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Thread: Next Stop, Kingsale For Figaro Fleet

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    Next Stop, Kingsale For Figaro Fleet

    Under grey skies on the Bay of La Baule, at the mouth of the Loire river in the west of France, Morgan Lagraviere (Voile d’engagement) lead an early breakaway trio at the head of the 47-strong La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro fleet during a showcase first hour of the 553 nautical mile, three day first stage across the Celtic Sea to Kinsale, Ireland.

    Lagraviere, who has twice finished on the overall podium for the Solitaire, the annual multi-stage solo classic offshore series, and sailed on the 2016 Vendée Globe in the colours of Safran, races this 50th edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro with no major sponsor.

    He sailed smartly on the first two-mile sprint leg to round the first mark and forge a small escape accompanied by Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) and Adrien Hardy (Sans Nature Pas de Future) who also competes without a major partner.

    Thousands of spectators lined headlands, seawalls and beaches around fashionable Pornichet and the bay itself to watch the 11 mile opening circuit unfold in 10-13knots of south-westerly wind, seeking their first glimpse of the new foil assisted Figaro Bénéteau 3s in full La Solitaire race mode and some of France’s best known, most successful offshore sailors going head to head.

    While the little breakaway trio held their early advance to pass the Radio France Buoy in the lead, wily fox Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) did not disappoint onlookers as he climbed through the fleet to pass the Radio France ranking buoy in fourth.

    Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) was in the middle of a big pack of boats in 19th at the first ranking mark.

    But while the opening skirmish under gennakers gybing around the bay was the perfect start to what promises to be the most competitive Solitaire for many years, there are many challenges in store, even during the first night at sea.

    Initially a rich-get-richer scenario is anticipated favouring the leaders, but a messy, not too active cold front is due to pass over the fleet just after dusk. The winds are expected to be unsettled, changing in direction and strength with some light rain on the first 57-mile stage down the Vendée coast to the Bourgenay southernmost turning mark, set by design off the home town of the boats’ builders Bénéteau.

    The key stages after that mark are entering the strong tides of the Raz de Sein, passing the Traffic Separation System off Ushant – off the western tip of Brittany – the Scilly Isles, the approach to the Fastnet and the final 50 miles in to Kinsale which looks set to be light.

    Well placed mid fleet was Will Harris, (Hive Energy). As a Brit he is largely unique in the field as an overseas, non-French racer who is taking on only his second La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. But after winning the top rookie or ‘bizuth’ prize on the 2016 La Solitaire, the 25-year sailor from Weybridge in Surrey, England has managed to secure the support of an English based leading solar energy company.

    Harris said as he left the dock in Nantes: “The weather is not as simple as we might have hoped it would be tonight, there are a lot of weak and broken up fronts coming through. At Ushant there will be another front which will bring quite a bit more breeze and it will be quite challenging to get through the rocky passage there and then the exclusion zone. Day 3 is less clear with a low pressure over the UK which, depending how and when that develops, can make 180 degrees of difference to the wind as we approach the Fastnet and Kinsale. But I feel like I have a good feel for what is expected to happen, I know what to look for and what to rely on.”

    Harris continued: “I am really excited to be starting. I want to go out and enjoy it. This first leg is about managing risk and not splitting away on what promises to be a very open leg. That can be your Solitaire over. Look for the small gains and coming in to Kinsale can be interesting.”

    The adoption of the new boat sees the return to the 50th Solitaire of three legendary French sailors all in their 50s, set to rekindle a friendship and rivalry which dates back more than 30 years.

    As the fleet left the Bay of La Baule, all three musketeers were placed in the top 12. Racing in his home waters today, in front of his house, Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe winner and three times winner of The Transat, Loïck Peyron at 59 is back as the oldest participant in a race on which he was the youngest in 1980 and won a leg in 1986.

    Michel Desjoyeaux, 54, is the most successful of the ‘roaring 50s’ with three overall Solitaire wins under his belt – 1992, 1998, 2007. After a five year break this will be Desjoyaux’s 13th Solitaire and he has never finished worse than twelfth and he can recite his year by year finishes by rote. Other than that 12th and seventh in 2013, he has always finished in the top five. He remains the only sailor ever to win the Vendée Globe three times.

    “I was there for the introduction of the Figaro 1 one design and the Figaro 2 and so it is natural I am here for the new Figaro 3. I knew last year I would be here,” Desjoyeaux has told the French media several times.

    “I have nothing to prove on this race. I won’t say I have to be in the top 5. I am here to enjoy myself, for my satisfaction. There is no pressure,” he contends.

    Leaving Nantes this morning Desjoyeaux commented on the leg ahead: “There will be a lot of shifts in the wind, it will be quite unsettled with a lot of manoeuvring and trimming, and then the leg itself is a big job. There are so many different options through the islands and round the TSS. It is really about finding the solution which is not the worst, I don’t think there is one best solution.

