Light Winds Test is First Night Puzzle

Published on 31/08/2020

From what was a brisk departure from the Baie-de-Saint-Brieuc yesterday afternoon competitors on the first night of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro have found the light winds, high pressure ridge to be as slow and as problematic as was forecast. The 35 boat fleet on the 642 nautical miles passage to the Fastnet Rock and back slowed to a standstill at times, and indeed some boats on the inshore line, the rocky Brittany coast were forced backwards by the tidal current.

On the 5am Monday standings, Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group) was in the lead. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) is the best of the internationals in sixth at 1.4 nautical miles behind the leader, Briton Sam Goodchild (Leyton) was fifth and slid slightly to eighth but both were in the main, low risk peloton.

Macaire took over the lead as the fleet reached westwards after Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir), second in the first stage a year ago, passed the Île de Bréhat in the lead ahead of Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) and Loïs Berrehar (Bretagne CMB Performance ). Since that turn westwards along the Channel the fleet was gradually slowed down in the high pressure ridge blocking their route to the west.

Off Perros-Guirec there was a notable breakaway from Frédéric Duthil (Technique Voile-Cabinet Bourhis Generali) and wily double winner Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), followed later by Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Matériaux-Leucémie Espoir), the only three times overall victor. An initial reward, holding on to the breeze and pushing less tide was rewarded but this morning around 0800hrs French time the hugely experienced, older trio are 21st, 22nd and 23rd.

This morning at dawn, the fleet was thus split into three groups off L’Aber Wrac’h, with more than 30 miles of lateral separation between the most northerly, Frédéric Duthil, and the most southerly, Pierre Leboucher.

Who will come out of the ridge first to reach a fairly weak south-south-easterly flow which is seen off tip of Brittany? “It’s difficult to say because the ridge is quite wide with lots of small anticyclonic bubbles, which means that sometimes, some advance a little while others are completely stopped”, suggests Yann Chateau, assistant race director to Francis Le Goff. It will be early afternoon before the answers to this first conundrum of this first leg of four will become known.

Standings at 5 am: 1. Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group), 2. Corentin Douguet (NF Habitat), 3. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Matériaux-Leukémie Espoir), 4. Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir), 5. Sam Goodchild (Leyton)


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