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Beyou In The Lead
Photo by Courouc-Marmara-Le Figaro. Click on image to enlarge.

Figaro Final Leg After the first day and night at sea, and two key points of passage, the solo sailors are halfway to the finish of the fourth and decisive leg of La Solitaire du Figaro, that left Les Sables d'Olonne on Sunday bound to Dieppe. Shortly after 4 am the overall race leader Jeremie Beyou climbed up again in the lead of the final leg with Fabien Delahaye and young rookie Morgan Lagraviere practically "glued" to his stern.

While the front of the fleet is tacking upwind towards the Four Channel to round the Brittany Point, the skipper of BPI is reported to have a half-mile advantage on Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham) second placed in the overall ranking. The two look more than determined to stay up in the leadership over the remaining 260 tricky miles to the finish. But their pursuers are all but giving up hope and tension runs high as the first 13 boats are all in a tiny 2 two and a half mile range.

Undoubtedly, the final stage of La Solitaire du Figaro so far has met the skippers' expectations with 15 hours of demanding upwind sailing to Belle Ile followed by an equally stressful reaching spell with continuous sail changes. At approximately noon Monday, the first skippers faced the difficult passage of the raz de Sein against the tide, incredibly close to the Plate lighthouse. This coastal course split the fleet in different small groups.

Jeremie Beyou is in command of a troupe of 12 sailors lined up over a stretch of less than 2.5 miles among which Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham), surprising first rookie Morgan Lagraviere (Vendee), Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat), Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls), Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement), Fred Rivet (Vendee 1)... another group made of 8 boats is following the leaders' tracks, albeit with more lateral separation and another two miles behind the rest of the fleet is scattered over a broad area with skippers taking different options, like Nicolas Lunven (Generali) and Thierry Chabagny (Gedimat) who went for a far more offshore route.

According to the position report, Portuguese Francisco Lobato (ROFF) lies in 11th, less than two miles behind the leader and showing good speed, a good morale boost for the Lusitanian sailor who, up to now, had quite a disappointing race. Jersey's Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) too, has been consistently sailing in the top group and is reported to be in 15th place, Conrad Humphreys (DMS) managed to climb back some places and is 28th while the youngest competing sailor Sam Goodchild fell back in the ranking and is 31st at 7 miles from the top while Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) who suffered some electronics problems is 36th at 7.3 miles.

Late afternoon the fleet was heading to Ushant in a very variable and shifty NE. In theory the breeze should increase and veer left after Brittany Point and when the 44 skippers will have to set the course to the Channel Islands they will be faced with a last dilemma: go offshore to get the shift or not?

In the morning Damien Guillou (La Solidarite Mutualiste) and Louis Maurice Tannyeres (St Ericsson) warned the Race Direction that they were forced to abandon. Tannyeres's decision was due to technical issues with his ballast system, while Guillou, who sprained his right ankle during the stopover in Les Sables d'Olonne, reported that manoeuvring and moving had become too painful and he reluctantly resolved to stop and head to his homeport of Lorient, where he arrived shortly after 16:30. The skippers still racing are thus down to 44.

Top ten positions, leg 4 at 1212 French time:

1. Jeremie Beyou, BPI
2. Fabien Delahaye, Port de Caen Ouistreham
3. Erwan Tabarly, NACARAT
4. Frederic Rivet, Vendee 1
5. Jean-Pierre Nicol, Bernard Controls
6. Paul Heilhat, MACIF 2011
7. Eric Drouglazet, Luisina
8. Anthony Marchand, Bretagne Credit Mutuel Espoir
9. Adrien Hardy, AGIR Recouvrement
10. Francisco Lobato, ROFF

Battle Lines Drawn Off Cartagena
Cartagena is without question one of the Audi MedCup Circuit season's most difficult race tracks, a real challenge for the tacticians, strategists and navigators thanks to the wind conditions which change so often.

"You have to remember that there is very often no pattern to follow. It can be completely different from one lap of a race to the next, so - for me - this is the most challenging course area of the season." Confirms one of the founders of the Audi MedCup Circuit and a top navigator, Nacho Postigo (ESP), this morning.