    “That is the goal for this leg. And it is a pleasure to be heading to Kinsale, it is a lovely place and a nice finish. It is a fun boat, although not so much on this leg which will be mostly upwind. My objective here is to try not to be too bad and to be better than I have been in the first races with the boat this year. I am starting to learn the boat and I am starting to get back into this racing programme but I will do the best I can.”

    And Alain Gautier, 57, is back on his 18th La Solitaire after racing twice in 2015 and 2014 when he finished 18th and 20th after a ten-year break. Gautier, who scored his first ever leg win into Kinsale in 1987, winning overall in 1989, has named his boat ‘merci pour ces trente ans’ (thanks for the thirty years) - a double edged acknowledgement to sponsors who have supported him over the years and to rival chums Peyron and Desjoyeaux who he calls ‘les enfoirés’ (literally these ‘tossers or assholes’ but veiled as a reference to 1980s French pop collective of that name).

    At 553 nautical miles this first leg is the longest yet to be sailed in the new Figaro Bénéteau 3s and the gaps through the fleet are expected to become quite large on this, the most open stage of the four legs which comprise this long awaited 50th edition.

    Fans can follow the race on the official website, and through the English language Twitter account, here.

    Official Rankings at the Radio France Bouy, 2nd June:

    1-Morgan Lagravière (Voile d’engagement)

    2-Adrien Hardy ((Sans Nature Pas de Future)

    3-Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola)

    4-Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird)

    5-Alexis Loison (Region Normandie)

    6-Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019)

    7-Yoann Richomme (Hellowork – Groupe Telegramme)

    8-Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire)

    9-Alain Gautier (Merci Pur Ces 30 Ans)

    10-Jérémie Béyou (Charal)
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    The Cream Rises

    Three times overall winner Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) is proving that his lack of racing time in the new Figaro Beneteau 3 and a six year break from La Solitaire is more than compensated for by his 30 years of experience and his natural competitiveness.

    In the early hours of this morning, the famous French sailor lead the 47-strong La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro fleet around the most southerly turning mark, Bourgenay off the Vendée coast, on the 553-nautical mile first leg which started Sunday afternoon in the bay of La Baule.

    By 0500am BST, Adrien Hardy (Sans nature pas de future), had taken the lead, but Desjoyeaux remains in a very close second less than half a mile him as the fleet climb northwards upwind in 12 knots of wind which has proven more settled than forecast. Passing Les Sables d’Olonne around 0230hrs where there was a big 70-degree wind shift which shuffled the leading pack slightly. Desjoyeaux lead the group out of the shift but Hardy has sailed slightly higher and faster since then.

    Speaking to the radio vacation this morning around 0400hrs BST, Desjoyeaux reported: “It was a boat speed race down to Port Bourgenay and approaching the buoy, a small front came through so some gybes but not too many changes. Then there was a big shakeup off Les Sables d’Olonne going north with a 70° shift.

    “Now, we are upwind with the wind coming at us on the axis of the course when before that we were reaching towards the point of Brittany. There is a lot to do and things will change again. The little bird is happy. It is playing out as we expected, with little battles and things to do all the time. I’m not badly placed, I think it’s Adrien Hardy who passed me but with the wind shift, the fleet spread out so we have a little luck because there are transitions coming up and the separation will help us compared to when it is so tight and compact. I did not sleep much, not at all. I was stuck to the helm with so many things to do.”

    For all that, there has been a change of boat for this 50th anniversary race and it seems to be the most experienced, successful La Solitaire skippers who are able to make the most impressive gains. Triple winners Yann Eliès (St Michel) and Jérémie Beyou (Charal) have both been able to stage significant recoveries during this first night at sea. Both were placed in the 20s yesterday evening but Eliès is up to fifth this morning at 0.7 nautical miles behind the leader Hardy and Beyou is seventh, one tenth of a mile behind his perennial rival Eliès.

    Britons Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) and Will Harris (Hive Energy) are in 24th and 25th positions this morning at 0600hrs BST fighting within a close, compact group at 2.7 miles behind the leaders after 14 hours of racing on a stage which is expected to finish into Kinsale on Wednesday night. Swiss skipper Justine Mettraux (Teamwork) is 28th and Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) is 29th.

    Standings Monday 3 June at 05h00 BST

    1- Adrien Hardy - Sans nature, Pas de futur ! à 457 from de Kinsale

    2- Michel Desjoyeaux - Lumibird - 0,2nm behind leader

    3- Anthony Marchand - Groupe Royer Secours Populaire - 0,4 nm

    4 Armel Le Cléac’h - Banque Populaire - 0,4 nm

    5- Gildas Mahé - Breizh Cola / Equi’thé - 0,4 nm

    6- Yann Eliès - St Michel - 0,5 nm

    7- Morgan Lagravière - Voile d’engagement - 0,5 nm

    8- Jérémie Beyou - Charal - 0,6 nm

    9- Alexis Loison - Région Normandie - 0,6 nm

    10- Yoan Richomme - Hellowork-Groupe Télégramme - 0,6 nm
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    A Big Split In The Shorthanded Figaro Fleet

    Four successive islands on France's northwest coast have in turn upset the leaderboard of the 553 nautical mile first stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro from Nantes to Kinsale. Each of the Iles de Yeu, Belle-Ile, Sein and this evening Ushant and the TSS has brought new surprises.

