La Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire: 8th to Sanxenxo, Gwénolé Gahinet is on the pace
Gwénolé Gahinet crossed the finish line of the first leg of La Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire in the Galician port of Sanxenxo at 02:47:30hrs (French time) on Thursday. By covering the 461 miles of the course in 3 days 8 hours, 47 minutes and 30 seconds at an average speed of 5.64 knots, the skipper of the Figaro Safran-Guy Cotten took 8th place, just 35 minutes behind Thierry Chabagny (Gedimat) the winner of a gruelling first leg.
An electric finish
As forecast, the wind was breathless by the middle of Wednesday evening when the leaders of the fleet entered the bay of Sanxenxo. It took more than four hours to complete the last four miles at speeds hovering between 0.5 and 1.5 knots. Though the order didn’t change in the Top 10, Gwénolé Gahinet, retaining his 8th place, was only 2 minutes and 34 seconds behind the favourite Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ). Exhausted, the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten did not hide his happiness and relief at crossing the finish line. “I'm very happy, it was a great but long leg,” he said. “On balance it’s positive, I can only see great things ahead. It feels like the guys at the front are on a super level: get a small setting wrong and you’ll fall back. Excepting big mistakes, the overall ranking could be played out between the top ten in this leg, as the gaps in the finish of the next group are significant.”
Gahinet in the mix from the start
Starting on Sunday at 1700hrs from Pauillac, this first leg towards Sanxenxo in Spain kept all its promises, offering the 39 competitors entered in this 46th Solitaire du Figaro contrasting weather conditions: upwind, some reaching, downwind, and from the dead calm in the Bay of Biscay to over 30 knots along the Iberian Peninsula. Three days and nights at sea, during which the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten gave everything. From the start, Gahinet managed his exit from the Gironde estuary well and passed Radio France buoy in the early evening of Sunday in 6th place. “There were options to take on the Gironde and I exited from the right side,” Gahinet said. “I felt good and it's always inspiring to start a leg at the front. I was 4th out of the estuary, it was interesting because we had to make the right tacks in the right places to work with the current.”
A contrasting Bay of Biscay
After the passage of the first front, the fleet had to deal with a ridge of high pressure, a wind hole on a glassy sea that severely strained the nerves of the sailors for several hours. “Dead calm, it’s really the situation we most fear in a race,” Gahinet said. “Beyond the stress it places on you, it’s particularly bad because there’s no pleasure in sailing in these conditions.” Overnight from Monday to Tuesday, the wind turned to the south-west, so an upwind race ensued with a tactical game of positioning and tacking. Gahinet was in 10th place at the time. “There were a lot of wind shifts, you had to work continuous to keep your place and there were many manoeuvres. I was seasick over this whole upwind section because the conditions were difficult. I still managed to stay up with the frontrunners by following some friends,” Gahinet added with a smile.
High voltage at Cape Finisterre
After two days at sea, fatigue set in on the approach to Cape Finisterre, where the conditions were tough. The soloists were downwind in 30 knots and rough seas on the beginning of Wednesday afternoon on their third day of the race. “At Cape Finisterre, there was big swell and cross seas,” Gahinet said. “I broke my boom vang and I had to do my best to repair it somehow. Finishing gybes, the boat was lying flat on the water, it was really challenging,” Gahinet said. “Despite all that, I passed Sébastien Simon (Bretagne-Crédit Mutuel Espoir), Yoann Richomme (Skipper Macif 2014) and Vincent Biarnes (Guyot Environment), a really happy moment.”
A much more consistent Gahinet
Despite the weather conditions, the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten stayed in the Top 10 of this leg along with the leading lights of the Figaro Bénéteau class. This great consistency, proves that the young sailor from Lorient, who was the leading rookie in 2014, has progressed well and that more than ever he can be counted on.
Photo : ALEXIS COURCOUX