The unassuming but uncompromising stretch of water off Spain's south eastern coast is the arena for the fourth regatta of the 2011 Audi MedCup Circuit.

It will be the battleground as TP52 Circuit leaders Quantum Racing (USA) and Container (GER), first and second respectively on the season leaderboard, seek to re-establish the top line consistency which they sustained through the first two regattas of the season, but which apparently abandoned them in breezy Cagliari last month.

Quantum Racing suffered their first ever technical breakdown to rule them out of a race in Cagliari and Stead confirms they have re-configured the offending running backstay arrangement.

So, too Markus Wieser (GER), skipper-helm of second placed Container is determined to return to their earlier consistent momentum

52 Series and 40 Series teams have been on the water practising today in the perfect 13-17 kts sea breeze conditions and very warm sunshine, looking to put a final polish on their team work before the regatta gets under way. The 52 Series have their official practice race Tuesday.

Two new teams debut in the 40 Series.
Barcelona's Tony Guia (ESP) has taken on XXII for this regatta and has a long term interest in competing in the class.

Guia was a Spanish pioneer on the Whitbread Round the World race sailing on Licor 43 in 1981-82 and then Fortuna Lights in 1985-86.

He has a strong link with the City having not only been on the sailing team on Licor 43, but the boat was also built here in Cartagena and Licor 43 is a local sponsoring company.

Their team will be known as - XXII (ESP) and has Germany's Sabine Schuemann as tactician.

And for the first time an all Australian team compete on the Audi MedCup Circuit. Brent Fowler and a crew which is comprised primarily of fellow Farr 40 sailors from Western Australia are well used to the strong breeze, but after stepping on to a Soto 40 for the first time today are looking for a more gentle introduction to the class. Aboard Britain's Ngoni, Kevin Sproul (GBR) steers this week, joined by America's Cup sailor David 'Freddie' Carr (GBR) on the crew along with navigator Tim Burnell (AUS) and Hamish Calder (GBR). -- Sabina Mollart-Rogerson

Upwind Tactics
Upwind Tactics An early layline call makes you vulnerable to a windshift. If you are sailing to the corners, perhaps to clear wind after a bad start, try and avoid the laylines - if you get on them too early and there is a shift you lose out by either overstanding the mark or having to sail extra distance. When choosing your layline you can if necessary pinch up to (but not beyond) head to wind to shoot the mark.

Read more sage advice in the new book Be Your Own Tactics Coach by Jon Emmett at

Rolex Fastnet Race Prizegiving
The prizegiving for the Rolex Fastnet Race took place this evening at the historic Royal Citadel on Plymouth's famous Hoe.

Dating back to 1660s and standing on the site of the fort built in the time of Sir Francis Drake, the Royal Citadel over the centuries has been one of Britain's most important defences and today is the base for the 29 Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Fastnet Challenge Cup, was awarded this year to Niklas Zennström's Ran and this was presented along with a Rolex Yachtmaster Chronometer. The Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer also won the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2009, making her the first back-to-back winner since Carina II in 1955/1957.

In addition, Ran won the Joe Powder Trophy for best corrected time at the Fastnet Rock, the Hong Kong Cup for first in IRC Zero, Erroll Bruce Cup for the first yacht home in IRC Zero.

Ran navigator Steve Hayles also won the Alf Loomis Trophy as the navigator of the yacht that wins IRC overall.

Mike Slade's 100 foot maxi ICAP Leopard picked up a large quantity of silverware including the Erivale Trophy for first yacht home in IRC Canting Keel; the Gesture Trophy for first overall in IRC Canting Keel; the Clarion Cup for the first British yacht home; the Kees van Dam Memorial Trophy for second in IRC Overall and the Royal Thames Yacht Club Spirit Cup for the first Royal Thames yacht home.

A magnum of champagne and a Rolex Yachtmaster chronometer was presented to Ian Walker's VO70 Abu Dhabi for the line honours win and set a new monohull record for the Rolex Fastnet Race of 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes, and 0 seconds.