    Thomas Ruyant, (ADvens Fondation de la Mer), was thought by many to have lost badly for boldly striking out to the west on his own yesterday as the fleet tried to escape the clutches of the light wind, high pressure ridge. But when the main peloton tacked this afternoon to make west and avoid the western edge of the TSS at Ushant, Ruyant held the lead momentarily.

    In essence that means that since this leg started on Sunday afternoon there have been different leaders at each of the four islands. At Ile de Yeu it was Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) who sprang the first big surprise of the race. At Belle Ile that surprise was trumped by the amateur rookie Henri Lemenicier (Eureka) who squeezed out a 20 mile lead on the fleet. Then, at the Ile de Sein Yann Eliès (Saint Michel) made the day’s most pronounced gain to lead, and at Ushant it is Thomas Ruyant (ADvens-The foundation of the sea).


    The TSS is driving a wedge through the fleet. Most have opted for the west but Lemencier has led a posse to the east which includes Desjoyeaux, Arthur Le Vaillant (Leyton) Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services), Kiwi Conrad Colman (Ethical Power), and Martin Le Pape (Skipper Macif 2017). They are credited with the top five places on the evening ranking.

    The winds are due to hold from the WNW initially but who will profit on the passage across the Channel and out through the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet? The forecast suggests it will be light at the Fastnet and with lots of tidal current, this leg will not be settled to the finish line.

    ************************************************** ************

    After he eked out a dream 18 nautical mile lead on stage 1 to Kinsale, Ireland, runaway amateur Henri Lemoncier appears to have had his wings clipped to have been overturned by three times La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès this afternoon. La Solitaire first timer Lemoncier, a research and development electrical and computing engineer who is racing the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro for fun - to pitch himself against the best solo sailors in the world – left his sailing heroes in his wake between yesterday afternoon and midday this morning.

    Lemoncier, 40 years old from a small village near Brest, made his break when the 47-strong fleet tussled with an energy sapping high pressure ridge which produced only very light, and at times random, winds.

    As the smart money – some of the most accomplished Figaro sailors on the race – chose to stay to the west, outside Belle Ile, Lemoncier on his self funded Eureka, wriggled free of the pack and at one point this morning was the best part of 20 nautical miles clear of the star studded fleet.

    But as the breeze finally returned with a new cold front around midday, Eliès in the west hooked into the best of a period of brisk winds and pulled back through the fleet from 11thto first, marking his intentions clear to become the first sailor to win La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro four times.

    The 44-year-old Eliès is not only spurred by his innate desire to win, and to finally better his triple winning counterparts, Jean Le Cam, Michel Desjoyeaux and Jérémie Beyou. He wants victory to be a clear statement that despite his outstanding talent, he has been unable to land a principal sponsor to allow him to build a competitive, new boat programme for what would be his third Vendée Globe.

    When other French sailors who do not yet have his race record have new IMOCA 60s in build, Eliès would love a fourth win as the perfect riposte.

    The skipper of Saint Michel, Eliès, reported to Race Direction early this afternoon: “It’s quite lively out here. About half an hour ago, I was surfing along fast, but it’s calmed down a bit now and there’s some blue sky. I don’t really know where my friends are ahead of me. The weather isn’t that easy and it’s not clear if there’s going to be much wind or not. I have had to improvise a lot since the start. Now it’s a bit calmer, I’m going to try to find a moment to get some rest and eat something. I have to grab any opportunity I can, as it’s not been easy so far with a lot of transition zones. But I managed to sleep well during the night, so I’m feeling fine now.”

    With 300 miles to sail to the Fastnet and then Kinsale, Eliès was over half a mile clear of second placed Adrien Hardy (Sans Nature, Pas De Future) this afternoon. It was Hardy who won this leg when it was last contested in 2010.

    Ironically back then it was Hardy who triumphed into the picture postcard Irish haven, taking victory by just 1 minute and ten seconds over Eliès. As they approach the most north western point of France, the tip of Brittany, there is less than one mile between the top five sailors. Beyou (Charal) has also recovered well to sixth at 1.6 miles behind his nemesis Eliès.

    Previously expected at the finish as early as Wednesday night it seems more likely to be daytime Thursday when the leaders cross the finish line.

    English skipper Will Harris (Hive Energy) has worked hard to remain fast and benchmark himself against those around him, remaining relatively conservative with a lane which is to the west where the breeze is stronger but not too extreme. Harris – who won the top rookie title on his first La Solitaire - was 13ththis afternoon, up to within 3 miles of the leader and sailing up to half a knot faster than those around him.

