Published on 16/09/2021
After what should be the last full night at sea, racing under spinnaker in conditions which have proven good to make miles towards the final finish line off Saint Nazaire, the leading group is stretch across what almost amounts to a new start line, stretching 12 miles north to south. As the French skipper Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) said this morning “We’re on the start line for the finish.” And so there looks set to be a sprint – of some sort – for the line, but for sure this is a classic La Solitaire du Figaro finish, intense boat for boat racing, in sight of many other skippers after nearly 600 miles and three and a half days of racing. As the land heats up the thermal effects will come into play and the boats offshore, or inshore, will benefit.
Overall race leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) is leader of the offshore group while Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT Environnement - Ruban Rose) is most inshore with fifth placed Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) 1.3 miles behind his transom.
Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola): “The main thing is that the swell has calmed down quite a bit. We are still under spinnaker in the south of the Breton coast and we are working down the descent towards Saint-Nazaire. The night was very busy, we found a lot of weed and that is hard work. I did a lot of back ups to to remove weed and plastic from the keel. Last night, the wind was a bit unstable, sometimes with an oscillation of 15 °, so I was very much working to trim and keep fast. I have found my pals who I lost three days ago, Xavier (Macaire), Tom (Dolan) and Pierre (Leboucher). I don’t see them on the AIS but I see their lights. This morning we’re on a start line for the finish There is Macif 2019 to leeward Fabien (Delahaye) and me in the middle and Xavier closer to the coast. We had a good 13-14 knots last night, we were finally able to out some miles down the road because yesterday was a bit slow. I’m still 90 miles from Saint-Nazaire, but I don’t think we’ll get there very soon. We’ll see if there’s a breeze. It’s going to be another big day full of twists and turns. “
Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF): “We still have a good little wind, we take advantage of it because it should drop during the day. I wanted to stay fairly close to the direct route, I favoured the approach to be able to be on the favoured gybes while being well in phase with the wind shifts. I can’t see where my competition is, I have the impression that they have stayed more in the middle. On the rankings, I see that you gain and lose and this morning I am back again. But it’s not over, although I’m happy to be second on the standings this morning. I’m pretty happy to be still well placed in the game. It’s not easy to have a clear vision of what is going on today. The info we have is big scale, so the local situation and thermal effects must be guessed. A lot can be played out within a few miles of the finish. I try to move offshore a bit down from the direct route so as not to get too close to the lee and the lighter stuff. For now, I’m slipping along in a northerly wind with good speed. I took a little nap and will go back down because the wind is stable and I would like to keep some energy for the end of the race. It’s going to be a great adventure today! “
Alexis Loison (Région Normandie): “It’s hard this morning! It’s the last night I hope. There has always been a little bit of wind, backing a little these last few hours. I can’t see what’s really going to happen but the wind should turn to the left. The idea is to keep the wind as long as possible. Because when the day is going to break, it will heat up on the ground and it will drop and turn left. The idea is to keep the best angle for the approach to the finish. I said I would attack, if the opportunity arose, maybe right now. I have a feeling the northerners have had the advantage they went faster last night, maybe it will drop a bit there by daybreak. We have been back to ‘gardening’ since last night! There is a lot of seaweed. We have a camera that sees the entire keel. Either we back up against the wind under spinnaker, or we take the knotted rope which we come to pass in front of the bow of the boat and which we pull at the keel. We also have weed sticks for the rudders. “
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