The second leg of La Solitaire du Figaro - Eric Bompard Cachemire began in a frenzy of shouts and flapping sails on a busy startline, and ended with each of the 36 Figaro II one-designs slipping through the finish under spinnaker and moonlight.
In between the solo skippers experienced a close-quarters contest around the buoys off the Spanish coast, and night navigation around some Brittany landmarks, but the majority of the 442-mile race was spent on a reaching course, mostly under spinnaker, and always with the numbers on the speedo holding precedence.
Leg 2 started from Gijon, on the northern coast of Spain, on Sunday July 1 in a 12-knot north-westerly. With shifty conditions the majority of the fleet opted to rank up at the left-hand side of the line, with several boats arriving too soon at this congested approach. Briton Sam Goodchild (Artemis 23) was among those given individual recalls, as was Leg 1 runner-up Morgan Lagravière (Vendée).
Eventual stage winner Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) escaped cleanly up the first beat and led around the top mark onto a spreader leg, followed by a tight spinnaker reach. British rookie Henry Bomby (Artemis 37) made a good start and was in the top 10 during this early inshore section, before incurring a penalty turn.
After two short spinnaker legs the fleet then pointed their bows across the Bay of Biscay in light north-westerlies, with a ridge of high pressure to overcome over the first night. Day two dawned with Nicolas Lunven (Generali) holding the lead as the fleet set spinnakers in new south-westerly pressure on a 250-mile straight-line sprint across Biscay towards the north-west tip of France. Lunven and Morvan's duel continued with the pair separated by less than a mile throughout the day, Morvan taking the lead going into the second night as they gybed for the approach to the French shore.
The second evening at sea saw the 36 soloists round three marks in darkness, including the Raz de Sein, a highly tidal stretch of water between the Ile de Seine and Pointe de Raz. Crossing this section of course with a favourable current was key in order to stay in touch with the main pack. Having steadily climbed through the fleet after a mid-pack start, leg 1 winner Yann Eliès (Groupe Queguiner/Journal des Enterprises) converted himself up to third during the night, a position he held to the end despite ongoing autopilot problems. Others who made gains during this triangular section of course were Alexis Loison (Groupe Fiva), who gained 8 places overnight to rise to fourth, Fabian Delahaye (Skipper Macif 2012) who jumped 4 positions into the top 10, and Thomas Ruyant (Destination Dunkerque) who made up 9 places in the second half of the fleet.
From La Plate the final section of course was relatively straightforward, with all the skippers taking the most direct route, south of Belle Ile, rather than attempting to make gains by heading dramatically inshore.
Gildas Morvan, competing in no less than his 17th Figaro race, sealed his first stage win at 23.58 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3rd. Nicolas Lunven (Generali) came home at one minute past midnight, July 4th, while Eliès confirmed his third place seven minutes later.
Behind the leaders the contest for leading rookie or ‘Bizuth' was more eventful. On Wednesday afternoon Nick Cherry (GBR, Artemis 23) had been leading among the first-timers for over 24 hours, in a neck-and-neck race with Corentin Horeau (Bretagne – Credit Mutuel Espoir). However, as the fleet rounded the Le Boeufs marker that evening, Horeau established a fractional lead which he held to take the honour of first newcomer home in 23rd place.
Fellow Bizuth Julien Villion (Seixo Promotion) was another who closed rapidly during the closing stages — Cherry held off Villion around the Pilours marker at the entrance to the finish port, but on the final gybe to the line Villion snuck through to finish just 17 seconds ahead in 25th place. First British skipper Sam Goodchild (Artemis (23) took 24th place. Norway's Kristin Songe Molle (Kristen For Fulle Seil) finished in 33rd place. Henry Bomby (GBR, Artemis 37) brought home the fleet at 02.43 a.m.
