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Les Sables Horta, a complex return leg and a wide-open game

© Vincent ollivaud / Les Sables Horta 2023
© Vincent ollivaud / Les Sables Horta 2023

As scheduled, at 15:02 (Paris time) on Saturday 8th July, the 15 duos still racing in the 9th edition of Les Sables - Horta - Les Sables set off on the second leg of the event. It's already shaping up to be a particularly complex leg, with a tricky first few miles to get away from the Azorean islands, as well as a number of transitions and uncertainties on the weather front, even though the general situation has brightened up a little since yesterday and should favour a very northerly route for all the competitors to reach Vendée. Against this backdrop, one thing is certain: the ability of each of the competitors to analyse the situation, as well as their ability to adapt to changes in the various systems, will undoubtedly be key assets in this return leg. This will not only be an opportunity for strategy, but will also have a major impact on the overall rankings, where the top eleven are currently just over three hours apart.

"Until yesterday, the files weren't really settled. It's starting to become clearer but that doesn't really simplify things, even if the general situation is becoming clearer and clearer. There are going to be a lot of things. It's all going to come into play. We're going to have to keep going right to the end," says Achille Nebout (Amarris). In fact, this second leg of the 1,280 mile Les Sables - Horta - Les Sables promises to be a complex one, from start to finish. The first difficulty? How best to get out of the light airs of the Portuguese archipelago. "Between the islands, there are always plenty of surprises, with deviations, buffer zones... The way we get out of them will determine a lot of things and which train we'll manage to catch," explains Baptiste Hulin (Fondation AMIPI) who, during these first few hours of racing, will have to keep his eyes wide open, but also be able to show some opportunism to get back north as quickly as possible and start to hit more pressure. "On Monday, everyone will have a decision to make: either go around the system via the north, or steer towards the finish," explains Christian Dumard, the race's weather consultant. In fact, everything will depend on the timing of the passage of the front strolling around to the north of the Azores.  "At the moment, the tendency is to take the northerly trajectory," explains the specialist. If this scenario is confirmed, it won't be surprising to see the boats climb at least as far as the latitude of Ushant to avoid a zone of calm in the Bay of Biscay, before bending their course towards Les Sables d'Olonne."This leg will be downwind and a little tight.It should go fairly quickly.The fact remains that while it may seem fairly straightforward overall, in reality there are a lot of little subtleties in store," says Christian Dumard. "At the moment, the tendency is to take the northerly trajectory," explains the specialist. If this scenario is confirmed, it won't be surprising to see the boats climb at least as far as the latitude of Ushant to avoid a zone of calm in the Bay of Biscay, before bending their course towards Les Sables d'Olonne."This leg will be downwind and a little tight.It should go fairly quickly.The fact remains that while it may seem fairly straightforward overall, in reality there are a lot of little subtleties in store," says Christian Dumard.

More to lose than to gain for some and the opposite for others

In this contest, the most skilful sailors will certainly have their cards to play.  "We're clearly going to have to be sharp on weather analysis. The general weather situation is evolving slowly. We're going to have to keep an eye on it and regularly update our data at sea to take the right options," confirms Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF), who certainly doesn't mind this pattern, as he promises to open up the game wide. For him, the key is to make up the 1h37 deficit accumulated during the first leg on the tandem of Alberto Bona and Pablo Santurde del Arco, who also got off to the best start today off Horta. "I'm not focusing too much on IBSA's lead. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. I know that a lot can happen on this return leg. It's a long leg and the weather conditions are very changeable. Above all, you have to focus on the race and not on the gaps in the rankings", assures the man from Les Sables. The same goes for the two current leaders in the provisional rankings. "Our objective is to do the best trajectory possible, without really taking into account what the others are going to do. We're setting off with a total disregard for the first leg, as our lead isn't really that big given the complexity of what lies ahead", says the Italian sailor, who knows that it's only once we reach Les Sables d'Olonne that the points will really be counted, and that we'll know who will succeed Antoine Carpentier and Mikaël Mergui in the race's honours list. "The easiest thing is to finish ahead," sums up Alberto Bona, who recently came third in the Défi Atlantique but is still in search of his first victory in a major Class40 event. In fact, given the tiny gaps in the fleet at the end of the first act - particularly between the 2nd and 5th boats, who are within a minute of each other - this second act will be decisive for the final ranking. The epilogue? It's expected in four to six days' time in Port Olona.

Tracker: Cartographie (lessables-horta40.fr)

Source : LSOVCL

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