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7 August 2002, 10:14 am
Antoine Koch Leading
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Erwan Tabarly

La Solitaire du Figaro

They are playing with the nerves of the single-handers as are the varying rankings of hierarchy. However the high-voltage currents are laying down the law.
They are the new judges of the long course following the English coast and have always got more than one trick up their sleeve in the Channel! The first leg of the Single-handed Figaro is novertheless fought like a bay regatta … under great pressure!

Between EddyStone and Falmouth, each of them play with the currents, which form a veritable conveyor belt which changes direction every 6 hours. The rankings are consistent, changing frequently and he who lets rip with the hazardous forecasts is very cunning. Only one thing is certain: the head of the fleet is making progress in a compact group. There are a good ten of them and they are held together in a pocket handkerchief of less than 3 miles after little more than 48 hours of racing. It's tense! Following a day of intense searching for lost wind, the skippers are having to prove their finesse by not losing their way as they make risky tacks in light 15 knot west north-westerlies and stronger currents. The last Argos positioning places Kito de Pavant (Malice) and Laurent Pellecuer (Languedoc Mutualité ahead of the other tough single-handers.

So where have Antoine Koch (Saunier Duval), Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore) got to and Charles Caudrelier Benac ( Bobstik Findley) or Erwan Tabarly (Thales-Armor Lux), who have been successfully weaving their way through the maze of steep coasts of the South of England? And in particular where is Eric Drouglazet (David Olivier), cramponned into the lead for 24 hours ?

They are there, a stone's throw from the direct course and their friends from Montpelier. At the bottom of Falmouth Harbour and certainly not out walking with the English! The virtuoso soloists work at it, and use fabulous tactics to protect themselves from the bracing current which has been going the other way in recent hours, and will accompany them as far as the Lizard " It's mad, you really notice how, on this coastal leg, the skippers sail as if they are just going around the bay. We saw Drouglazet playing at pebble-hopping with 80 cm of water under his keel ! ",highlighted Denis Horeau, Race Director, wise observer marvelling at the prowess of the competitors.

So there you have the state of play. A wonderful group of tremendous single-handers who have taken the initiative and are certainly not leaving any room for English composure while the battle stakes are high. Under the 'accordion' effects, they are playing with their bows to take pole position on leaving the Channel and offer themselves up for the honours on entry into the Irish Sea. In their wake, the account is already very salty for the two groups following this infernal regatta. Most notably for the dozen skippers who are nonetheless making progress at between 22 and 47 miles from the leaders of the pack. They're playing with the Channel. Louis Robien (Le Souffle de la mer), Yann Grégoire (Sailfast. Biz gestion Projet Voile) figure there with only 0.2 tiny little miles separating them… far from the head of the rope.

Weather forecast : better things ahead of the bows Blocked by an anticyclone close to the Atlantic and a depression lying on Denmark, the fleet have had to fight hard with a disrupted flow. However, things are set to get better on the horizon of the Irish Sea. On Tuesday evening, the single-handers will enter into an anticyclone, benefiting later from the passage of a front - with a westerly then a north westerly wind accompanied by a slight drop in strength - an intensifying crescendo of the air from the north-north west, up to force 5 (around 20 knots) during the day on Wednesday. With the pressure gradient, a better flow will be established : bringing an end to the hours lost in seeking out the saving breaths of air. The only low in this weather situation is quite classic. The fleet will have to head up towards Ireland close-hauled, which the front-runners will reach on Thursday.

Wednesday 7 August (Source Météo Consult) General situation : The passage of a front during the night. At the back, the weather is being progressively influenced by a ridge of high pressure 1020 mb centred around Ireland. Position of the isobar 1015 mb : on the north of Germany.

Echos from the sea Jeanne, Arnaud…and Morpheus Jeanne Grégoire (Region of Aisne), the only female sailor entered, is holding on pretty well at 15 miles from the head of the fleet. Fighting with Arnaud Boissières (Delta Dore & Partenaires), her companion on land, her adversary at sea, she must push back the advances of Morpheus taking to the sea and not let him have one place …or even a couple. " Last night, I fell fast asleep for 10 minutes. It's the second time that's happened to me. When I woke up I had a moment of panic : I couldn't see a single boat, not even a freighter, nothing… Luckily I soon got my spirits back. When this occurs you have to concentrate again immediately on the way the boat is moving, get going … You then have to try to make up for lost time. Inevitably, I fell behind whilst I was dreaming. Arnaud made the most of it by sneaking through there. But as soon as I get back into gear, I'll give him a taste of his own medicine! " According to the Argos positions at 12 noon, Jeanne and Arnaud were once again making progress side by side in the rankings. But certainly not hand in hand : 0.6 miles separate them. Jeanne pointing ahead. But don't expect any misplaced gallantry !

Gilles Chiorri (32 01 of Météo Consult) : " the spicy regatta " " I am neck and neck with Vincent Riou (PRB) and Ronan Guérin (Saint-Nazaire - Escal'Atlantic). Predictably in coastal navigation tacking and light winds are on the menu. A spicy regatta ! We were finally able to get some sleep last night. We're on the approach to the Irish Sea, where you have to be very sure of yourself "

Positions 09:00h

Position Skipper Boot Distance from Leader
1 KOCH Antoine Saunier Duval 105,90nm to finish
2 JOSSE Sébastien Créaline +3,40nm
3 DE PAVANT Christophe Malice + 3,50nm
4 VICARIOT Philippe Thales +4,10nm
5 LE CLEAC'H Armel Créaline + 5,40nm
6 CAUDRELIER Charles Bostik Findley +5,50nm
7 BEYOU Jérémie Delta Dore + 6,20nm
8 MORVAN Gildas Cercle Vert +6,40nm
9 AUDIGANE Sébastien Sport Sans Frontières +6,60nm
10 TABARLY Erwan Thales - Armor Lux + 6,90nm

Laure Faÿ/News Editor
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