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Lack of wind shortens first leg of Figaro

by Sabina Mollart-Rogerson on 28 Jul 2008
Fleet depart - Le Figaro 2008 Marmara - Bouchon / Le Figaro ©

The light conditions felt over the Bay of Biscay over the past two days have forced the Race Committee and Race Director to come to a unanimous decision to shorten the 450 mile leg from La Rochelle in Vigo by some 130 miles. The 2006 winner, Financo, continues to make gains over his 49 rivals increasing his advantage to nearly 60 miles over last placed Fabrice Amadeo (

The decision to shorten the course was announced by Jacques Caraës, the Race Director, over the VHF to the 50 competitors this afternoon at 17:30 local Spanish time. The new finish line is to be set just East of Cabo Ortegal in Santa Marta Bay. Security checks will be carried out after the finish line before the skippers motor to the Galician port of Vigo, hosting the first race stopover.

Jacques Caraës explains why the race course is shortened: 'The reason is simple, with little wind and the current weather forecasts over the whole of the course, the last of the competitors would not have reached the finish before Thursday, which is the start day for the second leg. Together with the Race Committee and the whole Race Office team it made the most sense to use to reduce the course and now is the right time to do so. The finish line will be set just East of Cape Ortegal, a choice which will not benefit one or others on the option taken to the North or South. Basically the first boats should arrive Monday night and then motor to Vigo. The skippers have been informed of this decision. The three official support boats as well as the French Naval Patrol ship assure us that the whole fleet has received the message.'

Richard Silvani from Meteo France sheds some light for us over what conditions we should see and how it would affect the competitors: 'Over the next twenty four hours we should see wind coming in from the South veering southwest then west with 10 to 15 knots right up to the Spanish coast for the new finish off Cape Ortegal. The wind should then weaken and become variable and prevailing southerly. So Had the race committee not decided to shorten the course' continues Silvani, 'the competitors would not have had much time to reach Vigo and recover before the start of the 2nd leg on Friday. By reducing the course, the fleet will gain time on the descent down the coastline of Galicia towards Vigo where conditions are going to be variable and light.' The new ETA for the finish is for 'around 00:30 local time (22:30 GMT) in the early hours of Tuesday morning' concludes Silvani.

The light conditions experienced over the past twenty-four hours have evolved and the freshening breeze, fifteen to twenty knots, has come in from the South, which means that those well positioned towards the front of the fleet, will make the most gains. The wind is due to then veer to the Southwest, and then west, before weakening. This is not going to make life any easier for those towards the back end of the fleet.

The gains Nicolas Troussel has made throughout the day are as a result of getting to this breeze first and his advantage only increases on each position report. Christian Bos on Region Midi Pyrénées trails by just over 10 miles in second place and Frederic Duthil (Distinxion Automobiles) in third 15.9 miles behind. The gaps are then significant with half the fleet within 30 miles of the leader and the second half spread out 57 miles behind.
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Radio Chat Session over the VHF – Voices from the sea

Nicolas Troussel (Financo) – holding on to the lead on the first leg, 312 miles form the finish talks to the Race Committee boat over the VHF at lunchtime: 'The wind is coming in gently, we have about 5 knots now, still not going fast and we are still far from the finish! I am quite surprised to find myself ahead, last night I was well situated, did a few good tacks and found myself in the lead this morning. It is hard to find the time to sleep, I constantly had to change the spinnaker and Genoa yesterday and now have to trim the sails and stay stuck to the tiller.

'We have had 5 knots, so it really is a snail’s race. I do not drink much, so have had something like 7 litres since the start and have managed to eat hot food, a dry freeze meal this morning otherwise lots of ham and cheese.
The wind is still going to take some time to come in, we should get it on the nose then it should veer round to the south, but I need to keep an eye on the weather files and I am sure we will get a clearer idea tomorrow.
The little gap I have built is great, but there is still a long way to go and things change. This Figaro is going to be played out on the last leg!'

Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) – Clear minded and alert on the lunchtime radio chat session: 'All is going well the wind is coming in gently and there is no time for boredom. The first night was quite tough so made a real effort to try and get enough sleep but it did mean you had to stay on deck, then on the second leg I got some more sleep to try and keep a clear mind. We are going to have to take care to hold on to the gains for the next stage.

'I did not expect this, but knew that we would cross through the sunny anticyclone conditions, but this is the first time it is this long. You just have to stop looking at the time and loose the notion of it passing. It just seems to have stopped. I am eating quite a bit and drinking plenty as you can’t help but loose a lot of liquid; I have never drank as much on a race before. I listen to the radio and enjoy Dr. Jean Yves (the Race Doctor’s radio show from the medical boat on the water). I do not talk much, but like to listen. I listen to music too, so not complaining! I am not the first rookie and the position reports do not mean much. You just must not get caught up in it all. In the same way as you must not worry if you pass the first mark in last place. Just have to say that this is not it, keep at it.'

Robert Nagy (Theolia): 'Being up front is not just a question of luck! 'The conditions I have are the same as the others, light. When you are up front it can be fun and when you are behind it is tough. Last night I was forty metres behind Jeanne (Banque Populaire) together with Nicolas Berenger (Kone Ascenseurs) and just got left behind, stuck where I was. I thought it might have been a bit of a question of luck but then you look and see that actually the good ones are all up front. Can’t say it is only luck. Those doing well will only do better once the effect of the depression comes in.'

Christian Bos Région Midi Pyrénées: Not going to go hungry or thirsty and is happy in second place: 'It is nice to be up to second place, I was a bit worried last night, a bit down, it felt like I had hit a windless patch, but have caught up so things are not too bad for now. I have had to change the sails so many times since the start of the race…but right now things are ok. I remain alert knowing I still have half the race to go. All that said, I have not had that much sleep, only when I have the genoa up and then it’s a matter of a ten-minute nap. When the wind settles, that is when you try and get some rest. I must say I am happy to have stocked enough water and food! Drinking lots and trying to keep myself hydrated because when you do get dehydrated exhaustion sets in. Nicolas Troussel is ahead and seems to have got away, but then I am not too worried. Those up front will benefit from the first effects of the depression and then the chance to get some rest will come.'

Thomas Rouxel – Défi Mousquetaires: 'It has been a really rough 48 hours, really hard but I am fighting my way up the fleet. I was ok this morning and trying to more up. Had some food this morning, for now I have enough, but then it depends on how much longer we are going to be out here. I dare not look and work out how long it is going to take for us t
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