La Solitaire du Figaro - Fleet pass Start Point

La Solitaire du Figaro 2012
© Alexis Courcoux
La Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire fleet are in English waters today. The 36 skippers rounded Wolf Rock off the coast of Cornwall this morning and are currently racing past Start Point.

Fabian Delahaye (Skipper Macif 2012) holds firm in first, while British skipper Sam Goodchild is racing in the top ten as the fleet sails through his home waters.


The 31 French, three English, one Portuguese and one Norwegian sailors began the cross-Channel stage of Leg 3 late last night, beating across the 80 miles from the Grande Basse buoy to Wolf Rock – which encompasses some of Europe's busiest shipping lanes – in darkness in a brisk north-westerly. The leaders rounded Wolf Rock around 7.30am (CEST), with Lagraviere, Nicolas Lunven (Generali) and Yann Eliès (Groupe Queguiner/Journal des Enterprises) gybing out rapidly while Delahaye, Frederic Duthil (Sepalumic) and Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) held a more inshore line.

Artemis Offshore Academy race coach Marcus Hutchinson explains that there is important local knowledge to apply along this stretch of the south coast: 'A trick that many but obviously not all sailors know is the early and significant tide turn at each of these points close to the land. Setting yourself up in advance to arrive near the headlands as the tide turns early inshore is always a winner and already we can see that Gildas Morvan and Fred Duthil used this phenomena straight away at the Lizard and have moved themselves up to the front of the fleet.'

With Duthil and Morvan moving up to second and third, local sailor Sam Goodchild (Artemis 23) was also making the best use of his familiarity with this stretch of coast to hold a top 10 position throughout the day. Since passing the Lizard the fleet have mostly remained on a long port spinnaker reach, with Lagraviere making the most of any opportunity to play the angles to retake second position as they passed Plymouth.

The latest rankings show Delahaye in first place separated by the smallest of margins from second placed Morgan Lagraviere (Vendée) in second, with Duthil (Sepalumic) in third. Speaking at around 1500hrs today, Fabien Delahaye commented: 'The wind is very variable, we had some gusts at 25 knots and now it's gone down again to 15. Morgan has made an incredible comeback, he's right beside me. I try not to look over my shoulder and to focus on the boat speed and my exhaustion. I need to do my own race, getting to Fairway in the best possible manner. We'll have time to do the calculations at the finish.'

Battle of Britain - La Solitaire du Figaro 2012
© Alexis Courcoux
With around 90 miles to go until the Needles Fairway buoy, the first of the Bizuths is Julien Villion (Seixo Promotion) in a hugely respectable seventh, while Sam Goodchild is just inshore of him in 10th place. Enjoying his best leg so far on his second attempt at the Figaro, Goodchild is just 2.5 miles behind the first placed Delahaye and parallel with Villion and Jeanne Gregoire (Banque Populaire) in eighth. Next among the British skippers is Henry Bomby (Artemis 37) in 25th place, and Nick Cherry (Artemis 77) is in 28th.

Fabien Delahaye (Macif 2012): 'I was ready to gybe after Wolf Rock this morning but then I chose to go a bit further right, I'm trying to do my best VMG as the wind is going to shift to the north-west. I know that if one stays inshore there is always a bit more wind and the flow is favourable, I know because I've been here before. It's mainly for this reason that I decided to stay close to shore. We'll see what will come out of it, but for now it looks ok.'

Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert): 'We passed Wolf Rock and then pointed right to Lizard Point, under spinnaker. Some others decided to gybe, looking for stiffer breeze more offshore. Actually one hour later the wind had shifted to the right so we got the new breeze first inshore, we sped up and overtook some boats. I'm pretty happy with this option, going straight, it paid off. The conditions are fantastic, it's sunny, the wind is up to 18 knots, coming from NNE, the boat flies…

I'm close to Macif, just in front of me and then there is Sepalumic and Vendée a bit behind. We can see the English coast. I've not checked the ETA, but it should be fast with a forecast for good breeze at Needles Fairway and we should be able to keep eight knots of average boat speed. Everything can still happen, there are still options to take. I'm a bit weary, I've had some naps but I couldn't really rest. I thought we would be going downwind with the spinnaker along the English coast but we have a pretty strong north-westerly and things changed. I should find some time to sleep or maybe I will have to wait for that.'

Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement): 'The fleet is still quite close-packed after two days of racing, there is still a chance to get a good result. Sure this leg is far more interesting than the previous ones, there have been movements in the fleet, some wind transitions earlier this morning, currents to deal with and it's going to go on like this until we get past the Isle of Wight. It looks like everybody is playing the waiting game as there isn't much one can do, it's about heading straight there with a well set breeze. Some boats gybed after having gone south, as I did. Unfortunately it's wasn't a very good option. I'm ok, a bit tired as I had to go up the mast because a diagonal shroud got loose and I couldn't tack, I'm glad I noticed in time! I've decided to stay in the pack, trying to go as fast as possible.'

Julien Villion (Seixo Promotion): 'All good, I'm really happy to be in the leading pack, close to the best ones. It helps me to get the right rhythm, being less experienced. I haven't slept much, but I could rest during the reaching tack towards Wolf Rock, even if it was pretty bumpy. Not easy to take long siestas, only five minute naps, but it was enough. I try not to think too much about Thomas' whereabouts (Thomas Normand, another rookie) I try to sail my own race and finish the leg well. We don't know what is going to happen, it all depends on the conditions we'll have so there is not much I can do except for pushing hard and try to get some time back.'

Nick Cherry (Artemis 77) (speaking to south coast radio station Voice Fm): 'I've just gone past the Lizard headland. I'm racing against 36 other boats and I can see about 30 of them at the moment, we've been racing for nearly two days and it is still super-tight. I haven't got any specific goals for this final stretch, but I've got loads of boats either side so it's about trying to pick them off one by one. I'm currently having a very close race with Henry Bomby, the other Artemis Offshore Academy rookie so if I can get past him in the next few hours then that would be nice, but who knows.'

Sam Goodchild (Speaking to BBC radio Cornwall): 'It's going alright in this leg for me compared to the rest. I was up in 13th last night and I managed to pull four places overnight and now I'm in ninth as we pass Falmouth, so quite a lot of good things are happening. It's been pretty hard work, but there are guys all around me. I can see the first and last boats at the moment, all within about five miles of each other. You definitely know about it when you do something wrong, whether it be eating or sleeping at the wrong time or making a wrong decision. All competitors are pretty close together; there is no hanging around. Before the event, I was looking to finish top half, I finished the first two legs just outside of that so if I can finish top half comfortably in this leg, I think that would be a good way to finish it off. I don't think there is any way to recover the overall results at the moment but that doesn't mean I'm not trying.'

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