Artemis skippers look ahead to Leg 2 of the Solitaire du Figaro

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Nick Cherry and Sam Goodchild shake hands on the dock after finishing leg one in 24th and 25th respectively

In brief
– Solitaire du Figaro leg 2 starts at 1130 (BST) Sunday 1st July
– 442 miles from Gijon, Spain to Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, France
– Light northwesterly breeze for the start backing southwest to 10 – 15 knots for the early stages

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In Full
Leg two of the Solitaire du Figaro looks set to be another light wind battle across the Bay of Biscay for the 36 single-handed Figaro skippers. “The crossing of the Bay of Biscay is almost identical, just the other way around to start with. The long term forecast is looking fairly light at this stage so it could be very similar to leg one,” explains rookie sailor Nick Cherry. “On this leg it could lead to some big separations in the fleet, so it’s all about staying alert, keeping up the boat speed and staying with the majority of the boats.”

Yann Eliès managed his victory on Leg 1 perfectly and will be looking to build his advantage over the second leg. Based on cumulative time and with only three legs this year, the favourites know how critical this mid-section of this race is with only 65 minutes separating 1st to 10th in the overall rankings.

Overall this leg will not be as tidal as the first leg as it does not return to northern Brittany but further south to Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, however there is one section that will require the Figarists full concentration as Sam Goodchild said: “The Raz de Sein will be a very tidal section of this leg and there is the potential for big gains or losses – it could compress the fleet or split the leaders form the back depending on the timing we get there. The south coast of Brittany could be anything, it’s much less tidal so the wind will have a much bigger effect and there is there is potential for much more local effects as well.”

Looking back at leg one of the Solitaire du Figaro which saw Cherry finish in 24th, Goodchild in 25th and Bomby in 30th in the overall rankings and Cherry 4th in the Rookie rankings and Bomby 5th out of six Rookies, John Thorn, Artemis Offshore Academy Performance Director, reports: “Looking back at the first leg there were some very good points to build on but also mistakes were made, and we need minimize the losses. Taking risks on their route to try and make bigger gains rather than toughing it out with the pack and making small gains is what the guys need to take with them from leg 1. We know we can match the boat speed of our competitors pretty closely and we now need to reduce the losses. The other area to improve is how the guys make the transitions in varying wind strengths.

“Performance-wise they need to think ahead more for weather changes and positioning themselves well but not doing anything too radical – it rarely pays to move away from ‘the pack’. Be prepared to peel spinnakers rather than persevere with the wrong one. In other words take a small hit early on to gain overall. Managing sleep and deciding when and where to take it in order to be at your best for the more demanding parts of the race is also an area the guys need to continue to work on.

“The Artemis Offshore Academy has fast tracked our squad into the middle of the most competitive offshore racing fleet in the world. However, that doesn’t mean we expect to be bringing up the rear. On the contrary we believe we have realistic chances of podium finishes for our rookies Nick and Henry in the Rookie Class (bizuths in French) and that they should be in the low 20s overall. As far as Sam is concerned a top 20 result or better would be our goal for this year.”

Leg two of the Solitaire du Figaro starts from Gijon, Spain at 1130 (BST) this Sunday (1st July 2012).

Follow the Artemis Offshore Academy online via artemisoffshoreacademy.com or on Facebook and Twitter #AOAsolo. The Solitaire du Figaro also has a race APP for Apple iOS or Andriod phones which you can download here. Follow the race tracker online here.

View the leg one results here.

The Artemis Offshore Academy skippers say:
Henry Bomby:
“Leg 2 of the Solitaire du Figaro is from Gijon to Saint Giles and it’s looking quite light for the start, so as we leave the Spanish coast we will be tacking up wind in light conditions. The breeze will then fill in from the southwest so it looks like it will be downwind all the way north to the western coast of Brittany. It’s the opposite of the leg we have just done.

“A lot of weather systems come through Brittany but breeze wise it is typically a southwest wind. But it really could be anything and from the races we have done so far this year that’s the best thing to expect. By the time we get there the forecast it will be two days later so it won’t be as accurate and with coastal sailing the forecast is less important as you are generally playing the tide more than the forecast along the Brittany coast, unless there is a huge wind shift. Trying to get the weather right for crossing the Bay of Biscay is key.

“The first section across the Bay of Biscay will be interesting as I imagine there will be some splits again in the fleet like we had in leg 1. As people got left in the high pressure system the group split up and there is a chance that could happen again as it looks like it could be a light wind start for leg 2 which lets the leaders get into the breeze earlier.”

Sam Goodchild:
“This leg should be a lot less tidal. We start with a trip across the Bay of Biscay making landfall at about Brest, where we will have a small tidal section. Then going around the south coast of Brittany it will be much less tidal.

“The weather for the Bay of Biscay looks like it could be quite fickle again with upwind and light winds, so trying to survive that is quite different from most Figaro legs in that we are doing a big offshore trip first and then coastal racing. The last leg was the opposite way around and last year it was mostly coastal racing. There will be a big challenge trying to make sure you are still in the pack when you get across the Bay of Biscay and then changing your mindset completely into a coastal racing one and trying to keep with the pack all the way to Saint Gilles.

“My preparation for this year’s Solitaire du Figaro lacked a lot of high contact close racing with other Figaros so going into leg 2 I hope I’ve got back into the mindset. Hopefully I can use that more effectively in leg 2 as it’s something I think I was lacking in leg 1.”

Nick Cherry:
“After crossing the Bay of Biscay we then have the Raz de Sein which could be interesting as there is always strong tide there which could mix things up a bit and then back down the coast to Saint Gilles Croix de Vie. The last section isn’t quite as interesting as the north coast of Brittany as the tides aren’t as strong but there are still plenty of islands and local features so it should be quite an interesting finish.

“Having got to another level of tiredness on the third night of leg 1 and speaking to other skippers I know I have to trust my pilot more and get the pilot set up so it will sail the boat in any conditions and let the pilot drive when I am so tired I am not performing at my peak.

“In the first half of leg one I was really happy with my boat speed and keeping up with the front-runners. The key thing is to avoid making the mistakes towards the end when you are more tired.

“I like the tidal sections around the Raz de Sein, going through for the first time, I hadn’t been through before with the tide at full strength, it was like being in a cauldron and the boat was being whirled around with big waves. It was pretty impressive to look at and I hope we get similar conditions again.

“On this leg I am going to take more savory snacks and less sweets!”

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