Yesterday in the Solitaire du Figaro, Jean-Pierre Nicol set off at 1100hrs UTC (1300hrs CET) on the fourth leg between Roscoff and Dieppe. The rocky coastline of Northern Brittany, the tidal currents in the Four and Sein channels, a strong wind along the coast of Southern England and a very rough Channel crossing lie ahead: the 520-mile course looks like it is going to be challenging technically and physically. But that is not worrying the skipper of Bernard Controls, who is determined to finish in style in Normandy.
La solitaire du Figaro Eric Bompard cachemire 2013 - Bernard Controls peu après le départ de Roscoff
This morning (Friday) after the first night at sea, the skipper of Bernard Controls is up with the pack: around half of the fleet, 19 boats to be precise (three have retired, 37 remain in the race) are within a mile of each other. In other words, there is no major gap within this group for the moment. Just before leaving the pontoon in Roscoff yesterday, Jean-Pierre Nicol showed he was completely up for it. Just as well, as this final leg in the Solitaire du Figaro looks like being complicated with a wide range of conditions.
'I want to end this Solitaire as I began it: on a good note. The goal is to finish in Dieppe with the frontrunners, and even aim for victory. I am feeling confident. I have put the second and third legs behind me and we are off again. I don’t have any pressure on me in the overall rankings. This final leg looks like being physical with a lot of wind and I love that. We have to get off to a good start, then keep going or even set a quick pace in this drag race.'
So, there is little between the frontrunners with all the big guns in the overall rankings up there in the group at the front. It was a very wet night, with very limited visibility, and so we can imagine that the solo sailors did not get much sleep after sailing in the currents in the Iroise Sea around Ushant and the Sein Channel. However, they will need to get some rest at some point, probably during their first crossing of the English Channel, as they head towards the Wolf Rock, where the wind is forecast to strengthen. This stretch of the race course will begin on Friday lunchtime.
Trying to grab some rest, while remaining up at the front (no easy matter!) will be vital. After that, they are not likely to be able to get much rest before the finish in Dieppe, where they are expected to finish on Saturday evening. Firstly, because sailing along the English coast towards the Isle of Wight is always very tricky from a technical perspective, and also because reaching in strong winds to cross the Channel again with winds blowing up to 35 or even 40 knots, means that they will have to remain at the helm. We wish them luck...
JP Nicol website