Published on 24/06/2019
If the first night of Stage 4, the last leg of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, proved enjoyable and productive, a welcome express passage under big spinnaker across the Channel to Wolf Rock at speeds of up to 20 knots, the second night has been slow and frustrating, as the leading groups tried to work with what limited weather information they have seeking to establish where the wind will fill in from next.
Trapped in a transition zone – a low pressure out to the west and a small high over the Bay of Biscay – there was very little wind during the small hours of this morning as the leaders finally passed Start Point.
Four solo racers had stuck boldly to the Devon coast Adrien Hardy (Sans Nature, pas de futur), Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnment), Eric Delamare (Enjoy to Sail) and Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) and picked up a westerly breeze and made solid initial gains.
In the meantime, the main lead pack in the middle of the Channel were stuck, not even able to anchor in water over 70 metres deep.
For a time the foursome looked famous, able to squeeze towards Start Point seemingly with a net gain in their pockets, but just at the wrong time for them, their breeze died again and the main group were going slowly again.
Since a new westerly came in and on the strengthening west going tide, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) has taken a small lead by virtue of having been positioned more towards the middle of the channel, south of the pack, where he is accompanied by Briton Will Harris (Hive Energy) who has made a good reading of the situation and is up to third.
But the messy weather patterns are changing all the time. The little low pressure centred over the Isle of Wight is set to disappear but it does appear like the westerly flow will remain for some of the day which will be a relief for the frustrated, tired skippers trying to make the 70 miles which they still have to sail to the Owers mark off Portsmouth.
And in keeping with what continues to prove a much more typical mid-summer Solitaire Stage, the lead group of ten – the peloton – are within one mile of each other making between 7.5 and 8.5 knots and, after this re-start and compression at Start Point – the top 20 are within two miles.
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