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35-Knot Channel Test

Published on 11/06/2019

Racing towards a depression which has brought them strengthening winds and heavy rain as they reach eastwards up the Channel, the fleet on the second leg of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro are being led by Yoann Richomme (Hellowork-Groupe Telegramme), who has eked out a lead of nearly four miles on second placed Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) early this morning.

Richomme. Leg 1 winner, reported gusts of more than 35-knots and short, steep confused seas as he battled towards the Needles Fairway buoy which was about 35 nautical miles ahead of him on what has been pretty much a 160 miles straight line speed test since passing Bishop Rock yesterday afternoon.

The muscular conditions have exacted a toll on the fleet. Three solo skippers reported that they have abandoned the 535-mile stage from Kinsale to Roscoff; Cécile Laguette (Eclisse), Martin Le Pape (Skipper MACIF 2017) and Thomas Ruyant (ADVENS – Fondation de la mer) are all heading directly to the finish port. Winds are expected to start to diminish late morning.

British skippers Will Harris (Hive Energy) and Alan Roberts (Sea Cat Services) have profited as they plough through home waters offshore of the English Riviera, at speeds between 12 and 14 knots in conditions which are proving an acid test for the sailors and their new Figaro Beneteau 3s which were all just launched in the spring.

For many this will be the most sustained period of winds of 30+ knots they will have sailed in. Harris, in particular, said before the start in Kinsale that he was especially pleased to have raced the windy Solo Concarneau, the final event before this La Solitaire which many sat out to rest and prepare.

Harris is up to tenth this morning at 13 miles behind the leader, Richomme, and Roberts is 12th some two miles behind his fellow Brit.

Sixth placed Fabien Delahaye (Loubsol), reported: “It is full on washing machine conditions. It is cold and it is very wet. It is not very nice but it is hard. I have spent a little time inside after the manoeuvres. It is safer in here. Twice we have changed to gennaker and hoisting the main a little and have been going fast, but then had to drop it all down a bit since the beginning of the night. I was averaging 15 knots for a while earlier in the night but now it is a punishment. At the moment I am under reefed main and solent and have 36 knots and gusts to 38. I am making 12 knots and the boat is jumping waves so it is a good test for the boat. I have no problems but we need to be a bit careful because it would be easy to get hurt. This should not last too long. The wind will head, moving to the right, and we will end up on the other side of the low pressure, so in Easterly winds and calm down.”

And leader Richomme concurred: “The conditions are quite muscular, 30 knots with gusts to 35. The boat is going well and behaving nicely other than jumping from wave to wave at 12 to 13 knots. It is magical. We are keeping up good speeds as we head towards the centre of this depression. I am keeping an eye on things from inside as much as I can rather than be outside. These are the biggest conditions we have had but not terrible. It is good test for the boat.”

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