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La Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire: Gwénolé Gahinet confident about the Sanxenxo - La Cornouaille leg
After a three-day stopover in Galicia, Gwénolé Gahinet and the other 38 competitors in La Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire set off on Sunday at 14:56hrs (French time) from Sanxenxo for the second leg of the race: 455 miles to La Cornouaille (Concarneau). Eighth in the first leg, the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten is leaving confident and determined. But the weather is less happy: it will be upwind for the whole route into a lot of wind, of up to 40 knots. The first soloists are expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon in Concarneau.

“I have nothing to lose, I'm the outsider”
The stop in Sanxenxo was short and hard-working for Gahinet who recovered well from the first leg. Between sleep and some physio, the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten has not had time for a lot of tourism in Spain. After the hard-fought arrival, he has focused on the second leg, which promises to be tough. “I feel better than for the start in Pauillac because we’ve not had time to get out of race mode,” Gahinet said just before leaving. “There have been less festivities, we were less stressed and I haven’t been distracted by anything other than the race. I'm a bit of an outsider on this leg, so I’m even more motivated.” Thanks to an excellently handled first leg, the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten is more than one hour ahead of Yoann Richomme (Skipper Macif 2014). “I don’t want to worry about what might happen behind me, I prefer to focus on those ahead in the overall standings. They are the top seeds, so it will not be easy, but it’s a goal that motivates me.” Gahinet is 40 minutes behind the leader Thierry Chabagny (Gedimat) and, most importantly, only 20 minutes from the top 5.

A change of course
With more than 30 knots of wind in the Bay of Biscay, the race office decided to change the route for safety reasons. So, instead of heading straight to Concarneau via Île de Yeu, the sailors will head along the northern coast of Spain in order to round a mandatory mark about 25 miles off Gijón. “It's a good decision, which will prevent us from going where the wind will be strongest,” Gahinet said. “We’ll leave in a light north-westerly thermal wind and towards Cape Finisterre, the wind will shift north-east. We are expecting 25-30 knots and gusts of 35-40 until Cape Ortegal. There will be big and sudden accelerations, the wind will be very unstable.” While on paper this leg is simple and upwind from start to finish, in practice it will be more technical than it looks. “There will be two days with very regular tacks, but we’ll have to be flexible in how we manage the race,” he said. “I think it’ll be important to hold back on the boat’s full potential in order to save strength for the boring parts. Finally, there will be room for creativity – that’s what I like.”

Sailor and boat are ready to face the elements!
Upwind sailing is the least comfortable mode in a Figaro Bénéteau. Permanently heeled over, the tilted boat slams into the waves. For the sailor it’s a real balancing act, enduring the sea constantly washing over the deck. With his boat captains, Gahinet has prepared his boat accordingly. “For this leg, the biggest risk is breakages. So we’ve gone over the whole boat and made sure that I can easily put a reef in the solent and mainsail. We took the time to re-rig everything,” said the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten, who also made sure that nothing is loose on the inside of his boat. “We’ll be shaken in every sense. Everything must be in its place to avoid breaking anything and make my life easier on board. For food, I have packed simple, practical things like cereal bars, liquid food replacements and some “boosting” gels, basically everything you need to give you some energy.” Wearing a life jacket will be compulsory for this leg and Gahinet has also revised his autopilot on which there is a setting for ‘man overboard’. “I carry the autopilot remote control on me constantly,” he explained. “As soon as it’s out of range of the boat (if the sailor falls into the water), the autopilot automatically heaves-to. This does not necessarily allow for reboarding but it tells other competitors and the race office that there is a problem.”

It is a real leg of endurance that started from Sanxenxo on Sunday. For four days, the sailors will face difficult conditions where the best management of man and boat will be rewarded. The first competitors are expected in Concarneau on Thursday afternoon.

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