'With the main priority obviously being to ensure the safety of the sailors, we have sought to track down a weather window which allows the fleet, as much as possible, to continue to make headway towards Istanbul in race mode.'
This weather window involves deferring the start of this 300 mile 4th leg by a day. As such the solo sailors will join the start zone tomorrow for a departure at 10:00 hours.
27 skippers at the start
On the start line off Aghios Nikolaos, there will unfortunately be one solo sailor missing from the helm of his one design between Aghios Nikolaos and Bozcaada. Eric Drouglazet, the skipper of Luisina has been hospitalised in Aghios Nikolaos following a bad fall from his scooter.
He is currently being kept under observation as protocol dictates in such a case, prior to being returned home to France. His boat will be delivered by Nicolas Derny, his préparateur, and Stéphane Courtois, préparateur to Gildas Mahé. This crew will take to the sea at the same time as the rest of the fleet…