    The Irish sailing community’s hopes of an additional reason to party in Kinsale this weekend rest with Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) who has spent the day in the top 13-15 of the fleet but is erring well to the east as the leaders approach the Traffic Separation Scheme off Ushant and this evening is 21st4.4 miles behind leader Eliès.

    The winds are due to blow more from the north-west and during the evening and night forecasters are saying there might be as much as 25knots as the leaders head close to the Scilly Isles before tacking upwind to the Fastnet where the winds are still expected to be light to moderate for the final passage to the finish line of what is shaping up to be a very long first leg.

    Fans can follow the race on the official website and on the English Twitter account here. (

    Standings Tuesday 4 June at 1600 BST

    1– Yann Elies – St Michel – 293.1 nm miles from Kinsale

    2- Xavier Macaire – Groupe Snef – 0.5nm behind leader

    3- Adrien Hardy – Sans Nature, Pas de Futur! – 0.6nm

    4- Morgan Lagravière - Voile d’engagement – 0.8 nm

    5 – Pierre Quiroga – Skipper Macif 2019 – 1.1nm

    6- Jérémie Beyou - Charal – 1.4nm

    7 – Lois Berrehar – Bretagne CMB Performance – 1.7nm

    8 – Fabian Delahaye – Loubsol – 2.0nm

    9 – Pierre Leboucher – Guyout Environnement - 2.1nm

    10 – Clarisse Cremer (Bizuth) – Everial – 2.2nm
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    Klaxoon Collides With Frieghter


    French rookie Cassandre Blandin (Klaxoon C) contacted Francis Le Goff, the race director of La Solitaire URGO
    Le Figaro aboard the support vessel Etoile at 04:59 UTC (05:59 BST) to report she had a collision with
    a cargo ship during the early morning of the third day of racing from Nantes to Kinsale

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    Published on 05/06/2019

    As the 47 strong fleet on stage 1 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro cross the approach to the English Channel, the main pack is now split into three clear groups which became more defined during last night because of the passage of the Traffic Separation Scheme off the north west tip of France.


    Initial gains during the night were made by the most easterly group. Renowned French sailor Alain Gautier (Merci pour ces 30 ans) was credited with the lead in the muscular conditions – more than 20 knots of west then north-westerly wind and lumpy seas – and Gautier, who was overall winner of La Solitaire 30 years ago, is still the most northerly and easterly positioned racer.

    But after dawn it has been the leader of the middle of the road group, Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement) who is setting the pace, along with the 2016 overall winner Yoanne Richomme (Hellowork/Le Telegramme). Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) has re-established contact with this group and was 13th this morning having been as high as fifth when the east was strong. But he will be content to be back fighting with a pack having been left behind at Belle Ile in very light winds.

    The lateral separation, south west to north east, was more than 65 miles this morning and growing as the groups forge different paths upwind towards the Fastnet lighthouse in brisk 18-22 knots winds which are due to drop from the west today. The passage of the famous rock lighthouse is expected to be in light airs, calms even, and so the rollercoaster – the big gains and losses which have marked this leg with top seeded sailors making or dropping 20 or so places over 24 hours – is likely to continue.


    New Zealand’s Conrad Colman and Swiss skipper Justin Mettraux are 15th and 16th, Ireland’s Joan Mulloy is well to the east and is 27th, Will Harris of England 34th and Tom Dolan – who was top 10 yesterday – in 39th but working within the pack investing in the west.

    Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) said: “It is pretty bumpy and very wet. The sea is quite big but the boat is not too bad. We are very much in the middle of the course and so far from the coast and we still have a long way to the Fastnet. I have my waypoint set and that is 190mn so that is far enough! We are in the shift and we should tack north from here soon and make a fairly close tack to the Fastnet.

    “Our wind files taken before we started are not up to date now compared with the conditions we are seeing. We use the weather we are given on the VHF and usually it should improve and calm down a little from noon. When we left Nantes we did not really see gusts at 25 knots on this stage and it is not easy to live like this aboard a Figaro 3. We get a little shaken up. I find it difficult to stay still in one position in these conditions because the boat is jumping waves and slamming hard. Keeping the balance, at night when you are tired is not always easy.

    The fleet is quite spread out. I do not see many around me on this option off in the west, but given the rankings we had at 4am, I think boats in the East are doing well but the truth will only be known at the end,” Macaire concluded.

    Fans can follow the race on the official website and on the English Twitter account here. (

    Standings Wednesday 5 June at 0700 BST

    1 – Pierre Leboucher – Guyout Environnement - 211.2 nm miles from Kinsale

    2 –Yoann Richomme – Hellowork – Groupe Telegramme – 1.0nm from leader

    3 – Armel Le Cleac’h – Banque Populaire – 1.1nm

    4 – Tom Laperche (Bizuth) – Bretagne CMB Espoir - 1.6nm

    5- Matthieu Damercal (Bizuth) – Klaxoon – M – 2.1nm

    6- Eric Person – French Touch – 2.3nm

    7 – Corentn Douguet – NF Habitiat – 2.8nm

    8 – Martin Le Pape – Skipper Macif 2017 – 3.5NM

    9 – Damien Cloarec – Damien Cloarec Skipper – 3.6nm

    10 – Loick Peyron – Action Enfance – 3.9nm
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    The Fleet Reached Fastnet in La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro

    Overall winner in 2016, Yoann Richomme was doing all he could to hold on to a lead of just under half a mile late this afternoon, seeking to close out what would be a well deserved victory on the first stage of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro.

