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Pirouelle leads Saint Catherine's Light passage at Isle of Wight

Yann Chateau, race director reports from the guard boat, "It was a fast passage across the Channel, northerly wind 12-15kts with the current at the moment favouring staying south of the island for the first group, maybe for the later ones it will be better to go through the Solent."

Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie) was the first to pass Nab Tower at 0415hrs local time. Less than ten minutes later by second placed Basile Bourgnon (Endered), Loïs Berrehar (Skipper Macif 2022) Alexis Loison (Groupe Reel) with Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) in fifth. True to form Loison who has 16 Solitaires under his belt is in the match even after his collision with Hugo Dhallenne (YC Saint-Lunaire). Both have some damage but Dhallene, the talented rookie, is hanging in well in fourteenth.

At sunrise on their first morning at sea, the leading peloton were fighting adverse current but making decent progress close in under Saint Catherine’s point and hugging the island shore heading west towards the Needles fairway mark and the first Intermediate Sprint line where there is a time bonus for the top three. The five minutes bonus seems set to go to Pirouelle who is over one mile ahead of Bourgnon, the 32 strong fleet’s 21 year old ‘Benjamin’ as the French call the youngest competitor in a sporting event.

But although they were making good progress the breeze is forecast to drop and a calm morning mid Channel is expected to be on the cards.

On the VHF this morning: Basile Bourgnon (Edenred): “It's going well but the breeze is easing. We started this Solitaire with a series of tacks along the Normandy beaches. Last night, I had to take about ten naps between 10 and 15 minutes. I consider that the best option for a start to the race in the Figaro. There is a small warm front which should block our way. We have to get out of it quickly. For the moment, I am in the first pack, and I like it! »

Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan): “Last night, there were some different choices in the terms of routes. I think I'm not doing too badly compared to the bulk of the fleet. Towards Barfleur, it didn't work too well for me, but there was a bit of wind and sea and that was quite nice. I took two small naps in the night. What will we have in the hours to come? That's the big question! There, we are going straight towards the front, and we hope that we will have enough wind to stay out from the English coast.”

Alexis Loison (Reel Group): “I got off to a good start at Ouistreham; and unfortunately just after the Paprec buoy I did not see Hugo Dhallenne who tacked just in front of me. I had no way to avoid him. My foil was damaged in its two rear pulpits. I will have to deal with it for the stage. Now we have to deal with the future, not the past. The positive side is that I feel I’m in the race. For sure I will be handicapped on the fast reaches. After Saint-Marcouf, I recovered well. With good speed under gennak I got to third at one point. I am happy with my night where I was able to take a few naps.”