The IRC class prizes included the West Mersea Yacht Club Trophy for first in IRC One to Nicolas Loday's Grand Soleil 43, Codiam; the Foxhound Cup for first in IRC Two to Rives Potts' McCurdy & Rhodes 48, Carina; the Favona Cup for first in IRC Three to Noel Racine's JPK 10.10's, Foggy Dew; the Iolaire Cup for first in IRC Four to Jean Yves Chateau's Nicholson 33, Iromiguy.

The Brunskill Trophy for the best Two Handed boat overall and the Berrimilla Dog Bowl for the best two handed boat in IRC Four were awarded to Will Sayer and Matthew Glasgow and their Sigma 36, Elmarleen.

The Jolie Brise Cup for the first yacht home in IRC classes One to Four was won by Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens.

Yachts and Yachting Catamaran Trophy for the first multihull home was awarded to the 140 foot trimaran, Maxi Banque Populaire, which set a new multihull record time of 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, while the MOCRA Musters Trophy for the first multihull home under 50 feet went to Will Claxton's 10m trimaran, Paradox and the MOCRA Crystal Trophy for the best multihull on corrected time under 50 feet went to Simon Baker's Dazcat D1150, Drama Queen.

The RORC IMOCA 60 Trophy for the first IMOCA 60 home went to Vincent Riou's, PRB, while the Philip Whitehead Trophy for first Class 40 home, for the second time running, was Initiatives - Alex Olivier, skippered by Tanguy de Lamotte.

Brute Breeze Tests Fleet
Bob Oatley's Wild Oats X1 powered to another impressive line honours win in the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week regatta in the wind tormented Whitsunday Islands today.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Race record holder expertly sailed by skipper Mark Richards and crew average a remarkable 13 .6 knots in the physically demanding race which tested their fresh wind skills.

They logged speeds in excess of 25 knots on the wave riding run between Cole and Denman Islands when the crew were propelled by the boisterous 25-30 trade winds.

Wild Oats X1 which has sailed through wilder conditions in the Bass Strait was comfortably rigged under reefed sails when the crossed the finish in Dent Passage.

Her crew who nursed the super maxi through the heavier gusts to again beat the Sydney maxi sloops Investic Loyal and Lahana had a short rest before beginning a post race practice session.

However while the trio of maxis recorded a fast time it was not fast enough to save their handicap ratings over the smaller sloops Loki (Stephen Ainsworth) and regatta leader the Marcus Blackmore helmed Hooligan.

Loki revelled in the brute breeze to outpace Hooligan by a comfortable 2 minute 35 seconds while the Michael Hiatt skippered Victorian sloop Living Doll filled third place.

All crews enjoyed some super fast rides on the spinnaker run.

"There was plenty of spray on the deck when Hooligan hit a peak speed of 23 knots crew member Richard Allanson said.

However while Hooligan again raced impressively the star performer in the strong winds was the defending champion Loki who recorded her second win to now engage the Hooligan crew in a match race for the title over the remaining races.

Hooligan presently holds the upper hand with her 1-1-1-2-2 point score while Loki with her 3-2-2-1-1 has moved into contention to test the Hooligan crew for handicap honours in the longest race of the series tomorrow. -- Ian Grant

Event site:

Lipton Cup: Light and Fluky Winds and a Night Time Finish!
Photo by Trevor Wilkins, . Click on image to enlarge.

Lipton Cup Mossel Bay, South Africa: With light fading and mist rolling in from the ocean, all eyes were on the lead yachts and everyone was wondering if the boats would have to finish in the dark after sailing the compulsory 12 nautical mile, rectangle course. Lipton Cup is unique as there are three compulsory courses that have to be sailed for the Challenge to take place. These are a rectangle, a sausage and a triangle and were specified in the original deed of gift, over 100 years ago.

The weather today was very light and racing only got under way around 3pm in very light conditions. With courses specified at 12 miles, it was a long day on the water for the teams who had to constantly change gears as the battled the unstable wind conditions with the wind constantly shifting. In these conditions it's vital to stay with the lead pack and today it was defending champion, Greg Davis, sailing Knysna Yacht Club's Colorpress that managed to use every puff and wind shift to his advantage and got out front early and led the entire race. Behind him it was Gerry Hegie on Protea Hotel Mossel Bay 2nd and Andrea Giovannini on Team Intasure Marine Insurance 3rd.