    First around the Fastnet Rock at 1229hrs local time, Richomme, 35 from Lorient, was being chased by talented, hard driving 21 year old rookie, Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir) and Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environement) as they race towards the finish line of the course which is to be shortened by 11 miles at the Old Head of Kinsale. There was nothing between the three as they traded gybes and a stage which has lasted four nights and four days since starting from the bay of La Baule near Nantes, hangs in the balance.

    Deliverance from one of the longest and most challenging Solitaire legs of recent years will doubtless feel magical for the top trio who were 15 minutes clear of the fourth placed solo skipper when they rounded the mythical rock in very light winds. But since the turn they have made decent speeds under spinnaker and should cross the line at around 1900hrs local time this evening.


    Richomme, outstanding winner of the Route du Rhum in Class 40 last November, has come into this race feeling none of the pressure heaped on some of his rivals. After Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Charles Caudrelier seized an opportunity to become co-skipper of the Gitana Ultime, Richomme was drafted in as a late replacement for Caudrelier for whom he started out in the Figaro as preparateur.
    He and Leboucher led a group who took a middle course off Ushant and then stuck with it across the approaches to the Channel and over the Celtic Sea. Their choice allowed them to gain relative to a strong pack who went offshore to the west, which ultimately suffered last night when the wind swung more to the north.

    Around three miles behind Richomme, veteran Loïck Peyron, the elder statesman of the course at 59 years old will be happy to hold on to the sixth place he was in during this afternoon’s sunny slide east along the Irish coast to the finish line. Peyron is returning to La Solitaire for the first time since he was sixth overall in 2003. He had his ‘roaring 50s’ rivals Michel Desjoyeaux, 53, less than a mile behind in ninth place and Alain Gautier, 57, in 12th. Peyron said at the Fastnet: “I’m 30 miles from the finish. It’s not bad to avoid the last vagaries of the wind on this coast to get finished tonight “
    Highly fancied favourite Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) may have rescued some of his chances of a good finish overall by recovering from being among the back markers on Tuesday to be 13th on the reach in this afternoon, but the same might not hold true for the group of top seeds who went west, led by three times winner Yann Eliès (Saint Michel). Eliès - who led during the second day of racing - was nearly three and a half hours behind at the Fastnet Rock.

    Admirable recoveries appear to have been achieved by international skippers Justine Mettraux of Switzerland on course for 14th and Brit Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) who was 16th, both around one hour behind the leaders.


    Slow Times to the Fastnet
    Published on 06/06/2019
    The famous Fastnet Rock, the most southerly point of Ireland, is drawing together the different factions of the 50th Solitaire URGO Le Figaro fleet back together this morning, but given the prospect of yet more light and unsettled winds for the final 50 miles to the stage 1 finish in Kinsale, it is quite possible that the leaders at the rock may not go on to lead across the finish line later today.

    At around 35 miles from the long awaited turn east at Fastnet, the fleet is converging in a light northerly breeze. The group which took the middle course is prevailing as the wind veered from the north west more into the north and so disadvantaging the pack which had taken a more westerly option, led by three times winner Yann Eliès (St Michel) and Thomas Ruyant (Advens-La fondation de la mer),
    Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environment), a French Olympian who was sixth in the 470 at London in 2012, has held on to the slenderest of leads through last night ahead of the 2016 overall La Solitaire champion Yoann Richomme (Le Telegramme/Hellowork). Along with 22-year-old top Bizuth, or rookie, Tom La Perche (Bretagne CMB Espoir) winner of the CMB Challenge Espoir talent selection trials, this trio have painstakingly eked out a three-mile cushion over the fourth placed Eric Peron (French Touch).

    The lone wolf remains Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) who has taken the most radical, easterly route. The 2017 Vendée Globe winner was more than 15 miles to the east of the leading trio earlier this morning in 14th place – having been 44th at one stage – and is 10 miles behind the top trio. He needs the breeze to build more or to shift further to the right for his leverage to yield significant gains.
    But the forecasts suggest the winds are more likely to move more to the left, or west of north, which could allow a small comeback for the offshore pack. But for the final ‘sprint’ along the rugged Irish coastline the breezes look set to be fitful, and in strong tidal currents, no lead will be safe until the finish line in the bay at Kinsale.

    Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux (Teamwork) remains the best placed non French skipper in tenth this morning, another sailor who has been the architect of a remarkable recovery from early positions in the 30s in the 46 strong fleet, while Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) would likely be satisfied if he can hang on to 17th place given how deep in the fleet he was on the first full day of racing. The Brit has Kiwi Conrad Colman (Ethical Power) in 18th. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) is 35th having lost out with his westerly option.
    Suffice to say that after three days and four sleep-deprived nights of solo racing Ireland’s Teardrop – as the Fastnet was known because it was the last glimpse of Ireland for 19th Century emigrants heading out across the Atlantic to America – may yet see tears of extreme tiredness and frustration when the bulk of the fleet round later this morning.

    Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF): “The wind has gone right into the north and dropped. While it is good it has gone north it is not good it has dropped away completely. I have three knots right now which is not terrible. And as the sun comes up it is always better to see, always good to see the sun rise. On a race like this it always gives you some energy. It has been so changeable for two days, the wind shifting constantly. It is so tiring because you cannot leave the helm to rest and we always have to be on deck. But this looks like it will go on and it will be complicated to the end.”

    Jérémie Beyou (Charal): “It’s complicated because there are early morning gusts that have been up above us. And the wind turns north-east under the clouds and gusts and so we do not really know if it’s the definitive wind that we should sail to or have to wait until it dies and see what remains. We have had the rankings too. I try to work out where the others are so I know if I have won or lost compared to the ranking before, and see what I can work out from the rankings. For sure we are not at the top of the rankings but we have gained back distance on the leader and as we come into the same courses we’ll know more, later. I’m hoping that the wind will come back for the end of the race as there is still a fair distance to go and lots can happen. I did a few four night stages before and even one which lasted 5 nights and 6 days, that was my first Solitaire du Figaro and we went to Dublin. We were hardly dry before we had to leave. That was a bit special but it happened.”
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    A Change Of Course For La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro

    The northern latitudes of the Isle of Man once again will remain unconquered by solo sailors of La Solitaire after the planned course for stage 2 of the 50th anniversary edition La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro was radically altered to avoid strong northerly winds in the Irish Sea.

    Instead of the scheduled 250 miles windward leg to turn at the Isle of Man and a downwind to the finish in Roscoff, the 535 miles course which started off Kinsale at 1700 hrs local time today Sunday in beautiful sunshine and 12-15 knot westerly winds, will return the 45 boat fleet to their more usual hunting grounds of the Channel.

    Rather then taking the fleet of brand new, relatively unproven Beneteau Figaro 3s in to the Irish Sea and the strong tides of the St Georges Channel in winds forecast to gust to 35 or 40 knots on Tuesday, Race Direction chose prudence, sending the second stage direct to Bishop Rock, west of the Scilly Isles, then up into the relative shelter of the Channel to the Needles fairway buoy to the west of the Isle of Wight where the race turns to head to Roscoff.

    If the course now becomes a classic Channel skirmish along the English or French coasts, chasing tidal gates and transitions, headland effects and local eddies, there was scarcely time for the sailors to complain, would that they wanted to. Due to dock out of Kinsale mid afternoon, the new course was given at 1130 hrs this morning.

    Hours, or even days, of pre-planning had to be scrubbed and a scramble to learn the pinch points, the transitions and tides, on a course area which is all the more familiar to most of the skippers and now renders three of the four courses on this landmark edition, channel based inshore races.

    Top British skipper Alan Roberts tweeted his pleasure that the new course takes him to ‘home waters’ but the reality is there is never any real home advantage other than any feeling of confidence and familiarity on a coastline where he has won dinghy championships on many of the successive bays and estuaries from Cornwall to the Solent.

    “All the guys here have sailed the south coast quite a lot.” Smiled the solo skipper of Sea Cat Services who is looking to close a deficit of one hour and 49 minutes on race leader Yoann Richomme, “ But I have done quite well on the south coast before. As for the late change I think this changes it the game a lot to see who can adapt quicker, who can read the weather and who can mentally deal with the change.”

    The new course is some 100 miles shorter than the original planned. From Kinsale it is 125 miles to Bishop Rock, then 190 miles from Land’s End to The Needles and the strong tidal currents in The Solent. From the Isle of Wight there are 180 miles to Portsall off the Point of Brittany before turning 40 miles back in to the finish in Roscoff which should be taken by the leaders during the night of Wednesday into Thursday. By the Scillies tomorrow evening the winds will be light before a reach in 12-13 knot northerlies which will die as the fleet gets closer to the Isle of Wight

    Seeking to become the only skipper to win La Solitaire four times on this remarkable edition Yann Eliès (Saint Michel) spoke in Kinsale how he has had refocus his overall target after finishing 22nd, three hours and 54 minutes after the leader. “I will need to go out and win a leg.” Said the 44 year old who was one of the nine different leaders during the first stage.

    After a wonderful, hugely popular stopover in picturesque Kinsale, which welcomed La Solitaire for the 20th time, Eliès set off like a man possessed this afternoon, and led at the first buoy after a three miles upwind leg in perfect racing conditions. Roberts made an excellent start and was mid fleet on the eight mile sprint across the bay to the Radio France Buoy, Daunt Rock which is midway to the entrance to Cork Harbour.

