Sailing: Lead for Figaro Solo Race disputed but no British sailors in the top 10


Stuart Alexander
Sunday 15 June 2014 17:45
The Figaro solo race has experienced a slow start with two sailors battling for the lead
The Figaro solo race has experienced a slow start with two sailors battling for the lead

An agonisingly slow slog out to the Fastnet Rock was testing the Figaro Solo Race fleet as it passed Land’s End. There are no British/Irish sailors in the top 10 where the lead is being disputed between Gildas Morvan and Yann Elies, who had to retire when leading leg one from Deauville to Plymouth. He was dismasted at Wolf Rock.

The second 540-mile leg round the rock and back to Roscoff has been tweaked with a mark to round north of Fastnet to keep the fleet out of the commercial shipping traffic separation zone. But it could take up to four days, putting sleep at a premium.

The fleet was reduced to 37 boats after Joan Ahrweiller (Region Basse-Normande) was forced to abandon leg two soon after a delayed start on Saturday night. His decision to race close to Plymouth's breakwater proved costly when he hit the rocks. “I broke several floors inside the boat. The floors are reinforcements which stiffen the hull and then one of them peeled off 25 centimetres, so water came in,” he said.

Before the sailors left Sutton Harbour they described leg two (of four) as a “pretty straight-forward speed race.” However, in the first twelve hours the tides played a significant part. Coming up to the first 24 hours, 14 miles separated the fleet from front to back.

British sailor, Sam Goodchild (Team Plymouth) had, had a good start and was fourth at the Radio France buoy in Plymouth Sound. However, he was caught out by the tide at Lizard Point. He slipped to16th, 4.6nm behind Morvan.

Explained Goodchild (Team Plymouth): “I made a silly error at the Lizard...I didn't look into the tides closely enough I went straight into the tide and three or four boats went around us…I had a couple of sleeps last night and a couple of short sleeps this morning. At the moment I'm feeling pretty refreshed. We have 12kn of NE'ly wind, sunshine, no clouds, right now."

Of the eight British sailors taking part this year, six were at least 9nm from the leaders including Sam Matson (Artemis 21) who had been leading the rookie division after being top Brit when 12 on leg one.

Off Hamble, the Royal Southern Match Cup final was won by the Australian Keith Swinton. He beat four-time world match racing champion Ian Williams 2-0, taking the first race with a narrow advantage at the start which he held in a neck-and-neck tussle over the four legs sailed in a 10-14-knot breeze.

The second race was a bit of a horror show on very familiar waters. Williams has been on a winning streak in both the USA and Poland ahead of winning the German match race championship, the opening event in the 2014 Alpari Match Race Championship.

But he managed to pick up two penalties in the aggressive pre-start manoeuvring, the first of which he had to take as quickly as possible after winning the start. That allowed Swinton to sail away and lift the Boysterous Trophy, which he will invited to defend next year.

The three boats contesting the Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona race were due to finish on Sunday evening. Led by Hugo Boss, sailed by Pepe Ribes and Ryan Breymaier – Alex Thomson has taken paternity leave for the birth of his second child – the second Open 60 was Neutrogena with Gaes third. Marc Guillemot, skipper of the retired Safran was found to have four broken ribs after being scanned at a Nantes hospital.

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