Monday, August 17, 2009

Light conditions ahead for La Solitaire de Figaro sailors

[Source: La Solitaire du Figaro] Ireland and the damp and misty weather of the last few days are now well in the fleet’s wake, and the last 24 hours have delivered some of the best sailing so far encountered in the four legs of this year’s series of fiercely contested races. Having had up to 15 knots of south westerly and west-south-westerly wind to carry them this far, 20 miles or so from Wolf Rock, the real business of strategy is about to start as the breeze lessens and a less predictable weather regime imposes itself. As the weather front arriving from the west runs up against the high pressure system presently sitting over England a zone of transition is setting up, with the wind due to pass into the south and ease to the 5 – 10 knot range. Conditions for the passage up the Channel to the Isle of Wight are looking to be light then, but not to the degree expected, only the last hundred or so miles across to Dieppe looking like torturing the skippers with frustratingly fluky conditions.

Start of the last leg of the La Solitaire de Figaro. Dingle, 16 August 2009. Video copyright La Solitaire de Figaro

At present the main tactical difference seems to be between the main body of the leaders, including the current top three, following closer to the direct route, and the likes of overall leader Nicolas Lunven (CGPI) along with Erwan Tabarly (Athema) and Nicolas Troussel (Credit Mutuel de Bretagne) a few miles to the north, trading extra distance for a better angle as the wind eases and backs. Lunven is comfortable with his performance so far: “The fleet isn’t really in single file, it’s quite spread out laterally, but I’m happy with my strategy. I suffered a bit at the start in Dingle but really cracked on under spinnaker all night, the boat went quickly and I think I steered a really good course. I had the leading pack in front of me this morning, but I seem to be catching them up a bit now, which is a good sign. The next phase looks complicated though, and I check the weather charts just as soon as the forecasts come in, to try and understand what’s happening.”

Also in good heart this afternoon was British skipper Nigel King (Nigel King Yachting), currently holding his best placing of the series so far and enjoying being on home ground. In 11th place overnight, and right up with the leaders throughout, he is currently 18th, but less than 4 miles from the front runners on the direct route to the next mark: “It’s going pretty good, I seem to be hanging in OK at the front, so I’m happy. It’s a tricky night ahead though, so just a case of trying to keep the boat moving and getting along the south coast as fast as possible.” Fellow British skipper Jonny Malbon has found more difficulty in keeping up with the pack in the fast reaching conditions, presently placed 51st, 11.8 miles from the frontrunners.

Estimated time of arrival at Wolf Rock for the leaders is 20:00 (French time) this evening.



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