After a general recall, leg two finally made a clean start in the light and varied conditions in the Bay of Cork at precisely 11:26 local time yesterday. The 6-mile inshore course was made up of a 2-mile upwind tack followed by a short reach and final downwind run to the Radio France offset mark. The boats starting on the Committee Boat end of the start line, closer to shore, found slightly more pressure, giving them a chance to break away for an early lead in the light 5-knot breeze.
Conditions could not have been more mixed on the water; brilliant sunshine, sudden squalls with rain showers and a light breeze. The 50 brightly coloured spinnakers set against the green and rugged coastline of Southern Ireland, could not make for a more dramatic scene for the start. The competitors had little time to enjoy the setting and had their work cut out from them right from the start of racing.
'It was not an easy start; very technical and then a big cloud came in just over a fleet of 18s at the entrance to Crosshaven, so we could see they had good breeze; heading in we made a great gain from the start,'
describes DESJOYEAUX over the VHF. Starting form the right hand side, Foncia built an early lead round the inshore course to round the Radio France Mark ahead of Gildas MAHÉ (Le Comptoir Immobilier), Bertrand DE BROC (Les Mousquetaires) and MORVAN sailing Cercle Vert.
Things were not looking so good for those who started on the left hand side of the line, most notably for Espoir Crédit Agricole skippered (Christopher PRATT), Gérald VENIARD's Scutum, Italian Pietro D'ALÌ (Kappa) and Etienne SVILARICH (Grain de Soleil). By the time Gavottes (Jean-Pierre NICOL), the last boat to reach the radio France mark, the gap between Foncia had built to 40 minutes.
The forecast southwest breeze is freshening as the fleet continue to make headway to the Fastnet Rock, a course mark to be left to port, that is due to be reached tonight. Conditions should then strengthen for the spinnaker sprint south to Ushant.
Luck Of The Irish For DUTHIL
DUTHIL sailing on Distinxion crossed the finish line in the Bay of Cork at 10:09:55 local time on 3 august to win the first leg of La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro. DUTHIL took 2 days, 19 hours and 49 minutes to complete the 415-mile course from Caen to Crosshaven sailing, at an average 6,12 knots. Last year's winner, Nicolas TROUSSEL (Financo) takes second place with the Michel DESJOYEAUX (Foncia) completing the third sport on the podium.
DUTHIL is one of the few skippers that is not a full time professional sailor. An insurance specialist and former World Champion windsufer, DUTHIL from Larmor Plage, in the Morbihan area of Brittany, is now enjoying sailing in the Figaro Class. It is his debut win in his fourth appearance DUTHIL in La Solitaire.
Twenty-five competitors finished within just one hour of the winner, which leaves the game open for the remaining part of the race. The lead swapped repeatedly throughout this first leg, which shows how tight the competition is. 'It really was an incredible leg with constant lead changes,' describes an exhausted DUTHIL. 'But when you see what happened to Gérald VÉNIARD [finishes 44 minutes and 36 seconds behind] who was with me at the Fairways mark [off the Isle of Wight] it is scary. There were constant lead changes,' continued DUTHIL. MORVAN, who led along the south coast of Britain probably suffered the most to trail by nearly an hour at the finish, but both he and VENIARD admit to making some mistakes, which they have paid for on time.