Yesterday afternoon saw a very slow start to Stage 4 of La Solitaire URGO le Figaro and was followed by an even slower evening, the conditions allowing the skippers to complete just 60nm of the course with a further 365 to go at the 05:00 hours check in this morning.
Throughout the early hours of this morning the fleet have been negotiating the headland of Penmarc’h, looking for every little bit of speed possible short tacking close into the shore to avoid the adverse current, boat speeds of the fleet down to as little as .5kts making any maneuvers hugely costly and many needing to anchor to avoid backtracking.
As of 4am this morning the tidal gate opened and allowed passage to the Solitaire fleet – moving away from the rocks and shoreline where they had taken refuge from the current. Now heading for the west of Breast, with the duo Anthony Marchand (Ovimpex, Popular Relief) in charge, Charlie DAlin (Skipper Macif 2015), just behind.
This is going to be an incredibly tough stage! The fleet left the port of Concarneau after mid-day yesterday and are still in south Brittany more than twelve hours later! “It’s true that the reality is not at all in line with expectations,” explained Gildas Mahé to the VHF this morning. “We really had a very weak wind and I almost got wet last night at Cape Caval. It’s going to take a long time, but I’m happy to be back in the game.” Just like Alexis Loison (Custopol), who was recalled yesterday at the start along with the skipper of Action Contre La Faim, both have made up the time and back within the pack.
Mahé-Loison, the return!
Since their misfortune at the start of stage 4 these two have not rested and have spent all night exploiting all that was possible. Under such harsh conditions, no competitor could relax. No more than 3 to 4 knots of wind, frequent changes of angle, the current against and being driven towards Penmarc’h, many pockets of algae and seaweed to negotiate or clear from under water appendages to top it all. Several competitors being forced to anchor to avoid drifting backwards on the tide, Headed by Anthony Marchand and Charlie Dalin who were the first to get anchors wet as explained on the VHF by the skipper of Ovimpex: “It lasted about twenty minutes perhaps. It’s never easy with the little rope that knots when you lift it up.”
Nicolas Lunven back but not stalled
Unlike yesterday evening when the current tended to distort the fleet, the first stop to the buoy Cap Caval tightened the fleet. In the tracking of Nicolas Lunven, a little hook once passed the Glénans despite a good start, unfolded this morning to the 24th position, only 1.5 miles from the leader: “The gaps are still weak, I’m not too worried. I haven’t backed off all night but the boat has stalled, I had my anchor ready in case…”
Beyond Penmarc’h in a still elusive wind - no more than 3 knots from west-south west - the competitors have finished with close proximity to the pebbles of Penmarc’h. Aligned wakes the fleet all make their way to the western Sein and must think of loading the first wind files to try to understand when the situation will open and when they will reconnect with speeds worthy of a long stage of the Solitaire. There are still more than 450 miles to cover up to Dieppe. More than ever, endurance will be key in this stage.
With the fleet now starting to line up on their way to the western Sein the leaderboard and International order begins to show some signs of returning to normality. Justine Mettraux (Teamwork) and Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) doing well over night in the light and coming out this morning positioned in the center of the pack – at the 9h rankings Roberts in 10th whilst Mettraux close behind in 17th. Mary Rook (Inspire +) coming out of the first night still in touch with the main pack and sits in 25th with Milan Kolacek (Czeching The Edge) in 26th. Whilst further down the rankings in 32nd this morning all is not lost for Hugh Brayshaw (The Offshore Academy) who is only 5 miles back from the leader!
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