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28 August 2002, 01:08 pm
Stormy Seas
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La Solitaire du Figaro

The desired Ushant. Still being pushed around on the climb up the Bay of Biscay, the fleet is advancing against the fluctuating wind in a very stormy sea. Hard work indeed!

Yet something that will please the toughest of them all, Eric Drouglazet (David Olivier), who is now in the lead. But watch out for the conquerors from the west who are multiplying their attacks in all directions on the run up to the fabled island off Brittany.

With all the tacking about and choice of route, the Argos positions seem to bear no relation to what is really happening out there. One band passes to the east, another passes through the centre and that could soon pass very strongly to the west. The only certainty : the soloists are putting their backs into it in such a way that several of them could lay claim to the honours on route to Ushant. Once again they're having to take the Bay of Biscay in all her moods. 28 knots in the north north-west sector - full in the face - and waves of 1.50 m : during the radio session the skippers where numerous in highlighting the fact that this ascent of the Bay of Biscay is making their life as soloists pretty difficult, not to mention uncomfortable.

They are heeling in every direction in the ambient dampness which is par for the course in this kind of weather. But the game is worth it. " It's still very open and it's quite difficult to make even the slightest prediction on the passage to Ushant ", comment the passengers aboard the Race Management boat. The review of the troops on the water reveals that to the west, something new is afoot. Nicolas Troussel (Galinette), is the furthest west at 26 miles off the direct course. The precocious conquerors Gilles Chiorri (32 01 from Météo Consult) and Ronan Guérin (Saint-Nazaire - Escal'Atlantic) - each polish up their weapons under the protection of the variations in wind. And that's not taking into consideration all the new attacks undertaken by Philippe Vicariot (Thales), Charles Caudrelier Benac (Bostik Findley) and Erwan Tabarly (Thales-Armor Lux). These have tacked this afternoon, doubtless to play the rotation of the wind to the left of a breeze linked to the delay in the depression, which is descending along the Atlantic coast as the skippers climb up again with the wind against them.

As for Kito de Pavant (Malice), he has perked up again and gained some miles. The leader in the general rankings is now positioned in seventh place, 3.3 miles behind the stern of the front runner. Eric Drouglazet must therefore keep an eye out for pirates on the stern, threatened from all sides : by Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore) first of all, who is fastened firmly in his wake, by Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) again not positioned but lying in ambush about 5 miles from his eternal rival.

And so it will be by night that the verdict will fall, when the frontrunners will position their bows to the approach of the island. Plotted this afternoon at 62 milles from Sein, the fleet is moving at an average of 5.2 knots in the last few miles on the run up to Ushant… which it should pass at the end of the night. The light will then dawn on the general rankings, with the last part upwind, to be followed closely…

Thierry Chabagny (Petit Navire) : " Negociating the fluctuations in the wind " " It's quite difficult, the wind is strong and the sea is breaking heavily. It's quite damp too. You're pretty much forced to helm continuously. It's moving about all over the place and it's physically testing, especially for the back. But I'm fairly happy with my position. I took the lead last night and of course I'm a bit lost bearing in mind all the fluctuations in the wind and the lateral gaps. I'm downwind from Ushant and I'm paying more attention to the variations in wind but I'm soon going to have to turn my thoughts to my arrival time at the fabled isle. "

Kito de Pavant (Malice) : " Everything is swimming ! "

" We're getting deluges of water in the face, and just to recap, everything is swimming… I'm sailing under solent and mainsail and the boats are spread out pretty much everywhere. But I came across Beyou earlier and that's rather a good sign, I've got back up into the right group…I've been lucky, I was able to sleep twice for half hour periods. I'm really applying myself, and I'm beginning to reflect on where I'm going to pass Ushant : If I'm going to have to play with the wind or the current… Once the point of Brittany is passed, there is a risk of having a calm, and that could create some big gaps at the finish. The game then, is very open. "

Armel Le Cléac'h (Créaline)' : " Negotiating every wave "

" I am sailing beside Sébastien Josse, Yann Elies and Thierry Chabagny. It is nice not to sail alone because it enables you to keep up your speed. The wind has not stopped shiftng so there is inevitably a cross sea, in which you have to negociate every wave. I hope we will have the opportunity to rest a little before the arrival at Ushant. After that we are going to have to try not to get trapped in the currents... "

Sébastien Josse (Créaline) : " Wiping out ! "

" We have winds of 25, 30 knots on the nose, with waves around 1.5m, it's rocking! The boat cannot avoid the waves, it drops down and hits the water violently every two-three minutes, with up to a 45° list. When you go below, you have two seconds to lie down, otherwise you get wiped out! I've been using the autopilot a bit to rest because we're humans not machines: at any given moment, you have to know when to yield. These aren't the worst conditions that I've experienced in the Bay of Biscay: during the Mini-Transat 99, we had a good 45 knots which was pretty memorable. Here, things are fine, it's rather like a holiday… "

See the event website for the most up to date positions.

Laure Fay/News Editor
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