In the 2012 La Solitaire du Figaro Eric Bompard Cachemire, some 24 hours after the start from Saint Gilles Croix de Vie in the final leg, the battle amongst the four contenders for first overall is as fierce as ever. Having taken the lead early this morning, Fabien Delahaye (Skipper Macif 2012) this afternoon showed the way through the Raz de Sein, less than half a mile ahead of Morgan Lagraviere (Vendée).
Nicholas Lunven (Generali) slipped one place to third during the rock-strewn passage through the Glenan archipelago, but is still just a few hundred yards off Lagraviere, with overall race leader Yann Eliès (Groupe Queguiner/Journal des Enterprises) a similar margin away in fourth, having fought his way back through the fleet since a poor start yesterday morning. Jeanne Gregoire (Banque Populaire) remains in fifth, with Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) back up to sixth after briefly dropping mid-fleet. First of the rookies is Julien Villion (Seixo Promotion), in a highly respectable eight position.
This morning's passage past Belle Ile proved decisive for many with those going outside the island losing out to those who took the inshore route. However there were still some gains to be made later in the morning with the leaders all taking a similar line around the Ile de Groix as those who tacked off early benefitted from those who held close to the island shore.
The fleet is currently sailing north on port tack across the Iroise Sea the fleet past the Phare du Four, with an unstable westerly varying from eight to eighteen knots and shifting by over 30 degrees requiring constant adjustment in addition to the navigational challenges of sailing just a mile or so from the Brittany coast.
The tide will be favorable for most of the fleet as they pass through the Chenal du Four, before the skippers turn towards England this evening, with a 90-mile Channel crossing to Wolf Rock lighthouse off the coast of Cornwall. First of the British sailors on this home leg is Sam Goodchild (Artemis 23) enjoying his best stage of the race so far in 13th place, with Henry Bomby (Artemis 37) in 18th and Nick Cherry (Artemis 77) in 29th place. Portugal's Francisco Lobato (ROFF) brings up the fleet in 36th place currently.
Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire): 'We do not sleep much at the moment. When you're battling at the head of the fleet, it is much more fun. But my position is not very comfortable as I'm upwind and we are approaching the Raz de Sein, and it would be better to be downwind. We'll see how it goes. I think the guys who passed to the lee of Belle Ile have had a bad time. But when you see where we are and all that is left to do... The wind shifts a lot, you have to be on deck. Here I am under the autopilot but it's not helming that well. I can't complaint though as it is not raining. Moreover, we're sailing at home. It's as if we were having a training session at Port La Forêt.'
Eric D'Hooghe (Voyons Large): 'I am quite happy with the beginning of my race as it is something I wanted to do, to be amongst the fleet. This is the position I wanted, according to this morning's rankings, so it's not bad. However, I always have issues with transitions. I lose a lot of time in these phases and it's what's happening right now. I feel that it took five minutes for the guys behind to come back and five minutes for those ahead to get away...'
Yoann Richomme (DLBC): 'It's going well, I am careful with my shoulder, it hurts a bit but I should be able to carry on. I took an option on my own last night which allowed me to catch up a little on the leaders because I had lost a little. Since 4am this morning, we are stuck at the helm because the conditions are hyper variable. We will pass the Raz de Sein in two hours and it won't be easy to find some rest. Now it will be straight on and if I manage to hook on the leaders, there should have no major change. I'm pretty happy, I cannot wait to pass the Raz de Sein to manage to eat something. We have between eight and eighteen knots, it shifts from 40 degrees.'
Yann Eliès (Groupe Queguiner – Le Journal des Entreprises): 'I started with a classic departure, at the back of the fleet... We sailed along the Vendée coast to Saint Jean de Monts. And then we passed between Belle-Ile, Houat and Hoëdic. We went to get a reverse current that allowed us to cover a little less distance than our rivals and then we had some luck on reaching the Glénan where we had a small wind shift which enabled us to keep the lead.
Since then, we are tacking, we try to exploit the wind shifts because the weather is quite changeable, the clouds pass every hour and scramble the forecasts. We are making a direct route towards the Raz de Sein, which we should pass against the tide. We are about 13 miles away so I guess we will pass it around 3pm. I got a bit stressed at the beginning of the race as my three main competitors were in the lead and they still are. I'd rather have them behind. I am working on it! I am doing everything I can to catch up. I slept a little last night and maybe I did not perfectly tack around Groix but at least I'm rested and it will allow me to come back on the leading pack, once awake and refreshed.'
Thomas Normand (Financière de l'Echiquier): 'I had a difficult transition in the Glénan this morning. I still see Julien, it's a bit annoying that he is a few miles ahead but the game is still open. I try to tell myself that things can still change and I should take advantage of it. And there is no point giving yourself an ulcer worrying, there will be opportunities to come back and that's the last leg of La Solitaire and we must live it fully. It's hard to sleep, the wind was more capricious than expected, I slept twice for 10 minutes. So tonight I will have to find some time to sleep. My main goal for the next hour is to recover the few miles I lost against Julien and get some sleep so as not to make mistakes along the English coast.'
Sam Goodchild (Artemis 23): 'The last 24 hours have been good, fairly tricky, the wind hasn't really settled down since the start so it's been fairly non-stop and trying to get much rest has been fairly difficult. But generally I'm fairly happy, we've just gone round the Raz de Sein, I lost a couple of places but not too much distance so I'm hot on the heels of the guys who overtook me so we'll see if I can get back at them on the next leg which is another 20 miles. There's been about four or five of us crossing tacks fairly regularly.
'It should hopefully settle down a bit more now, we've got about 15 miles here and then we've got to go through another tidal gate which hopefully should be a lot more simple than the last one. Then we're crossing the Channel over to England and that should hopefully give us a few opportunities to catch up on some sleep, and then we start heading downwind, but that's a good 18-24 hours away yet.'
Henry Bomby (Artemis 37): 'The start of the race didn't go so well for me, I spent maybe four or five hours fixing problems on my boat which was really frustrating but fortunately the course we were on meant that everyone was pretty much going the same speed so I managed to stick with the pack. This morning it's been good, I had a good night last night tactically and managed to position myself quite well, gained a few places, and then after that it's just been speed testing really and I've been hanging on in there with a good group of guys around me. Sam's just up ahead he's got away a little bit at the moment, so I hope to draw him back in a bit but there's not too many tactical opportunities right now, we're just going up through the Chenal du Four and then across the Channel they'll be some opportunities open up I'm sure.'
Nick Cherry (Artemis 77): 'It was pretty disastrous going to windward of Belle Ile, but since then I've been working my way back through the fleet slowly, so it's a goal to keep you going through the rest of the race. I was expecting the wind was going to die out the other side of Belle Ile, but in fact it died out for us to windward of Belle Ile, and we ended up getting headed, which I don't think was a shift the other guys had, so we had to tack to get around the island. It was pretty frustrating because I was already committed by then and we were just watching on AIS as the others guys put miles on us. It was good going around the Raz du Sein, it's always interesting!
I had one particular wave when I thought the whole boat was going underwater, came down with quite a good crash but nothing broken I don't think so it's all good! It's going to be pretty tactical going through the Chenal du Four, the tide's going to turn halfway through and then we've got the beat across the English Channel and then the south coast of England so I'm ready for that.'
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7:44 PM Mon 9 Jul 2012GMT
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