by Sabina Mollart-Rogerson
Christian Bos (Région Midi Pyrenées) slides into the lead ahead of Erwan Tabarly (Athema) twenty-four hours into the first leg of La Solitaire du Figaro race. The fleet of 50 boats left La Rochelle on Friday lunchtime in very light breeze, have had virtually no wind over night with just slightly more this morning and making painfully slow progress to the finish in Vigo, 380 miles away. Just 70 miles in twenty four hours and light conditions to come sets back the ETA to late Monday or early Tuesday.
Bos holds a 2.8-mile lead over Erwan Tabarly (Athema), positioned slightly south and on the direct route. The 2006 winner, Nicolas Troussel (Financo) together with Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) maintain a hold on the leaders: 3.7 and 3.8 miles respectively. Armel Tripon and Christophe Lebas have taken the most extreme southerly option for now and it remains to be seen if this will pay off further down the line. Trailing by 16.5 miles, Philippe Bard (Morillon.fr) brings up the rear of the fleet.
There are repeated reports over the VHF today from the skippers and Race Committee boat following the competitors, there is virtually no wind and the temperature is rising across the Bay of Biscay. The fleet is fanned out and a 20 mile gap has built from north to south; a significant gap 'which may affect those have headed a long way south' explains Race Director, Jacques Caraës, from the Race Committee boat. 'There is just no wind, it is flat as pancake and it is like a lake out here. We have even less wind than we had yesterday and it is now getting very hot so a matter of getting your hats out and sunscreen on. You still have the swell associated with the Bay of Biscay, but it is calm,' echoes Nicolas Raynaud reporting form the racecourse.
It is a matter of remaining alert to the slightest change in conditions and continuing to fine tune and trim the sails to make the most of the tiniest bit of pressure which will make the ultimate difference as Christophe Lebas (Lola – in 32nd place and 9.8 miles from the leader) knows only too well; 'I was with Armel Tripon (Gedimat) and the little pig has just got away with a nice little puff of wind. He has managed to get two miles on me in an hour. You try and take these things with a grain of salt and have say to yourself it is not over yet.'
Nerves of steel are required to get through the next long night to come forecast to be light once more. Radio Chat Session over the VHF – Voices from the sea. Ronan Treussart on board Groupe Céléos:
'Not really a very easy start to the race, we must have covered 50 miles over the first twenty four hours!'
'As I did not get pass the Radio France mark well I have had to really work hard overnight to get back into the race and catch up with the leaders. I am quite happy because the guys who have headed out right have a small advantage, but hen nothing can be taken for granted. There are boats all over the place. I am sure we will get the accordion or elastic effect a few times yet. Conditions here are straightforward, basically we have 1 knot of wind and I have 0.6 knots of boat speed. I am happy and sailing on the direct right heading to Finisterre. I now have my spinnaker up and it is those who get the breeze first will be on the first wagon of the train.' Malko Szekely (Région Basse-Normandie) – on the VHF at lunchtime today:
'It is fabulous, there is just absolutely nothing to do here! The first twenty-four hours have been varied, with a complicated start and lots of work to manouver the boat in the light upwind conditions. We are on an offshore race and Jacques (the race director) has even managed to get the doldrums into the race! I have seen this once cruising with my parents; our record was 1 mile in 24 hours. I am really happy to be here though and loved the first night at sea with the phosphorescent plankton. It is really wonderful and all that I was hoping it would be.'
Christophe Lebas (Lola): 'I am not sure how much ground we have covered, but the situation is really quite dramatic. There just is not much wind and I do not think we are going to get any. I spent last night and this morning with Armel Tripon and that little rascal has just got away with a bit of pressure. It is tough on the nerves, but then there is just nothing you can do about it. I am not going to get mad about it. I am not unhappy about being here considering the conditions…' Franck Le Gal (Lenze): in 27th place and 8.4 miles from the leader:
'It has been really light right from the start and it is not like we took off last night. In twenty-four hours we covered 55 miles, not more. You just have work the slightest puff of wind and be on top of it all the time. There are constant sail changes, you put one up, take it down, stop, haul in to put the Genoa up…but I am not complaining.' Current top Ten positions:
Positions ARGOS relevées le 26/07/08 à 15:00:00
Etape 1 - La Rochelle / Vigo
Départ le 25/07/2008 à 14h19
1 Bos Christian 14 Région Midi Pyrénées
2 Tabarly Erwan 18 Athema
3 Troussel Nicolas 1 Financo
4 Morvan Gildas 4 Cercle Vert
5 Biarnes Vincent 72 Côtes d'Armor
6 Duthil Frédéric 10 Distinxion Automobile
7 Douget Corentin 16 E.Leclerc Mobile
8 Bérenger Nicolas 68 KONE Ascenseurs
9 Pratt Christopher 97 DCNS 97
10 Grégoire Jeanne 40 Banque Populaire
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8:35 PM Sat 26 Jul 2008 GMT
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