Skippers’Thoughts Ahead of Stage 2

Published on 05/09/2020

Stage 2, a 404 nautical miles leg from Saint Quai Portriuex to Dunkirk via Eddystone ligth and a mark off Le Havre with the finish into Dunkirk shaped by narrowing lanes caused by the extensive TSS off Calais and Dunkirk, so it will be an interesting follow on to Stage 1. Here is a round-up of what some skippers were saying on the dock with less than 24 hours to go....

Alexis Courcoux/La Solitaire du Figaro
Alexis Courcoux/La Solitaire du Figaro

Xavier Macaire 1st (Groupe SNEF): “As always, there is a lot of pressure. To be honest it feels like normal pressure at this stage just the pressure of competition, to the desire to do well because of course this is the most important race of the year. I would be lying if I said I have no pressure. But it is not in any way linked to my victory on the first stage, it is all about my desire to continue to sail well, to not make mistakes on the next stage. And that starts with concentrating on preparation, you have to be organized and methodical, take things one by one so that you can start with no additional worries only focused on the stage. Today has been down to studying the weather files, getting rest and recuperating, I want everything to be sorted so as not to be worried by anything other than the way I sail on the leg. I started with confidence in this Solitaire, there is no reason that I should not be after a win. The only pressure I put on myself is to do as well on the next steps. “

“The Azores high pressure extends to the English Channel and Brittany and we are in the high pressure curve so we will have a west-northwest wind. When we go up northwards towards England, we will be wedged between this high pressure which moves to the east and a low pressure to the north of Great Britain with a good flow from West-North-West. Then we will have a fairly strong West-South-West flow between England and Dunkirk, so we will do a good part of the stage downwind. It will be fun, there will be some fast stuff! If the wind is strong we will be more towards survival mode, if it is moderate, it will mainly be driving and positioning. “

The finish into Dunkirk is likely to shaped to some extent by the TSS at Calais which takes a lot of ocean.?“What is certain is that the TSS funnels our sailing area, we will be between it and the coast, which is also quite high there. But normally should be downwind so we should not have to tack along the coast against the current in a tight small-gain mode. We will have to focus on the positioning and speed of the boat in this last phase of the stage. In any case, I am going to sail in the North Sea for the first time, it will be great to discover a new sailing area.

Sam Goodchild GBR, 9th (Leyton): “The sections are shorter on this stage, I don’t know if that is to be benefit or not, I feel I am a good allrounder rather than having one or two particular strengths. The beat to Eddystone is the most complicated bit depending how long we take to get there. It will be 18-20 hours to get there, but the weather on the way across is complicated at the moment with the models not really agreeing. But a lot will depend on the timing getting to Eddystone, you can be hiding from the tide off Start Point or getting accelerated round there. I don’t think anyone knows that area any better than anyone else as every time you go there the tide is different or the wind is different. But for sure the first 24 hours are dominated by where the wind is. The wind should kick in from Monday afternoon and then it should be relatively straightforward.

I seem to have the boat speed to spend most of the race in the top 10. There are a few things I’d like to do better. Tidying up my trajectory a bit around the decision making areas. A few things i am learning about the boat, like when it’s a good time to get sleep and when you have to be on deck to go fast. I managed to enjoy the sailing which isn’t always the case when you’re constantly worrying about the race and consequences of all our decisions.

Phil Sharp, 29th (OceansLab): “One thing in the Channel for sure is weed and how you deal with it. I had two back ups and then went full astern on engine (ed note: as the race rule now permits) and even then I had to dive to get a big piece off which was wrapped round the keel. It is always hard to know what to do about it and when.

I think it could be tactical at Start Point, it will be quite crucial there depending on exactly when we get there in terms of tide. I have been pretty happy with my upwind and downwind speed. Frustratingly for me after the Scillies I had no speed under the gennaker, My gennaker is a bit flat and I felt like I was missing sail area, I was that slow. I was totally off the pace and whatever I did the boat would not move. I was pretty happy with the ways things were going, I had had a good race with Anthony Marchand and Eric Péron after the Fastnet. Otherwise I was happy with the way I sailed. The end did not go the way I wanted.

This leg I think the finish will be interesting with lots of gybing at close quarters at the shipping lanes with people calling for water.”

Adrien Hardy (Océan Attitude) 18th: “ I came back a long way, not quite enough but I am 28 minutes behind Xavier which is not exactly nothing but I can have hopes. The good thing is my speed is good, I feel like I have what I need to play at the front, I had that feeling in the races before but just did not have the consistency. I think I can play at the front in all conditions. I did not do well on the first night but that does not represent a big mistake on my part, so I am pretty sure I can get back into it. There is a good beat to Eddystone it is possible there will be some light patches and some little options, so it will be important to position yourself well and there might be some things to do around Start Point until Monday midday and then the westerly wind should pick up and it should be a bit easier under spinnaker to Dunkirk. On paper it is not a stage on which big gaps should develop. I am aiming for a top 5 and then boom the stage to Saint Nazaire is one for me, I love that.”

Tom Dolan 10th IRL (Smurfit Kappa), “Well there is a lot of downwind, a bit of an upwind to go to Eddystone, with a few shifts but it will get lighter quite quickly when we get towards the English coast and then a long downwind towards Dunkirk. It will be fairly quick. There will be a few opportunities, I think positioning is the key in the Channel and then on the way down to Dunkirk. It is going to be interesting and for sure nice to be going into it in a decent position. I have worked hard for the result even if I maybe did not expect to be doing so well. But it gives me confidence but I’m keeping focused, not getting over excited, there is such a long way to go.”

Fréderic Duthil 14th (Technique Voile/Cabinet Bourhis Generali): “We should have at least a little wind all the time and so hopefully that takes away some of the stress of falling into a hole and losing a lot, that’s not to say it won’t be light but it looks a bit better. It will be more of a sprint than a strategic race we need to be going fast all the time and so we will see who has the good allround speed. I felt I started the last leg well enough but I felt I did not really have the settings on the first leg but have a big more idea now and feel like I can play at the front too. That’s my goal I would like to get in the top ten.


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