La Solitaire du Figaro's final leg, 520 miles from Roscoff to Dieppe, is proving every bit as taxing as it appeared set to be prior to yesterday's start. Overnight and into this morning, the boats completed an anticlockwise lap, sailing down the seaward western side of Ouessant on to the Chaussee de Sein turning mark in the south, before returning north up the Chenal du Four between Ouessant and mainland France.
Fred Duthil, skipper du Figaro Sepalumic, lors de la 4eme etape de la Solitaire du Figaro-Eric Bompard cachemire
At 1845 UTC yesterday evening it was Julien Villion (Seixo Habitat), followed by leg 3 winner Morgan Lagraviere (Vendee) and Gildas Morvan (Cercle Verte) who led the fleet west past the Grande Basse Portsall cardinal mark at the northern end of the Chenal du Four. This morning at 0830 UTC it was Lagraviere, Yoann Richomme (DLBC), Yann Elies (Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir) and Xavier Macaire (Skipper Herault) who were neck and neck, leading the charge past the same mark, only this time northward bound across the English Channel to Wolf Rock off Land's End.
On the wind in light conditions, first passing Ouessant and then down to the Chaussee de Sein mark as the wind backed into the southsouthwest, kites were finally hoisted for the return trip north. But the common theme throughout this has been the wetness, either through torrential rain, drizzle or a dense peasouper fog.
Since yesterday afternoon the newly adidas-backed Sam Goodchild (Shelterbox-Disaster Relief) has been leading the British effort. The 23-year-old did well rock hopping along the north coast of Ouessant last night to hold 14th place around the Chaussee de Sein mark, just ahead of Artemis Offshore Academy rookie, Ed Hill.
This morning the top 13 boats were all subsequently within one mile rounding the Basse Royale mark at the entrance to the Chenal du Four, and there was a rich get richer moment as the boats rounded the Portsall mark at the northern end of the Chenal where there was a small shut down in the breeze for those following. Unfortunately this included Sam Goodchild whose deficit on the leader doubled from 2.4 to five miles over the course of an hour.
Among the Anglo-Saxons astern of Goodchild at this point, Nick Cherry (Magma Structures) was lying 18th, two places ahead of Artemis Offshore Academy rookies Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell in 20th and 22nd places respectively with Henry Bomby (Rockfish) up to 27th, and Ireland's David Kenefick (Full Irish) in 34th.
Michel Desjoyeaux, skipper du Figaro TBS, lors de la 4eme etape de la Solitaire du Figaro-Eric Bompard cachemire - en mer le 21/06/2013
Mid-afternoon and the Solitaire du Figaro boats are now half way across the English Channel en route to the Wolf Rock turning mark. With the wind having veered into the northwest the boats were close reaching in 12-15 knots, still in dense fog, as the skipper kept watch, their eyes glued to the AIS displays to stay alert amid the heavy shipping. At the same time they were attempting to gain some very necessary sleep following the precious little they got last night while wanting to be in the best shape for tomorrow when the wind is forecast to pipe up to 30 knots, gusting to 40.
In terms of the overall results, the calculators are out. After leg 3 Fred Duthil (Sepalumic) led the cumulative elapsed time results, 29 minutes 56 seconds ahead of leg 3 winner Morgan Lagraviere in second place and 32 minute 28 seconds ahead of Yann Elies in third. At present in leg 4, Duthil still leads overall – just. He is 10th, 2.6 miles back from leg 4 leader Lagraviere, while Yann Elies is at present third 0.7 miles back from the leader.
The first 24 hours have also taken their toll on the fleet. Last night Joan Ahrweiller (Basse Normandie) suffered damage to his boom and rigging and is heading for Cherbourg. Meanwhile Yannig Livory (Thermacote France) experienced ‘blurred vision' and was request to stop in Aber Wrac'h by race doctor Jean-Yves Chauve and was subsequently rushed to hospital in Brest. With Vincent Biarnes having had to return to Roscoff soon after the start yesterday with a broken forestay on his Prati'Buches, the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro fleet is now down to 37.
The backmarkers also got nailed last night. Claire Pruvot (Port de Caen Ouistreham) and Jean-Pierre Mouren (Groupe SNEF), were both left stuck to the north of Ouessent last night when they were caught the wrong side of a tidal gate.
Morgan Lagravière, Vendée: 'The sea is relatively flat, we are reaching - ideal conditions for rest, to eat and clean up. This doesn't happen often so you have to make the most of it. We must take care of ourselves and prepare before the gale arrives at the end of the day.
'There had been a lot of twists so far and changes in leader. There has been a current strong and that has been the number one priority when working out my strategy.
'I am planning for the future. Everything is good at the moment - I'm were rested, I am enjoying the sailing and the boat is going well. Tomorrow the forecast is for up to 40 knots of wind. It will be a case of being seamanlike, while trying to hold the big spinnaker for as long as possible without taking risks.'