The twenty-eight solo sailors in the 'European Capital of Culture – Cap Istanbul' are reaching the end of their crossing between Sardinia and Sicily after a night which, though it may have appeared calm, still required the utmost vigilance from the sailors.
As the day draws to a close, one Antonio Pedro da Cruz is the surprise leader of the pack tonight after passing to the north of the rest of the fleet.
All that remains now is to cleverly negotiate the 180 miles between the western tip of Sicily and the port of Marzamemi, the finish of the second leg…
It was one of those wonderful nights with calm conditions, starry skies and accommodating seas. Indeed it was one of those nights that all cruisers dream of, and yet it proved to be anything but relaxing for our solo sailors on this second leg. The reason for this lies in the fact that to make good speed, you have to agree to trim, be on a constant look-out and never let up. Throughout the 120 miles between Sardinia and Sicily under spinnaker, the sailors ended up with little time to sleep, each of them trying to position themselves as best they could to negotiate the passage of the western tip of Sicily. There were some who opted to focus on speed under spinnaker, prepared to climb slightly to the north of the course. This was the case for Thomas Rouxel (Défi Mousquetaires), Christopher Pratt (DCNS 97) and, to a lesser extent Erwan Tabarly (Athema). There were those who opted instead for a compromise, such as Fred Duthil (Distinxion Automobile) at the head of the fleet as well as Robert Nagy (Théolia) and Eric Drouglazet (Luisina Design). Finally there were those who deliberately chose a leeward course including Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and Thierry Chabagny (Suzuki Automobiles).
If there is one person in this bunch who doesn’t give a damn about these subtle tactical considerations it is Antonio Pedro da Cruz. The sailor from the Cape Verde islands has notched up an impressive list of transoceanic crossings and sails for pleasure above all else. Don’t count on him to adapt his route according to where the other competitors are positioned though. The skipper of Baïko has sailed his own race: in the light conditions, he’s concentrated on getting his boat making headway with little concern for the fact that he was distancing himself from the direct course. The upshot of this particular strategy is that the skipper has benefited from his extreme position to streak into the lead at the foot of the island of Marittimo. Behind him the fleet is bunched together in the wake of Fred Duthil, who is leading the chase for the maverick.
Another essential factor for the rest of the race is the sailors’ fatigued state. To remain in the leading pack, several sailors admitted this morning to not having slept. Now their navigation along the coast of Sicily may quickly reveal itself to be full of pitfalls as a result of the landform and possible thermal breezes on the coast. The solo sailors know from experience that in these courses in sight of land, the fleet can quickly suffer big separation. Arriving fresh and lucid before tackling the second stage of the leg can be decisive for the rest of the course, especially as from the western tip of Sicily to the finish port of Marzamemi, there are still some 180 miles to go. Quotes from the boats: Antonio Pedro da Cruz (this evening off Sicily):
'It’s a first for me. I’m keen to make the most of it but that’s not going to be easy with my friends behind me eager not to be outdone. Right now I’m happy with my sailing. I didn’t think twice about crossing the fleet, my mind was set on simply going quickly. The result was that it paid off… I didn’t sleep at all but I’m still in good shape as I racked up some extra kip in Cagliari.' Fred Duthil (this morning):
'I’m happy with my night. I think I found the right compromise between heading and speed. In any case, I’m quite satisfied with my position. The only thing is that I haven’t slept much so I’ll have to do that today.' Gildas Morvan (this morning):
'All’s well, I don’t think I’m in too bad a position. I could be on a winner with my position to the south of the fleet, though it may also be a little risky. We’ll have to see how the wind evolves.'