Only 4 miles separate the top 30 as they sail along the UK's south coast
It isn’t often that the Race Office drops in on the fleet in the middle of an offshore yacht race, but that was the case yesterday afternoon when the chartered jet carrying the organizers and race officials of La Solitaire du Figaro were able to buzz 52 very surprised skippers mid-Irish Sea.
Ireland and the damp and misty weather of the last few days are now well in the fleet’s wake, and the last 24 hours have delivered some of the best sailing so far encountered in the four legs of this year’s fiercely contested race. Having had up to 15 knots of south westerly and west-south-westerly wind to carry them this far, 20 miles or so from Wolf Rock, the real business of strategy is about to start as the breeze lessens and a less predictable weather regime imposes itself.
As the weather front arriving from the west runs up against the high pressure system presently sitting over England a zone of transition is setting up, with the wind due to pass into the south and ease to the 5-10 knot range. Conditions for the passage up the Channel to the Isle of Wight are looking to be light, but not to the degree expected. Only the last hundred or so miles across to Dieppe look like torturing the skippers with frustratingly fluky conditions.
At present the main tactical difference seems to be between the main body of the leaders. There are currently only one-and-a-half miles between the top six. Nicolas Lunven (CGPI), in sixth position, commented: “The fleet isn’t really in single file, it’s quite spread out laterally, but I’m happy with my strategy. I suffered a bit at the start in Dingle but really cracked on under spinnaker all night, the boat went quickly and I think I steered a really good course. I had the leading pack in front of me this morning, but I seem to be catching them up a bit now, which is a good sign. The next phase looks complicated though, and I check the weather charts just as soon as the forecasts come in, to try and understand what’s happening.”
Also in good spirits was British skipper Nigel King. Nigel was holding his best placing of the series so far in 11th place yesterday – right up with the leaders throughout. He is currently 19th, but less than 4 miles from the front runners: “It’s going pretty good, I seem to be hanging in OK at the front, so I’m happy. It’s a tricky night ahead though, so just a case of trying to keep the boat moving and getting along the south coast as fast as possible.”
Fellow British skipper Jonny Malbon found more difficulty in keeping up with the pack in the fast reaching conditions, but is presently making up places. He is currently ranked 43rd, 8 miles from the frontrunners.
For a full list of positions, visit www.lasolitaire.com .