While not in the top three, the two Durban boats, Ricky Robinson's Orion B2G2 and Luke Wagner's PYC Element were close together, but today it was Ricky Robinson on Orion B2G2 who crossed the line ahead, finishing 4th which now places them in 2nd place overall, ahead of Luke Wagner on PYC Element who finished 6th and is now lying 3rd overall. With 4 days of sailing left, Greg Davis and Gerry Heggie who are tied in 1st place. -- Matthew Thomas

Top ten after race 2:

1. Greg Davis, Knysna Yacht Club
2. Gerry Hegie/James Largier, Theewater Sports Club
3. Ricky Robinson, Royal Natal Yacht Club
4. Luke Wagner, Point Yacht Club
5. Andrea Giovannini, False Bay Yacht Club
6. Guido Verhovert, Royal Cape Yacht Club
7. Ewald Sternagel, Transvaal Yacht Club
8. Dave Shilton, Defence Yacht Club (Navy)
9. Neil Malan, UCT Yacht Club
10. Robert Archibald/Andrew Ward, Redhouse Yacht Club


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18ft Skiff International Regatta
Photo by Erik Simonson, Click on image for photo gallery.

18 Skiff International Regatta San Francisco, California, USA: Trevor Barnabas tagged along from Australia to watch his son Trent crew for defending champion Michael Coxon in the 10th annual 18ft Skiff International Regatta, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club.

Good thing he did.

Coxon, suffering from a severe crick in his neck, handed off the skipper's role to the elder Barnabas on a few hours' notice Sunday morning and watched from the club's upper deck as he drove the Thurlow Fishers Lawyers-sponsored boat to a tentative seventh place in the first race and then a runaway win in the second.

That left them in third place in the 15-boat fleet after two of 10 races behind former winners John Winning of Australia, who scored a 1-2 day, and Howie Hamlin of Long Beach, Calif., who staged two remarkable comebacks for a 2-3 day.

"I just came along to help out and watch," said Barnabas, who at 58 is in the same age group as Winning and Hamlin, who are still going strong. "The first race we couldn't get out of our own way, but we did a few things to the boat between races and it felt really good in the second race."

Coxon was seeking a medical cure for his back but was not optimistic about returning before the end of the regatta Friday, which would leave Barnabas on the boat for the whole run.

"I hope not," Barnabas said. "I don't think the body will hold up."

But Winning and Hamlin just keep on going, no matter what the conditions, which were more civilized than usual Sunday--- a moderate 12 knots of southwest breeze building to 18, with a friendly 2-knot flood tide making for relatively comfortable downwind runs around the 1.1-nautical mile windward leeward course from inside the Golden Gate Bridge to just past Alcatraz Island.

Competition continues through Friday, with Wednesday off. There will be two races a day, including the Bridge to Bridge classic late Thursday afternoon.

Standings (after 2 of 10 races, skippers listed first)

1. Yandoo, Australia, John Winning/David Gibson/Andrew Hay, 1-2, 3 points
2. CST Composites, USA, Howie Hamlin/ Matt Noble/Paul Allen, 2-3, 5
3. Thurlow Fisher Lawyers, Trevor Barnabas/Aaron Links/Trent Barnabas, 7-1, 8
4. SMEG, Australia. Nick Press/Daniel Phillips/Brant Demis, 3-7, 10
5. Harken, Australia, Glenn Raphael/Ben Lawrie/Matt McKinlay, 8-4, 12
7. Maersk Line, Australia, Graham Catley/Nick Catley/Riley Dean, 4-9, 13
8. Yamaha, New Zealand, Dave McDiarmid/Andrew Archibald/Chris Burgess, 5-10, 15
9. SLAM, Australia, Grant Rollerson/Justin Healey/Marco Schuermann, 11-5, 16
10. Panasonic Lumix, Australia, Jonathan Whitty/James Hozack/Phillip Beuner, 9-8, 17
11. White Lightning, Patrick Whitmarsh/Mark Breen/Charlie Smythe, 10-12, 22
12. Death Dealer, USA, Brian Malouf/John Gilmour/Luke Lawrence, 13-11, 24
13. O'Canada, USA, John Ladha/Daniel Inkpen/Trevor Bozina, 12-14, 26
14. USA Black, Skip McCormack/Jody McCormack/Polish Mike, 15-13, 28
15. Love Machine, Chad Freitas/Katie Love/Daniel Roberts, 14-16/DNF, 30

General Tapioca Leads After Opening Day
Photo by Fiona Brown, Click on image for photo gallery.