The third stage of the Solitaire du Figaro begins on Sunday, July 8, with a return leg to Cherbourg. Heading into the final race, the winner of the opening leg Yann Eliés (Groupe Queguiner/Journal des Entreprises) still holds the overall lead on cumulative time by 30 minutes and 17 seconds from Morgan Lagraviere (Vendée) in second, with Nicolas Lunven (Generali) just 10 seconds further back in third.
Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) first in two days 11 hours 28 minutes and 28 seconds: 'Starting from Gijon, my goal was to put everything back in place after my bad first leg. I had to be attacking and to be aggressive enough as soon as crossing the starting line. This was the main idea. It was necessary to be ahead of the ridge to get out first of this high pressure area and reach the wind first. There is a morning I could not get out in front of Lunven and I did not quite understand why. I had a plastic bag on the keel which was impossible to remove. I had to haul down the spinnaker, go backwards and restarted behind him. After that, it was a great fight. I then managed to overtake him just before crossing the West of Sein and I knew it was a key point there. I knew that getting out in first position there would enable me to have the best current to until La Basse du Lis and then towards the Raz de Sein with the backing tide. There were a few shots to play by getting the current to Tevennec.
'I'm happy because I managed to lead over almost the whole race. I was aggressive when I needed to be and I did not give up. I was in good shape on the last day because I slept well before and I really did not want to miss that one. To stay focused on the settings: you had to be on it to avoid being overtaken. I managed to hold on to Nico Lunven, for me it's fabulous. The goal is to win the third stage where there are plenty of manoeuvres to make, with currents to play in.'
Nicolas Lunven (Generali) second in 2 days, 11 hours, 31 minutes, 45 seconds: 'I'm really happy, but the hint of disappointment is that I did much of the Bay of Biscay as a leader. I tried to analyse this little slump and I cannot explain where Gildas passed me. I then managed to scrounge a little bit back but not enough to come back and overtake him. So I miss the leg victory down to one small mistake, but I am very, very happy to be second. It was a great stage, I had a lot of fun. I cannot wait to be in a good bed, I'm pretty tired. Between Groix and Belle Isle and I managed to rest a little but I have spent my whole time sailing the boat.'
Yann Eliès (Groupe Queguiner Journal des Entreprises) third in 2 days, 11 hours, 38 minutes, 53 seconds: 'I'm happy with this third place because at one point the picture wasn't looking so good, once we got out of the high in the Bay of Biscay. The leaders were 4-5 miles ahead with the possibility to increase that lead on the inshore, but I finished 7 minutes behind Nicolas Lunven and so it is not that bad. I still gain some time on my first leg-fellows. I'm glad it worked out like that.
'I'll have to be more careful on the starting line. For now this is not my strong point and it could cause me some issues. I've managed to salvage it every time. It's more complicated when you start to come back with a long speed run as compared to an inshore course where you have more opportunities. I slept well this afternoon. We had a long reaching leg where my backup autopilot helmed properly, so I arrive tonight pretty much rested.'
Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) fourth (15 mins, 47 secs from leader): 'It was complicated. We had a rather difficult race start. To get off Spain in the light wind we had to cross a ridge that shook up the positioning. Under these conditions, you have to remain calm. There are boats that are moving and others that are stuck. For me it was not too bad. So my fourth place is quite satisfactory. I'm having a good race. The first two have managed to escape.'
Jean Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) sixth (21 mins, 20 secs): 'I wanted more because when you are ahead you are obviously looking at the podium. But if I sail on every leg like that, it will be fine. There were some options missing on that stage for me. The small shots I did make worked out fairly well, and I did not leave the helm until the tip of Brittany.'
Fabien Delahaye (Skipper Macif 2012) seventh (23 mins, 55 secs): 'It turned out to be all about speed and trajectory. After crossing the ridge in the Bay of Biscay there was a big choice to make before the west of Sein. There are some who lost a lot of places. Myself, I managed to come back there. After that, you had to be concentrated on boat speed. But the ranking was already decided.'
