Bérenger leads Cap Istanbul

On the 'European Capital of Culture – Cap Istanbul' the sailors no longer speak about complicated, light conditions but rather Cape Verdes’ weather. The skipper of Baïko has masterfully scored his first leg victory on the Figaro circuit.

Another sailor that has come off well is Nicolas Bérenger, who is now lying in first place in the general ranking by a matter of seconds, finishing nearly an hour and thirty minutes ahead of Eric Drouglazet, winner of the first leg.

There are sailors who don’t know what it is like to take the lead. Antonio Pedro da Cruz, professional delivery sailor by trade, is a familiar face on the circuit, always there but rarely at the front of the fleet. A connoisseur of the good things in life, who likes his sleep, from time to time Antonio was capable of a thundering start but seemed unable to keep up the relentless pace required to sail a 350 mile leg single-handed. As such he was considered by a number of the top names on the circuit to be a straight man. This is especially true given that he has been in permanent good humour since his early days in the Figaro circuit some years ago. This time though, the sailor from the Cape Verde islands kept up with the pace: in fact, better than that, he has cleverly managed his capital, stretching his lead of over 15 miles to an amazing 80 miles by the finish. Whilst Baïko was powering along at 6 knots on a direct course, his adversaries found themselves making a series of tacks through light winds. Neither the highly changeable conditions encountered along the home stretch, nor the aggressiveness of the mob in hot pursuit could counter his determination… Antonio was flying along on empty by the end, hungry to pocket his first victory and reward his partner who has been a loyal follower since he began the circuit.

A few other skippers also found satisfaction in this leg: Laurent Pellecuer (Docteur Valnet Aromathérapie) and Gildas Mahé (Le Comptoir Immobilier) who complete the podium, along with Thierry Chabagny (Suzuki Automobiles) who is in a more familiar place towards the head of the ranking now. By ranking 5th in this leg Gildas Morvan has brought the French Championship title within his clutches. Another big winner of the day is Nicolas Bérenger. The skipper of Kone Elevators has slipped into first place in the general ranking by 29 seconds. This is very little when you take into account the number of miles left to go, but it’s a symbolic result which perfectly suits the game plan of the skipper from La Grande Motte. Nicolas has confirmed since the start that he wants to win this edition of the 'European Capital of Culture – Cap Istanbul'. It remains though that it would be extremely surprising if Eric Drouglazet, the skipper of Luisina gave up the fight and we can expect a fierce battle between Marzamemi and Crete, with a wealth of other protagonists just as keen to do well. François Gabart (Espoir région Bretagne), for whom this is the first Figaro season and whose talent is only equalled by his discretion and kindness, was the author of an exemplary course where his regular performance has left him within just 12 minutes of the frontrunners. He is tailed by Marc Emig (Capitol). The sailor from Marseilles has clearly lost nothing of his attacking temperament then. Indeed, Marc has taken something positive from a year out of the circuit due to the withdrawal of his sponsor, telling himself that it has made him increasingly keen to sail, which demonstrates that the desire to do well is another ingredient on the road to success.

Other sailors have not been quite so lucky: Jean-Charles Monnet (Dégremeont Suez Environnement Source de Talent) had to scale his mast right from the outset after a mainsail batten came out of the front of the pocket and prevented it from being hoisted or lowered. The upshot of this was a good half hour delay for the Norman sailor and the unpleasant sensation of playing catch up with the rest of the fleet for the entire leg. Fred Duthil (Distinxion) won’t have fond memories of this leg either. At the head of the chasing pack behind Baïko, he got his keel caught in some non-marked fish-farming nets. The result was a boat at a complete standstill for Frédéric who lost over an hour in the operation, before finding himself relegated to the tail of the group. The sailor preferred to laugh about it on his arrival but we can imagine it was a bitter pill to swallow. Erwan Tabarly (Athéma) managed to be the first to extract himself from the calms encountered in the bays of southern Sicily. However, yet another calm patch enveloped him and ruined his ambitions by knocking him way back down the rankings.

It’s one of the charms of the 'European Capital of Culture – Cap Istanbul': slightly distanced from true ocean racing, this course opens the gateway to fate, gives luck to the outsiders, and reshuffles the hackneyed cards of the routes marked out for generations. With seven sailors still within an hour of each other, the race winner is a long way off being named. That’s all part of its charm…

Quotes from the boats:

Antonio Pedro da Cruz, Baïko. 'I am particularly happy, above all for my partner who has helped me be in the running for four years… I had an awful lot of pressure on my shoulders as it isn’t easy to maintain your lead in front of the top players who sail on the circuit. I said to myself that as long as nothing serious happened to me, there was no reason for this leg to escape my grasp…'

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