Drizzle, sea mist, dampness, a long dark night, light, variable breezes, strong currents and lots of marine traffic to keep tabs on. The end of the third stage of La Solitaire du Figaro will be welcomed by the 34 solo racers when they arrive into Roscoff on Morlaix Bay today. But at dawn, just before 0700hrs local time, the leaders still had about 40 miles still to sail. Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) holds a lead of about two miles over Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) as they work upwind towards the line.
Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019): “It is pretty brutal, a horrible combination and we are suffering. It’s rainy, it’s cold, there isn’t much wind, it’s random in strength and direction. We take left shifts and rights without any logic or patterm I can’t see the top of my sail because of the mist. The windshift, we are waiting for it. It’s starting to be a pain. Roscoff is still far away: 43 miles. And if it’s upwind, with shifts in wind direction and currents, we won’t be there until tomorrow! The weather is starting to be tedious. I have hardly any food, no more water and I I’m fed up of it. I don’t know where the others are. I’m still first in the standings, but I don’t understand where the group has gone with Tom Laperche, I only have Alexis Loison and Alan Roberts on the AIS, whom I cover. It will be surprise-surprise upon arrival in Roscoff! I couldn’t sleep, it’s annoying. Last night, I thought I would go to bed with the west shift when it came in. And time goes by, still no shift, still no sleep. I feel all alone in the middle of the ocean. I look at everything but don’t see much. I have alarms on Adrena for ships, it’s a stressful environment, they sound their fog horns, you feel like they are right next to you, you’re freaking out a little, it’s pitch black , the dolphins play beside the boat. It’s a bit like the set of a horror movie!”
Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF): “The picture is not ideal: it is raining, misty and, there is no wind. And the wind is not in the direction that we imagined at all. We have it right from ahead, so we’re tacking around and that’s not the thing! The fleet is split up with boats right and left. I see Région Normandie, Mutuelle Bleue. But compared to yesterday night I am in the right group, but it is not clear. The stage is longer than expected, it’s an extended stage. I don’t have much food anymore: 3 compotes, a cereal bar and a freeze-dried one. It’s weird to see the supplies run out, usually I have some left. The conditions are light, the wind has dropped down to 5 knots from the south. On this dark night, we have no landmarks, it’s impossible to steer, so the pilot does the job. We are waiting for a wind which should pick up with a right shift and so if all goes well, we will come in on one tack. I’m trying to manage the tacks well, because we have a lot of current. It is a cross current, very powerful because the coefficient is 100. It is never favorable because it passes under us. He never takes us towards the goal, we are just taken like a cork in a bathtub.”
Alan Roberts (Seacat Services): “The conditions on the water are not easy with strong current and light, variable wind. I managed to sleep at the start of the night, but I am watching the traffic because there are a lot of ships and the wind has died down. There is also a lot of weed when we arrive in Brittany. I can see the others at the AIS but nothing visually. There’s a sharp chop preventing us from moving forward and we get little showers. You have to constantly trim the sails and adapt to the situation. We have been waiting for this shift for more than 5 hours, I don’t know when it will happen. We’re going south-southwest, it would be nice to make in on just one tack until the finish It’s cold, I put on several layers, I had my breakfast, I am warming up. I have some chocolate left, everything is fine here. I’m feeling pretty good for this end of the stage.”
Finally the windshift has come in and the SSW’y breeze built to 15kts. The leaders have accelerated and are making directly towards Roscoff. The leaders are making between nine and ten knots and it is very close between the top boats. Stage leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) is under pressure from Alexis Loison (Région Normandie) who has come in from the south and west on a faster line but there are less than 15 miles to the finish line. Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is on Quiroga’s line and making similar speeds.
But the key factor may still be the tide which changes off Roscoff at 1030hrs and starts ebbing against the leaders.
Leader Quiroga quickly enthused, “Will the boats from the west come back at speed or will they run into the current at the Island of Batz” He is leading but it is going to be a Roscoff cliffhanger.
Text and image courresy of La Solitaire du Figaro