Thierry Chabagny (Gedimat) eighth (26 mins, 54 secs): 'I had some small problems going with my big spinnaker which was split from the first night. To sail the whole Bay of Biscay with 20m2 less spinnaker than the others under a small kite made the game unequal. It was hard to see others coming back from behind and taking your place. There is a moment you either give up or continue; as giving up is not part of my vocabulary, I though hard for ways to come back and try to limit damage. Fortunately it was not only spinnaker sailing and I managed to keep my eighth rank. Tearing the spinnaker twice on two stages, it's a lot.'
Vincent Biarnes (Prati 'Bûches) ninth (28 mins, 52 secs): 'The start was not very good, but I quickly caught up and have negotiated the ridge well. At Sein, the fleet gathered and the options were then difficult to take. The following part was just pure speed. For me it is a good result because my goal is to finish within the top 10. However, I am completely exhausted.'
Xavier Macaire (Skipper Hérault) 10th (29 mins, 55 secs): 'They were two tough stages, different from each other but with the same result, 10 and 10. To be consistent is part of my objective. I must do as well on the third and score a small advantage.'
Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire) 11th (30 mins, 49 secs): 'I'm really happy. We had a lot of fun on the water and have very interesting sailing conditions. Well, it ‘s a bit grey and foggy and did not see much of the sun, but we have interesting weather, some tricky stuff. I made some mistakes but I was really happy, I enjoyed it. I was totally into it from the start. I was going to make a really beautiful leg but by staying in contact with Vendée (Lagraviere), I just lost sight of my basic strategy. I lost 10 ranks in the battle. At one point, I was disappointed, I cried telling myself I was worthless, and then I pulled myself together and said: ‘Now, you must overtake some boats: three at the end'.'
Morgan Lagravière (Vendée) 12th (31 mins, 45 secs): 'A difficult leg overall. I made a lot of mistakes on my route and my positioning especially when crossing the ridge. It took more than others to come back on the main pack and to finish in a decent place. I managed to sleep well on the final part of the leg. Thus, I feel good but the boat has some troubles after my collision with Jean Pierre Nicol at the start. We have some work to do on it.'
Fréderic Duthil (Sepalumic) 13th (32 mins, 30 secs): 'I was put out at the start and got stuck at the buoy. The result? I crossed the ridge on the wrong side in the west with a lot of delay getting out of it, plus poor downwind speed: it is hard to come back. Mid-fleet is pretty good.'
Paul Meilhat (Skipper Macif 2011) 14th (36 mins, 22 secs) 'It was a good start and I am fourth at the Radio France buoy. Then I managed the ridge of high pressure well despite the uncertain conditions. In the morning, I was fifth or sixth and then I could not move forward anymore. I had to put a mask to look under the water: I had a plastic thing on top of the keel that I could not remove. I tried to go backwards to get rid of it but without success. I had to wait for the wind to lighten to remove it with a knotted rope. So I lost a lot of places. In the end, I did not really care about the ranking, I gave everything and I remain in the main part of the fleet so I'm satisfied.'
Damien Guillou (La Solidarité Mutualiste) 15th (36 mins, 32 secs): 'What is unfortunate is that I have not kept the pace until the end. I finished 15th but I was much better at some points during the stage. It's still a good sign because I managed to play at the front for a while.'
Yoann Richomme (DLBC) 16th (48 mins, 25 secs): 'I was doing well from the start, but afterwards I got stuck in the ridge. I then did my best during two days to come back and I finished 16th. I had no chance because I broke my ballast transfer valve on the first windward leg while I was leading. I still had fun.'
Francisco Lobato (Roff) 17th (51 mins, 25 secs): 'It was an intense leg and fatigue began to accumulate. The first part of the race, I think, was the only bit that mattered. You had to be in the east from the beginning as Yann and Gildas did.'
Charlie Dalin (Keopsys) 18th (56 mins, 46 secs): 'I'm just happy for Gildas who won the stage. I had a speed deficit downwind. I do not know why but I'll take care of this during the 4 days' stopover in St. Gilles.'
Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement) 21st (59 mins, 50 secs): 'I'm not really happy. It was long and I did not have too much fun sailing on this one whereas it is usually nice. But here we did not have any rocks. The start was not that good. There was no opportunity to come back, so yes I am disappointed. I started to prepare the third leg towards the end of this stage, I must move on.'
Corentin Horeau (Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Espoir) 22nd (1 hr, 14 mins, 15 secs): 'I am satisfied as I end up first rookie on this leg and because I made a good comeback. I had a small technical problem in the Gijon inshore and thus I was last out of the Bay. I then gave everything I could all the way. I finish first rookie, but 22nd overall which is not that great but considering my race start gives me some energy for the end of La Solitaire.'
Sam Goodchild (Artemis 23) 23rd (1 hr, 16 mins, 23 secs): 'It was very difficult, I lost a lot of miles at the beginning of the leg and then spent a lot of the leg trying to catch up, and struggling mentally and physically to catch up. In my head it was pretty difficult to try to get to grips with what was happening – in the Figaro you're on your own, there's no one else to talk to so I did a lot of fighting by myself, and then I had a nice little race with Nick and a few other guys came back in so it was ok, but generally very, very difficult.'
Nick Cherry (Artemis 77), 26th (1 hr, 17 mins, 25 secs): 'For me it was kind of the opposite in that I started badly, then did ok in the middle, then lost a few places at the end, so it's a bit of frustrating but I'm happy with the overall result, just. I was first rookie until the end when I let two of them past. It would've been good if I'd been first. I feel pretty tired, I've got a lot to think about from the leg, about where it went well and where it went badly, but I'm pleased to be in. I'm not happy at the moment but maybe I will be, there are a few things from the start – maybe a protest – and it's always frustrating to lose places near the finish, but I'm happy.'
Yannig Livory (One Network Energies), 27th (1 hr, 24 mins, 33 secs): 'It is average because I had made a good first part to the Raz de Sein and, at the exit of the Raz, I found myself with all the ballast tanks filled with water and got passed by 7 or 8 boats. I am not happy about it. Still more rain, again and again. I am tired of winter training, it would be good to get a bit of summer.'
Thomas Normand (Financière de l'Echiquier) 28th (1 hr, 29 mins, 38 secs): 'Actually I'm fairly divided. I had great times at sea and lots of fun. It was a great battle with the guys but I missed on two or three things. This is the daily life of rookies, we must learn. I gradually integrate the stuff. I will try to do better next Sunday for the third stage.'
Henry Bomby (Artemis 37) 36th: 'It seemed like quite a long way to get here in the end. But I'm definitely glad to be back onshore. I feel very tired, I feel like I've used a lot of energy to get here and so I'm looking forward to going to bed, and sorting the boat out tomorrow, and starting to look at the next leg tomorrow morning, but I'm pretty tired right now.
'I had a problem on the first night with my electronics, just as it got dark and we started to work our way out of the trough all my electronics failed, all my instruments went down and the pilot as well, so the boat broached because I was under pilot at the time. And then I called Gilles and asked for permission to speak to the other competitors to ask for advice and then a few of the French guys gave me a few things to try and eventually an hour and a half later found the problem and were able to take it out of the system. After that I managed to get going again but I was then back in the trough and had to work my way back out of it again before getting into the breeze so I'd lost a lot of time by then.
'People tell you it's hard, but you can only imagine how hard until you do it. I think it's just learning to overcome those things and making them smaller in reality, and just concentrating on the positives.'
Le podium et 1er bizuth (Morgan Lagraviere, Yann Elies, Nicolas Lunven et Thomas Normand) au classement général après les 2 premières étapes de la Solitaire du Figaro - Eric Bompard cachemire - St Gilles Croix de Vie le 04/07/2012 - La Solitaire du Figaro 2012 - http://www.transat.ag2rlamondiale.fr
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7:44 PM Wed 4 Jul 2012GMT
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