    A collision in the early minutes of the opening 15 mile prologue sees race veteran and past winner Alan Gautier (Merci pour ces 30 ans) heading directly to Roscoff with damage to his foil and rookie Benjamin Schwarz returned to Kinsale to evaluate damage to his yacht.

    Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Telegram Group) 1st in Kinsale

    ” The change of course is good news. Last night I was a bit worried. It is the first time I have been concerned after my personal briefing because on the course there were a lot of different obstacles, wind farms, oil and gas platforms and not many harbours to go into if there was a problem. Add in the shipping traffic and the fact we don’t know the boats that well in strong winds and I think this will be a good course, a good decision.”

    Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) 8th into Kinsale: “We knew for a few days that the northerlies would be strong all the way for a run from the Isle of Man to Lands End and it would have been a good downhill but Frances Le Goff saw the new weather files this morning and has decided it is not reasonable in this first season of the Figaro Beneteau 3, so we must not waste any time we just need to get on with the new course. We are back on familiar ground but the course is not too restricted because the legs are still long and there are the Traffic Separation Schemes to consider and there will be more strategy and breakaways on this course. So we stop ruminating and get on with it.”


    In light of the strong winds which were forecast for the Irish Sea, the newness of the Figaro Beneteau 3s, and especially the seas expected in the Saint Georges Channel between Wales and Ireland, the decision has been taken by Race Direction to introduce an alternative, safer option.

    Instead of the planned ascent of the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and fast downwind, the new course now goes from Kinsale to Bishop Rock by the Scily Isles, then up the Channel to round The Needles Fairway mark to the west of the Isle of Wight, then back down to Portsall and in to Roscoff, a 530 nautical mile course.

    Although there will be a brisk SW’ly at the start it will soften in the Celtic Sea during this first night. Along the Channel it will be a light N’ly wind, so a gennaker reach. As the low pressure displaces the wind will head right round in to the SE. And light winds are expected for the return passage down the Channel to the Portsall by the Point of Brittany. The there will be some moderate NE’ly to get the leaders in to Roscoff during the night of Wednesday to Thursday.

    Skippers were generally in accord with Race Direction, even is some were not really enamoured with the idea of another Solitaire stage in the Channel when a new frontier – to the Isle of Man for the first time – seemed to be on offer.

    Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) It is unexpected but interesting nonetheless, changing the game at the last minute adds to the challenge. It will take us along the south coast of the UK, so lots of headlands and local effects and transitions. All the guys here have sailed the south coast quite a lot. But I have done quite well on the south coast before. As for the late change I think this changes it the game a lot to see who can adapt quicker, who can read the weather and who can mentally deal with the change.

    We go around the Needles Fairway and then down to the point of Brittany so round to Grand Basse de Portal then down the coast into Roscoff, probably against the tide as usual and then in to the finish.

    The Pôle (team) will work to send us all the information and that is the important thing to have as much information as possible with us. The main thing for me is that I have a clear picture of the first 24 hours so I can do that automatically.

    Conrad Colman (Ethical Power) Going to an entirely different part with no time to prepare is not a conscientious race by the race direction. It takes days and days of planning to get this right. Here is a complete change and we have to scramble now to make sure we get out on to the route and to do it safely. Like many races there are different splinter groups of weather preparation. So I will establish the route and then figure out the pinch points where to go and where not to go. And thankfully I can offload some of the strategic thinking to my weather router and we discuss that before the start. I was excited about going round the Isle of Man. It was going to take us longer than the 37 minutes it takes the TT motorbikes to go round, I was really pumped to be going up there. Another time.

    Alain Gautier (Merci pour ces 30 ans): I have not sailed on my boat enough to really comment on what is safe or not. I have not sailed with more than 25 or 30 knots and I do not know how the boat sails with 35-40kts with a bad sea like in the Saint Georges Channel with big seas and current. I am disappointed to be going in to the Channel once again. I would preferred something more open, like going to the Fastnet and maybe another mark. So the next legs were in the Channel so here we have one more. But that is my view.
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  8. #8
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    ~• Solitaire Urgo the Figaro: the crash •~

    Wednesday morning very early, Simone and I went to the boarding of a gigantic cargo. Pirate Flag out, knife between the teeth, we are gone to the assault of this ship to a dozen miles from the dst d ' Ouessant!

    I'm kidding a little now but you can imagine that this act of involuntary piracy was unfortunately not so glorious...

    It was already the beginning of our fourth day at sea, on the way to Ireland. I had managed to sleep a little on the start of the race, despite very unstable and weak wind conditions, but the fatigue was starting to be felt. The third night had been very difficult: in the broth of the raz de sein, wind against current, swell skewed, I had the evil of sea all the second part of night. I couldn't eat anymore or drink without it going out and I lost a lot of energy.

    The day was getting up, I knew I was going to a part of the sea where I had to be attentive. I'm moving to a dozen miles from the traffic rail of the cargo cargo trucks.

