Solo sailor Jonny Malbon has a difficult first leg in the Solitaire du Figaro

It was a tough Initiation for Jonny Malbon in Leg 1 of the Solitaire du Figaro. Jonny – on board Artemis – finished the leg after 59 hours and 30 minutes of racing, arriving in La Coruna (Spain) at 0030 CET yesterday (Sunday 2 August) in 50th.

Jonny arrived in Spain 6 hours and 30 minutes after Leg winner Yann Elies. In the Rookie division, he is placed 13th overall. The Solitaire du Figaro is notoriously tough. Leader Yann, in his first Solitaire du Figaro over a decade ago, finished last in the first leg – 18 hours after the leader.

As Jonny recovers ahead of Leg 2 – starting Monday 10 August from La Coruna to Saint Gilles Croix de Vie – his Artemis teammate Nick Bubb sent this report:

“After managing to pull off a near perfect start, Jonny found himself in good company but eventually this was to be his downfall as both Yann Elies and Jéremie Beyou sailed past him and he was forced to tack off and lost a fair bit of ground to the fleet. This, coupled with a wrong call to head for the shore off Isle de Groix rather than the mainland (something that half the fleet did too), meant he was one of the last to round the first mark. Not the dream start he craved but I’m sure this would have only made him more determined!”

“In slightly choppy seas, Jonny seemed to struggle tight reaching out towards the final mark just south of Groix before heading directly to La Coruna. He tried a few different sail combinations (there aren’t too many on a Figaro!) and eventually found some sort of pace but not before he’d been passed by several boats he had only just overtaken! As conditions went light overnight, Jonny stuck to his plan of sailing down the rhumb line, or maybe just to the west of it, whilst all around him his competitors were taking different options. Seeing boats disappear off all over the horizon in different directions can be nerve wracking at the best of times, let alone going into the first night of your first Solitaire, but Jonny stuck to his pre-race plan and executed the first part of it fairly well.”

“The fleet had basically split into a small but highly competitive group who had dived south looking for a shorter route to La Coruna and the main bunch who headed out west. As it turned out, the group in the south probably got to the approaching weather front earlier and therefore were able to tack and reach directly to La Coruna, thereby sailing less miles and spending less time ‘investing in the west’. Jonny, in discussion with his weather router pre-start, had decided that going south early would be a high risk option as the winds may well have been lighter there. Instead he carried on out to the west but, unfortunately, as he waited for the front to approach, which would see the wind veer from south west to north west, exhaustion finally got the better of him and he fell asleep at the crucial time with the autopilot steering on apparent wind mode. He uses this mode for upwind sailing when not helming himself, as it is the fastest setting. He had no intention to sleep so had set no course alarms. You can only imagine his horror when he awoke after being unconscious in the cockpit for thirty minutes or so, to see the wind had shifted and he was heading north and had been for 4 miles. In the end he sailed an extra 8 miles in total to get back pretty much to where he was. A disaster scenario probably borne out of trying just that bit too hard but I’m sure a lesson well, if not slightly painfully, learnt.”

“The harsh reality is he is 50th around six and a half hours behind Yann Elies, the leader. Right now there is not much Jonny can do about this but learn from his mistakes, gather himself for the next battle and bear in mind that there is still something like 85% of this race to go!”

Follow Jonny’s Solitaire du Figaro at .