The gun finally went off for the second leg of the Regata Rubicon at midday French time today, Tuesday 21 May

The gun finally went off for the second leg of the Regata Rubicon at midday French time today, Tuesday 21 May after delaying the start last night due to strong 50 knot gusts sweeping the harbour entrance. Six Open 60 monohulls headed off the line on the 2,700-mile course from Lanzarote to Sta. Margherita in Italy, where they should finish this weekend.

Antoine Koch, the 23-year-old skipper of L’Heautontimoroumenos (ex-FILA) has withdrawn, explaining that he has completed in Leg 1 all the boat performance checks he wanted to do and is now doing his solo qualification for the Route Du Rhum back to Lorient instead of competing in leg 2.

Bernard Stamm, Swiss skipper of Bobst Group – Armor Lux, set the tone for all before leaving the dockside: “We’ve got nothing to lose, we’re third on the podium and three points from the leading boat, so there’s everything to play for. Taking into account of the number of miles we’ve done and the technical problems we’ve had, the playing field is wide open still. It’s much more comfortable with a crew – I’ve got 10 arms and, more importantly, five heads to think over everything!” One thing is for certain, his team didn’t rest up a great deal for the two days in Lanzarote, as they had to completely strip their engine after their technical setbacks in Leg 1.

Five of the six teams charged over the line close together, under two reefs in the main and Solent and Genoa hoisted in the 25 knot north-westerly winds: Kingfisher, skippered now by Australian Nick Moloney, got the best start just half a boat length in front of Tiscali Global Challenge (Simone Bianchetti), and in tandem the next boats across were Leg 1 winner Sill Plein Fruit (Roland Jourdain), Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick), and Bobst Group – Armor Lux (Bernard Stamm), the latter boasting only one reef in her main.

Temenos (Dominic Wavre) alone had their staysail up, and were hampered in their approach to the line by a problem with their main sheet, which left them a good two minutes behind the pack. However, the team quickly got back into the fray as the leading boats slowed up under a lighter patch of wind just a mile off the start.

The genoas were then furled away as each team prepared to sail off on their first upwind tack to Papagayo point, three miles away, reaching speeds of 17-20 knots already. At this point Kingfisher was still in the lead, followed closely by Virbac, Bobst Group – Armor Lux, Temenos and Tiscali, with Sill Plein Fruit bringing up the rear.

Coming out of the island, the fleet should encounter a 15 – 25 knot northerly breeze. The wind shift will come earlier than expected, as over night it will turn towards the NW. The key passage is the Gibraltar Straits, 600 miles to the north east of Lanzarote, where the winds could reach up to 40 knots from the west. So an unpleasant upwind stretch is in store for the crews, in this hugely tactical final leg of the Regata Rubicon.