Halfton Cup For the 38 strong fleet assembled in Cowes for the 2011 Half Ton Classic Cup, supported by South Boats, today's opening three races were confirmation that the Half Ton Class continues to go from strength to strength. Throughout each of the day's three races the fleet was tightly packed with plenty of close quarters drama keeping both the sailors and the spectators on the edge of their seats.

The entry list represents a true cross section of the original Half Ton fleet with the oldest boat being the 1977 Davidson designed Waverider, owned by A Delvaus of Belgium, a double winner of the Half Ton Cup in 1978 and 1979 when skippered by Laurie Davidson himself. The newest boat in the fleet is the 1992 Caccerelli designed Per Elisa, owned by Britain's Robbie Tregear, which was the last of the grand prix Half Tonners ever built, launching in 1992.

Racing was initially postponed for two and a half hours whilst the fleet waited for wind but the wait was worth it with a nice 10-12 knots from 135 degrees filling in around lunchtime. The Race Committee, led by Race Officer Rob Lamb, was able to set up shop on the Hill Head Plateau and with judicious use of a relatively short windward leeward course they achieved three races that tested the teams to the full.

In the opening race Half Ton Class Chairman and defending champion Philippe Pilate's General Tapioca took an early lead on the water and on corrected time and despite the many attempts by Francois Michelin's Chani and David Cullen's King One they held their lead through until the finish. On corrected time General Tapioca won by 34 seconds from Chani with King One taking third by just three seconds.

Race two went to Sibelius, owned by Jean-Philippe Cau who also took control of the race early on and then refused to relinquish their lead. Michael Kershaw's Chimp finished 57 seconds behind them with Tim and David Cunliffe's Insatiable three seconds behind that in third place. General Tapioca had to settle for fourth, just nine seconds behind Insatiable.

In race three General Tapioca came to the fore again, this time winning by ten seconds from Chimp with Denzil Williams' Santa Evita third and Robbie Tregear's Per Elisa fourth.

In the overall standings General Tapioca now leads the fleet by two points from Chimp who counts 8 points, with Sibelius third on 14 points, Chia fourth on 22 points and Insatiable fifth on 24 points.

Tomorrow the fleet will be racing around the Isle of Wight. The start is scheduled for 07.30 from the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club start line off Cowes and the fleet will round the Island anti-clockwise. With a forecast for moderate to fresh winds, a double points weighting and a no discard on the score for the race we can anticipate another exciting day. The regatta continues until Friday 26 August with up to twelve races scheduled.

Full results:

Letters To The Editor -
Letters are limited to 350 words. No personal attacks are permitted. We do require your name but your email address will not be published without your permission.

* From Blue Robinson: Farewell to Australian chopper pilot Gary Ticehurst, who regularly covered the Sydney-Hobart race race for the ABC and played a significant role in the rescue of 14 crew members from stricken yacht Business Post Naiad during the 1998 race. Ticehurst and two other colleagues were killed when the helicopter they were flying in crashed near Lake Eyre in South Australia.

In almost 40 years as a chopper pilot, Ticehurst logged more than 16,000 hours of flying time and played a vital role in the search and rescue in the 1998 race, where he was out spotting boats and relaying their position. Stephanie Hagger, from marine search and rescue met Ticehurst after the 1998 Hobart and summed up how Gary calmly did his job "I know the cameraman in the back of the helicopter was getting the shots, but Gary was creating the shots through the way that he would fly the helicopter, coming in low over the top of masts, twirling around them, sometimes in high seas even hovering the helicopter beneath the crest of a wave and then revealing the yacht behind it when the wave went down."

Gary will be sadly missed by all who knew him. A good fella, with a big heart.

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The Last Word
The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I'll never be as good as a wall. -- Mitch Hedberg

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