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Playing the Clouds To Bishop Rock

Published on 10/06/2019

Past winners Armel Le Cléac’h and Yoann Richomme, who won Stage 1, are leading the 43 strong La Solitiare URGO Le Figaro fleet this morning in the middle of the Celtic Sea with some 45 nautical miles still to sail to Bishop Rock by the Scilly Isles.

Since starting from Kinsale yesterday evening, progress had slowed in the light airs and there is now 20 miles of lateral separation as the skippers seek to maintain clear air and anticipate the stronger NW’ly wind.

Vendée Globe winner Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) is sailing a conservative strategy, perhaps influenced slightly by his more radical, lone choice on stage 1 from Nantes to Kinsale which required him to make a big comeback. Closest to the most direct, rhumb line route, Le Cléac’h was in good breeze around 0600hrs this morning under big gennaker making eight knots almost directly towards Bishop Rock where the fleet turn east for a passage up the Channel.

Le Cléac’h, who is on his 11th participation in the Solitaire and won La Solitaire in 2003 and 2010, spoke of the ‘decent living conditions’ when contacted by the Race Direction this morning.

“It’s been a night with a little wind. It’s nice under spinnaker. We are sliding along with no rain but there are some clouds around which have affected the wind direction and strength. You have to ind good lanes of breeze which take you most directly towards the mark. The wind is quite unstable and so we are having to concentrate hard and so have not had time to sleep,” Le Cléac’h reported.

The top five boats are typically within one mile of each other in terms of the distance to the mark. Richomme (Telegramme Groupe-Hellowork) has stayed further to the east of the rhumb line and has been quicker. The Leg 1 winner Richomme confirmed in Kinsale that before each start, he acquires additional weather information and advice from ace Dutch Marcel van Triest, the meteo guru who contributed significantly to Dongfeng’s Volvo Ocean Race win.

Three times winner Jérémie Beyou (Charal) was in eighth this morning, also confirming that the first night on this leg to Roscoff via the Needles has been about finding the best corridors of breeze with no time to leave the helm and trimming to nap. Another significant factor on the new Figaro Beneteau 3 is that the range of the AIS (radar based boat and ship identification system) is much lower than on the previous generation 2 one design, more like two to four miles than the previous 10 miles. So the skippers have much less idea of the shape of the overall fleet and can no longer monitor gains and losses as much as they could before when the leaders could usually pinpoint all their rivals and their moves.

“I think I’m in the middle of the fleet. It has been down to the little squalls and puffs how you got on. After, it’s really at the discretion of the grains so I think that with Armel we made good progress on the guys to windward, butI’m not so sure against those to leeward I cannot see them really. The wind has gone right gradually but we don’t really know how this will evolve as we had more wind from the start than we expected,” Beyou explained.

Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux (Teamwork) and Brits Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) and Will Harris (Hive Energy) are top internationals on this morning’s leaderboard in 18th, 19th and 20th.

You can view the live rankings on the tracker here.

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