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Elodie Bonafous leads on to benign Biscay


Julie Simon (Douze) struggling to clear persistent weed



Sailing off the tip of Penmarch late this afternoon with 190 nautical miles still to sail down the French Atlantic coast to the turning mark south of the entrance to the Gironde estuary, Elodie Bonafous (Quéguiner-La Vie en Rose) is holding a slender lead over Gaston Morvan (Région Bretagne-CM Performance) on the second day of Stage 3 or La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec from Roscoff to Piriac-sur-Mer.

Just over a year ago 27 year old Bonafous became the first Frenchwoman to finish on the podium of stage of the race (the second ever woman after England’s Clare Francis). She followed that up with third on the Solo Maître Coq, the season’s opening solo race. Working the inshore thermal breeze down the Brittany coast along the wild, sandy Baie de Audierne south of the Pointe du Raz, Bonafous has built nearly a mile of margin on Morvan – who is safely to leeward of her course - and has the overall leader on the General Classification, Basile Bourgnon (Edenred) just to weather but behind her.


Bourgnon, 22, has sailed an assured leg so far. He has his nearest title contender Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire) 0.75 miles behind, directly in his wake. As the current is now with them and the light SW’ly breeze is due to ease and lift them during the evening Bonafous and Bourgnone will monitor any movements offshore by close rivals but in general the rhumb line route to the turning mark is likely to be favoured.


As the leaders move into more open water the seaweed which has plagued many of the 31 solo skippers during the night and this morning whilst close to the rocky, tidal Finsistere coast should become less of a problem. Whilst the racers have been very active with their various ‘flossing’ sticks and lines, many have had to dive to clear their appendages. Race Direction reported this morning that Horeau had dived twice during a busy night for the race team on the guard boat which, of course, carefully monitors every dive, noting when they dive and when the solo racer returns on board.


Race direction reported this morning, “Most of the boats went inside of the island of Molène to get the weakest current. Along the Breton coast, most of the boats picked up a lot of weed, which meant they had to stop to deal with that. Some such as Banque Populaire had to dive to get rid of the weed. Corentin had to do that twice. Overall the boats are slightly ahead of where they were expected to be. In Audierne Bay they have been avoiding the currents and taking advantage of the thermal, sea breezes.


Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) is positioned inshore of the fleet and was at 3.2 miles behind Bonafous in 17th position this evening.

Without doubt after the slow, painfully drawn out finish into Roscoff which robbed most of the skippers of what should have been their three nights of sleep in a dry bed ashore, the skippers are extremely tired and this fatigue will have been exacerbated over last night which was extremely technical with a lot of tacking and trimming. There may now be the chance to stock up on short naps when the breeze lifts.


They said: Julie Simon (DOUZE): “I’ve not had much rest since daybreak, and then the wind keeps changing. This is not obvious at the strategic level. I'm a little out of step with the fleet. I saw clouds with wind coming. We will see what comes. But in the medium term, it is not easy. This morning too, there was a lot of current. We were supposed to go south of the Chaussée de Sein, but in the end a few of us crossed into the rocks to protect ourselves. But there's seaweed everywhere, and I got a lot of it. Impossible to remove it with the knotted rope or by reversing. I had to resign myself to diving. The water is not that cold! Finally when you have no choice, and you have to go in, it seems almost good! I didn't need this to wake me up, but it gives you a little boost.

My ranking? I don't know where I am. For the moment I have 6 knots from the south and it's starting to go a little to the right, as was said in the weather forecast this morning. That is what I'm waiting for. If I can get more to the right than the rest of the fleet, that's fine with me... It's soft, flat seas and the wind should pick up. I'm going to try to take a few naps. I'm a little far from the other boats, it's time to take advantage.”

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