Published on 23/06/2019
Since leaving Roscoff Sunday afternoon in light breeze, the 47 solo skippers racing the 500-mile final stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro have finally enjoyed a reasonably swift, straight line passage across the Channel to Wolf Rock where they are expected around breakfast time this Sunday morning. Racing downwind in 20 knots of breeze, they have had to remain on high alert to monitor shipping traffic and to keep up maximum speed in the gusty conditions.
Alexis Loison (Region Normandie) who lead the breakway on Stage 3 only to be overhauled at Ushant, is setting the pace once again. At less than ten miles to Wolf Rock, off Lands End, Loison was 0.8 of a mile ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) at around 0600hrs BST. After making a great start out of the Bay of Morlaix yesterday and ranking third at the Radio France buoy, Briton Will Harris (Hive Energy) has been fourth all the way across the Channel, getting into waters he knows well from RORC racing and is eighth as they approach the famous mark.
Harris checked in very early this morning, when he was enjoying the faster conditions which have been a contrast to the long periods of light, shifty and tricky sailing which have been the hallmark of this 50th edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. “It was pretty tricky conditions coming out of the bay in Roscoff but it seemed to work out quite well. I was very happy to round the Radio France Buoy in third and it was a nice start. I am in the front group and so I am happy with where I am. I seemed to have been improving all the way through my La Solitaire and so I am quite happy at the moment.
I managed to find wind in the middle of the start line and that helped me, I was quick in my manoeuvres, quicker from spinnaker to gennaker and that gained me a few metres. That became big differences when the shifts and gusts started coming in.
We always knew the breeze was going to increase as we got offshore and so it has been a race to get offshore and then we were gybing back and forth trying to stay in the breeze on the way down to Grande Basse de Portsall. I managed to stay north and that has kept me in the front group, now I am just trying to keep the boat fast enough. As we move north the boats are getting faster and faster, something we have missed on this race, so it is nice to be moving a bit quicker. I am just trying to keep the boat going quickly to Wolf Rock. We are quite tight with the spinnaker and so it is a bit wet at times but the waters are quite flat which is nice. The wind is up and down in the gusts, we will have 15 knots at one point then 25 in another, it is trying to keep the boat under control. I have managed to get a bit of sleep but it is tricky because the boat goes out of control very quickly.
We should get to Wolf Rock around sunrise. We will keep the wind for a while then it will be upwind under jib, and then it will get lighter and lighter. We need to use the wind while we have it but I am glad to be in the front group.”
At Wolf Rock the solo racers turn east towards the Isle of Wight, a long leg which will sea the breeze go ahead and diminish as they reach a light winds buffer zone which will likely see some compression.
In fourth at one mile behind the leader Loison, three times overall winner Jérémie Beyou (Skipper Charal) reported: “All is well ... we are on a pretty nice tack for once! Under spinnaker we are going well and it’s good to find these sensations! The wind is not super stable but it’s ok and especially as I’m sailing in in the front group. I was well positioned. I had some problems with seaweed, I did not stop but it is certainly faster without seaweed on the keel! I found some speed and here I am next to Morvan (Lagraviere) which is a good benchmark. The wind should hold well to the other side of the Channel and then there might be one little gybe to do. After us there will be more current and the wind will ease behind us. We will see if that proves right after Wolf Rock. But this is cool right now, I am under pilot, and I have even had time to eat and rest… a little.”
Follow the fleet on the tracking here.
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