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18 August 2005, 10:35 am
North To Ireland
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La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro 2005

The 45 solo Figaro sailors set off for Ireland in variable conditions yesterday afternoon on the third of four legs that make up the yearly Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro race. The start gun was let off at 1717 hours local French time in the Bay of La Rochelle, after a general recall to all competitors. Ahead lies the longest leg so far, 456 miles from La Rochelle, France to Crosshaven in Cork, Ireland.
Sailing on small Bénéteau 10 metre one design boats, the skippers are expected to arrive in Ireland on Saturday evening, where they will enjoy the hospitality of the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven before departing on the final leg to Port Bourgenay in the Vendée region of France.

Bon depart! As the French say, for a clear and clean race start. The 45 solo sailors headed off in the light variable conditions as predicted by Richard SILVANI from Météo France. The three knot light variable west southwesterly breeze for the start is due to gradually increase as the sailor finish the windward leeward course, before they head north. 'The wind should become west or northwest prevailing and six to twelve knots in the evening. Slight seas with a risk of thunder showers and gusts of 25 to 30 knots, for the night, the wind should bear north or north west with ten to 15 knots decreasing to five to ten towards the end of the night,' added RICHARD.

After a short inshore course, where the talented Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA) on Géant, gained an early lead, the 45 strong fleet head off the Radio France mark, in order to head north for Ireland. Pietro D'ALI (ITA), the current overall race leader, was hesitant at the start due to the general recall and a two hour penalty warning to all who cross the start line before the official start, and was therefore down in 19th place after the first 30 minutes of racing.

The skippers face the longest leg so far and managing sleep will be key in order to sail competitively to the finish in Cork. For Liz WARDLEY (PNG) on Sojasun, 'the most important thing will be to keep concentrated at all times, particularly in the run up to the Brittany Point. The first night could be straight ahead, so it will be important to keep alert. We have three possibly four nights ahead at sea, and the last will no doubt be tough. I am going to have to handle my sleep well and not hesitate to have rest to keep going, but I know I can handle this type of leg.' The busy fishing areas, the cargo shipping lanes and general traffic on the water in August means the sailors will have to be constantly alert and offer little time for rest.

Sabina Mollart-Rogerson (As Amended By ISAF). Image, At the start of leg three:© Marmara-Vialeron/Le Figaro
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