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13 August 2002, 10:34 am
Leg Two
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La Solitaire du Figaro

There are now only 37 skippers racing in the second 439 mile leg of the Single-handed Figaro. Following the breakage of his stay, the sailor from Boulogne, Yvan Martinage (Société Générale - CAB - Boulogne sur Mer) has chosen to reroute.

For the others, after the crazy nocturnal stampede, the descent of the Breton coast ensues. But this time an increasingly tactical battle will unfold as the wind abates. Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and Eric Drouglazet (David Olivier) are sailing at their best, already leaving Ushant in their wake.

A change of rhythm, and new pace. The wild rock swathed in surf is past. Time now for some less shrill music. The soloists still racing, a little achy and stiff after an ear bashing in the gusts of wind from the north-west hitting 30 knots, are rehearsing for a new more subtle part … that of the calm after the storm with a sea, resplendent once more. Adieu to the depression system, bonjour to an anticyclonic ridge of high pressure. In winds which are decreasing further and further from 20-15 then 12-10 knots and rounding to north-north west, progress is slowing from : 8 - 7 - 6. 5 knots for the front runners.

The soloists have already passed the island of Ushant and are closing in on the Chaussée de Sein, where they will have to leave a cardinal marker to port. But the nocturnal battle in the Irish Sea resulted in a large amount of damage. Though the gentlemen and the young lady of the race in particular are well, the same cannot be said of the material. Each one had their tale to tell: those of the survivors, in full possession of both their equipment and their faculties at the time, live to play a more complex piece, and those of the " wounded ", like Gilles Chiorri (32 01 of Météo Consult - with a torn mainsail and spinnaker) or Erwan Tabarly (Thales-Armor Lux - with a broken pole)… Laurent Pellecuer (Languedoc Mutualité) is also bearing the brunt of the elements though he is clearly heading west … the helm broken, but patched up with the means available on board.

In the leading pack, Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and Eric Drouglazet (David Olivier) - slightly south of the direct course - are unable to break away from each other with solely 0.2 miles separating them. Suffice to say that it's a relentless duo who lead the Breton dance. Only 1.2 miles behind them is Yann Eliès (Groupe Générali Assurances), still bearing up after the night's breeze and visibly in prime position to play at being a killjoy. " The operation will consist of advancing under spinnaker - for those that still have one at least - in a sea where a residual swell and slight chop run hand in hand, according to the crew aboard the Race Management boat. The competitors won't give up the fight whilst the boat lollops along under the effects of this choppy swell. A thankless task but the only way forward. "

Others, more to the east - following the example of Ronan Guérin (Saint Nazaire - Escal'Atlantic), Nicolas Troussel (Galinette) and once again Armel Le Cléac'h (Créaline) borrow the indirect path. Is it because they no longer have a robust spinnaker or because they're trying to keep the fading wind in their sails for longer? Difficult to say. But watch out for the current, it may well take on the role of referee once more while the ridge of high pressure is unable to gain ground on the fleet and an anticyclonic bubble threatens to steal the air from the tailenders.

Echos from the sea

And the ETA after all that? 225 miles covered in 24 hours out of the 439 on the programme… difficult to do any better! With the Irish Sea, the Channel and the start of the Breton coast left to their stern, the fleet have made great progress in winds which were more sustained and faster than had been reckoned on. Good news for the first skippers who seem destined to escape the windless bubble which threatens to ensnare and bog down the fleet … The door would appear to be open for far more wide ranging time differences across the board. Already 70 miles separate the lead man on the rope and the red lantern, Louis Robein (Le Souffle de la Mer). First calculations show that with an average of 5 knots, the head of the fleet could be just 100 miles from the finish by noon tomorrow. So it could be from Wednesday morning- and perhaps even at the crack of dawn - that the leaders head into the Sables d'Olonne.

Yvan Martinage (Société Générale - CB - Boulogne/Mer) Broken stay - making the mast very fragile - associated with electronic worries and pilot hitches: the list of setbacks of Yvan Martinage, the lovely semaphore lookout of Boulogne sur Mer, is just too long to consider continuing safely. And so after having reinforced his rigging with a halyard, he yielded to defeat. The soloist then announced that he envisaged diverting towards his native town, where the start of the race took place, last 4 August. At 12 noon, he was 35 miles from Penzance, close to Land's End in the south-west of England.

Despondency in the morning session… ? Forgotten where the slightly delicate hours of yesterday and last night… on the approach to the Breton coast as the barometer rose and made way for the sun. Romain Attanasio (Port de Trébeurden) bore witness to this as he contacted the Race Management and saying that he had dried the boat, the man and …the VHF microphone. But why had the latter become wet ? Because the skipper and his microphone where drowned under a cloudburst during the morning session…

Dolphins at last ! Sébastien Josse (Créaline) : " I've seen dolphins… but it wasn't all fun and games, because as they play with the keel and rudder, they pass in front and that creates lots of turbulence!! When that starts getting a bit hot with the boat in pretty wild surf, I would prefer them to go elsewhere. Otherwise, it's fantastic, they really put on a show to right and left, jumping from wave to wave. There are the dolphins that like playing and others who are a bit quieter. Here I was lucky enough to have the jokers. We usually encounter these sorts of conditions in a transatlantic… but 25 knots, even 30 knots…surf at 15 knots, dolphins, a pinkish sunset and the crescent of the moon, you can't beat it ! "

Positions 10:00h 13 August

Position Skipper Boat Distance from leader Cap
1 1 DROUGLAZET Eric David Olivier 145,00nm to finish 158
2 9 ELIES Yann Groupe Générali Assurances à 5,60nm 104
3 44 VICARIOT Philippe Thales à 7,50nm 150
4 2 JOSSE Sébastien Créaline à 7,80nm 118
5 8 DE PAVANT Christophe Malice à 8,10nm 87
6 147 CHABAGNY Thierry Petit Navire Le Bon Goût du Large à 9,40nm 101
7 4 MORVAN Gildas Cercle Vert à 9,50nm 86
8 136 TROUSSEL Nicolas Galinette à 9,60nm 159
9 85 RIOU Vincent PRB Produits de Revêtement du Bâtiment à 9,90nm 157
10 3 BEYOU Jérémie Delta Dore à 10,10nm 151

Laure Faÿ/News Editor
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