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French top seeds lead the peloton at Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro

by on 3 Jul 2016
Nick Cherry (Redshift) - 2016 Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro Alexis Courcoux
As the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro fleet race westwards along the north Brittany coast this Sunday morning, hard upwind in 16-20 knots of wind, the French top seeds are leading the peloton as they wait to make their definitive tack southwest to pass Ushant, which they are expected to pass around midday.

Overall race leader Yoann Richomme on Skipper MACIF 2014 is duelling for the lead with Thierry Chabagny – winner of this year’s Transat AG2R LA MONDIALE – with only two tenths of a nautical mile separating the leading duo. But Charlie Dalin on Skipper MACIF 2015, Nico Lunven on Generali, and Stage one winner Erwan Tabarly on Armor Lux are all firmly in the mix this morning after 13 hours of racing on this 410 mile Stage three from Paimpol to La Rochelle.

“We are waiting for the front to come and the wind shift. We will continue to be upwind, a little offshore now. The first night was complicated with no easy choices. I tried to just keep it simple,” Yoann Richomme, the race leader reported by VHF radio at 0400hrs this morning. After leading to the Radio France Buoy shortly after the start last night, Briton Alan Roberts on Alan Roberts Racing has dropped back into the body of the fleet, 13th this morning while Nick Cherry on Redshift is sailing in ninth place at 1.2 miles behind the Stage three leader.

When called by the championship’s editorial team this morning Cherry answered: “It is going OK. It has been quite hard. The wind has been shifting a lot. I have not had much sleep. But I am happy at the moment. I have 20 knots of wind and it is quite shifty and the tide is about to turn. I don’t think I have slept more than half an hour.

“My speed is OK. I lost some places when I got a windshift wrong and my autopilot failed but I fixed that and I am holding quite well now. We are expecting more of a right shift and so I am going to hold on to this tack and stay with the fleet. Maybe I can tack inshore and get better tide or hold on for the right shift.” The front is expected during this morning bringing a shift to the right, rainfall, poor visibility, winds up to 25kts and a swell building to two metres. The solo skippers will need to remain on high alert in the strong currents of the Iroise Sea approaching the emblematic, rocky Ushant island, the most exposed northwestern corner of France.

According to Race Director Gilles Chiorri, the weather during the first night of Stage three has followed quite closely to what was forecast. Only one boat Perles du Saint Barths tried a very different, offshore option. Otherwise all of the fleet have stayed close to the shore seeking relief from the current.

“The fleet was partially divided at the Baie de Lanion where some worked the shore more and others were more conservative,” explained Chiorri. “But in the end the usual, top seed skippers are in the vanguard this morning. Charlie Dalin on Skipper MACIF 2015 has fought back up to fourth from tenth position at four hours after the start. Now this morning the solo skippers are feeling the benefit of the positive tidal current which should be with them until Ushant and most will reposition themselves to take maximum effect.”

Stage three only lasted a few hours for the unfortunate Hugh Brayshaw. The forestay of the British Rookie’s Artemis 23 failed when he was racing upwind in 20-25 knots in big, bouncy seas. Brayshaw immediately notified Race Direction of his damage and has retired from the leg. He headed for Léxardrieux where he was met by the Artemis Offshore Academy shore support team and is now heading on to La Rochelle where he plans to start Stage four.

Brayshaw said: “I’d been blasting along upwind for about 10 to 15 minutes and everything was going ok. I was making small gains on the boats and settling in for a long night of upwind sailing. Suddenly I heard a huge bang and could see my forestay had gone. I could see I had no tension in the jib, and I wasn’t really sure what to do or what was going to happen next. I slowed the boat down and radioed the Race Committee.

“I’m still unsure as to why the forestay broke, I didn’t set the boat up any differently and the lines weren’t any tighter than usual. It’s really annoying not to be able to race because of something that has broken, but I’m fit and well and ready to go. It’s really frustrating.”

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