Sunday, June 15, 2014
The docks crowded with friends, family and well wishers, the eight British Solitaire du Figaro competitors left Sutton Harbour, Plymouth in a blaze of glory at 1620 BST, sailing through the lock with their 30 fellow competitors and out into Plymouth Sound.
Five hours later the 38 solo skippers were still sitting just outside Plymouth Sound, as the official 1830 Leg 2 start time was postponed due to a total shut down of the wind. A cut off point of ‘sunset’ was put in place for the race committee to start or abandon the 540 mile second leg – a decision that would have been detrimental to the race ready skippers’ mental state with a restart early tomorrow.
Fortunately, just after 2100, the wind filled in from the north and acting fast, Race Director Gilles Chiorri commenced the four-minute countdown and Leg 2 (Plymouth, UK to Roscoff, France) of the Solitaire du Figaro got underway at 2126 on Saturday June 13 – three hours behind schedule.
Canning an inshore leg in around Plymouth Sound for the benefit of the crowds watching from the Hoe, the 38 skippers raced on towards the first mark in around 8 knots of fresh breeze. It was Frenchmen Corentin Horeau (Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance) and Gildas Mahé (Interface Concept) who were joint first at the mark, while Team Plymouth’s Sam Goodchild rounded the mark first Brit and inside the top 10 – followed by the rest of his fellow countrymen in the 20s and 30s. Leg 1 winning Rookie and local Plymouth hero Sam Matson was feeling the pressure ahead of the start, but determined to keep cool, calm and collected on the long and fairly light leg to Roscoff, France.
He said: “It’s almost impossible not to feel the pressure, I’ve been trying to remove myself and escape from the race as much as possible during the stop over, but obviously I’ve been feeling it a bit,” he admitted honestly prior to the start. “Traditionally I haven’t done too well in the lighter winds races, it’s always a bit of a gamble and I seem to let myself get down by it quite a lot when I see myself losing it in those conditions. I think this type of racing is about trying to stay cool and relaxed because there is no reason why I should be any slower than anyone else – we’re in identical boats!”
Before departure the Exmouth sailor said: “There’s no big winds forecast for this race, but once out of Plymouth there is going to be about 10 knots. There’s going to be a shut down at the time of the start, and again at Wolf Rock just because of the high and the effect of the land – but once we get back past Land’s End and on the other side of Wolf Rock, we’re forecast to have about 10 to 11 knots and realistically that isn’t that light – we’re going to be fully stacked with ballast.”
“The approach to Ireland will be tactical for sure with the shut down, as it will be when we get to the Scilly Isles and have to decide which side of the TSS (shipping lanes) exclusion zones to sail. We won’t know what will be the best way until we get there – it’s like trying to sail past a big square island in the middle of the sea that you can’t see.”
The course running from Plymouth, UK to Roscoff, France will take the skippers 540 miles via Fastnet Rock – on two tacks. A healthy 10/11 knots is forecast to hold out until the fleet reach the mark in the Irish Sea, where an area of high pressure sits over the coast of Ireland – likely causing a second ‘leaderboard shuffling’ shut down.
The current ETA for the Solitaire du Figaro fleet in Roscoff, France is Wednesday 18th June. Swapping places with Leg 1 reporter Charles Darbyshire, Artemis Offshore Academy Event Coach Marcus Hutchinson will stowaway aboard the committee boat for the second race leg and continue to provide an insiders look into the race.
You can follow the British Solitaire du Figaro skippers on Leg two of the race via the Artemis Offshore Academy and Solitaire du Figaro websites, and by following the Academy on Facebookand Twitter.