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Overhauled at Owers: Isle of Wight option pays for Peron and Richomme

Published on 25/06/2019

The passage of the Owers buoy in the middle of last night delivered yet another upset on the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro as hard won leads were washed away under a massive dark cloud and heavy rain.

Eric Péron is the new leader of Stage 4 this morning while Yoann Richomme, the leader of the general classification, is up to second place and now would seem to be well positioned for victory. But one thing that has been proven on this landmark edition of the French solo offshore race is that anything can happen. Another big calm is expected to extend from the Cherbourg peninsula where the next mark Saint Marcouf is, and there will doubtless be many more twists and turns before the Grand Final finish line is reached in Dieppe on Wednesday.

As the leaders approached Owers in a fitful southwesterly wind, for all the world it looked like the British sailor Will Harris (Hive Energy) would maintain his position in the leading group to the easternmost turning mark in his home waters. But a huge thundery storm cloud rolled in bringing heavy rain and a big shift of wind direction in to the north. This benefited the group which had gone north, towards the Isle of Wight initially led by Yann Eliès (St Michel). They cashed in threefold, holding the breeze longer, gaining a new northerly and finding full benefits of the change of tide, initially pushing less current but then getting the new flood first.

In the inky blackness under the cloud, with forks of lightning lighting up the skies to the south, the wind stayed in the north and those who had played towards the Isle of Wight, closer to the rhumb line won out, the previous evening’s leading group overhauled on the approach to Owers. While Péron leads the fleet this morning, Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is up from 29th to sixth at the mark, while his British compatriot Harris cruelly drops to 13th, and Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) falls from 12th yesterday evening at 2100hrs to 36th, over five miles behind Péron.

Extracting themselves from the cloud became key, tacking or gybing in any direction to find the way out. That made for an exceptionally tiring third night at sea, with very little, or almost certainly no sleep. The passage across to Barfleur, where the final turning mark of the race is, looks complex and hard to read, and for sure this final leg of an incredible La Solitaire is set to offer more upsets before Dieppe.

Yesterday evening, Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) reported: “ There were light and variable winds with the breeze coming in from the north. My game plan was to stay on the rhumb line and sail the shortest distance and get to the new wind as quickly as possible. I positioned myself and headed towards the Isle of Wight and also for the change of current and the basic rule of the Solent when the wind is in the north, go north. It worked out OK. It is very tricky right now, there is no wind and it is going to be a tricky night. It is a bit of a lucky game, whoever catches the puff will do well and get through. The game is not to be left behind. Hopefully we will some sun soon. Yesterday with the fog we saw nothing, although there was a nice sunset over the island we never saw the sun. Tonight I don’t think there will be any sleep, I am just eating a nice little pot noodle now.”

Yann Eliès said: “It was a great lesson in humidity (laughs). We attacked the doldrums from the other side. Now it is raining and there are big squalls. The stormy low is disappearing and I hope we won’t suffer too much. It is still very unstable. The winds are all over the place. We will cross our fingers. We do not all have the same wind, for some it is northeast and for some west, but the forecast should be between northwest and northeast. I don’t think we are out of the woods at all. It is raining. It has rained all summer though!”

Yoann Richomme: “We made a nice gain. The sea is flat, it’s not unpleasant. After a few nervous hours because I could not see where the others were, I’m was happy to be second at Owers. That’s not bad for the general. I do not know where Alexis (Loison) and Gildas (Mahé) are, but it could not be that much better for me now. I took a great option to the Isle of Wight with Eric (Peron). We went looking for the wind shift and current at the same time and we got it all! The others did not want to go because it was away from the direct route to go to the coast. That’s right, it was pretty tricky. But once on the shore we found wind and good protection from the current initially.”

Times at Owers (Trophée Banque Populaire Grand Ouest)

1-Eric Péron (French Touch) Tuesday 25th June at 2h05’
2-Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Groupe Télégramme) at 2h10’30’’
3-Thomas Ruyant (Advens-Fondation de la mer) at 2h19’30’’
4-Yann Eliès (St Michel) at 2h29’
5-Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement) at 2h32’
6-Tanguy Le Turquais (Quéguiner-Kayak) at 2h33’
7-Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) at 2h33’
8-Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) at 2h35’
9-Alain Gautier (Merci pour ces 30 ans) at 2h38’
10-Alberto Bona (Sebago) at 2h39’

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