Slow going in light winds for start of Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro second leg 15/8/06

The start of the second leg of Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro to Saint Gilles Croix de Vie is underway in light, tricky conditions.

During the first night the fleet made good progress upwind in around 15 knots of northerly breeze but yesterday it dropped to between 3 and 5 knots.

Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) took the initial lead moving up five places on the leaders placed further east. Armel famously won the race in 2003 by just 13 seconds against fellow sailor Alain Gautier. In second place yesterday, leading a small group out further east we see Laurent Pellecuer move into second place trailing 1.9 miles behind and Nicolas Bérenger (KONE Ascenseurs) take a more direct route, lying third just 2.1 miles behind the lead.

The conditions on the water are not those forecast before the start of the shortest leg, the wind is light and so producing very low average speeds of anything up to just 2 knots. The race doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve, following the fleet at sea reports that “the conditions are more testing to the mind than the body. The need to remain constantly alert and able to squeeze as much boat speed as possible out of very fluky winds will not give the competitors much time for rest and the effects will no doubt play on the competitors minds as they face a further two nights at sea”.

The fleet makes painfully slow progress to the Birvideaux, now 135 miles away, working hard to coax any minimal extra fraction of boat speed in an uncomfortable sea swell. Small groups have spread out over with 25 miles separating the leader from Antonio Pedro da Cruz on Baiko. More notably, there is a 58-mile difference between Eric Drouglazet ( furthest East in 7th place and Thierry Chabagny (Littoral) to the West in 40th place. West of the layline, Thierry and Nicolas Troussel (Financo) are the only skippers with more than 5 knots of boat speed; could their western option prove to be the right one? One thing is certain, the sailors will be completely exhausted at the end and and face a further two thirds of the race.