    On the eve in the cockpit, I'm going to sleep against sleep. Unfortunately, I fell asleep without realize it... and the awakening was pretty brutal. A HUGE "bong", boat arrested net, I raise my head and see a huge blue and red wall. Neither one nor two I took over my minds and picked up the bar. I plowed the cargo and came out in its wake. A little buzzed, I'm doing Simone's turn. We obviously broke the tip of the nose, but overall she's doing well. No water lane and the mat seems intact.

    I feel ready to continue to Ireland despite the end out in cauliflower. I join the race direction with whom we take the most wise decision to divert to brest to check in a more serene way than Simone is no more damaged.

    Half tour so and abandonment on this first stage... as well as on the second because the timing to rally Ireland before the second departure was very short by counting the time of verification and repair, especially with the storm approaching (a big thought For our lifeguards of the snsm at my place in the sands).

    I'm very disappointed obviously but I know I'm shooting lessons and learning from all of this.

    I'm going to prepare my next two steps and give the best of what I can and always continue to learn.

    Thank you to all the organization and the race direction for having taken in hand my return to brest, to the whole team of the Duo Mixte by Marc Guillemot and to Klaxoon Klaxoon Team Voile for the takeover of the earth and To all my friends in brest for their welcome that cheered me up and all your messages of encouragement!

    And a big congrats to matthieu for his beautiful 18th place on this stage!

    We wish him good luck on the second one who was leaving today!

    Simone is now fixed, see you in roscoff!


    La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro
    Classe Figaro Bénéteau
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  9. #9
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Tuesday Update: The Fleet Passes The Needles

    Racing towards a depression which has brought them strengthening winds and heavy rain as they reach eastwards up the Channel, the fleet on the second leg of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro are being led by Yoann Richomme (Hellowork-Groupe Telegramme), who has eked out a lead of nearly four miles on second placed Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) early this morning.

    Richomme. Leg 1 winner, reported gusts of more than 35-knots and short, steep confused seas as he battled towards the Needles Fairway buoy which was about 35 nautical miles ahead of him on what has been pretty much a 160 miles straight line speed test since passing Bishop Rock yesterday afternoon.

    The muscular conditions have exacted a toll on the fleet. Three solo skippers reported that they have abandoned the 535-mile stage from Kinsale to Roscoff; Cécile Laguette (Eclisse), Martin Le Pape (Skipper MACIF 2017) and Thomas Ruyant (ADVENS – Fondation de la mer) are all heading directly to the finish port. Winds are expected to start to diminish late morning.

    British skippers Will Harris (Hive Energy) and Alan Roberts (Sea Cat Services) have profited as they plough through home waters offshore of the English Riviera, at speeds between 12 and 14 knots in conditions which are proving an acid test for the sailors and their new Figaro Beneteau 3s which were all just launched in the spring.

    For many this will be the most sustained period of winds of 30+ knots they will have sailed in. Harris, in particular, said before the start in Kinsale that he was especially pleased to have raced the windy Solo Concarneau, the final event before this La Solitaire which many sat out to rest and prepare.

    Harris is up to tenth this morning at 13 miles behind the leader, Richomme, and Roberts is 12th some two miles behind his fellow Brit.

    Sixth placed Fabien Delahaye (Loubsol), reported: “It is full on washing machine conditions. It is cold and it is very wet. It is not very nice but it is hard. I have spent a little time inside after the manoeuvres. It is safer in here. Twice we have changed to gennaker and hoisting the main a little and have been going fast, but then had to drop it all down a bit since the beginning of the night. I was averaging 15 knots for a while earlier in the night but now it is a punishment. At the moment I am under reefed main and solent and have 36 knots and gusts to 38. I am making 12 knots and the boat is jumping waves so it is a good test for the boat. I have no problems but we need to be a bit careful because it would be easy to get hurt. This should not last too long. The wind will head, moving to the right, and we will end up on the other side of the low pressure, so in Easterly winds and calm down.”

    And leader Richomme concurred: “The conditions are quite muscular, 30 knots with gusts to 35. The boat is going well and behaving nicely other than jumping from wave to wave at 12 to 13 knots. It is magical. We are keeping up good speeds as we head towards the centre of this depression. I am keeping an eye on things from inside as much as I can rather than be outside. These are the biggest conditions we have had but not terrible. It is good test for the boat.”


    Between nine and ten this morning, local time, the strong winds and heavy rain abated abruptly for the leaders of the second stage of La Solitaire and with it the expected wind shift into the northeast

    Between nine and ten this morning, local time, the strong winds and heavy rain abated abruptly for the leaders of the second stage of La Solitaire and with it the expected wind shift into the northeastAfter a brutal night, battling winds of 30 to 35 knots, the clouds cleared a bit as the leaders tacked.

    At around 1100hrs local time this morning Yoann Richomme (Hellowork-Groupe Telegramme) leads Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) by 3.8 miles on starboard tack, the stage one winner having built a nice cushion to windward of his rival. The top five, Richomme, Le Cléa’ch, Adrien Hardy (Sans nature pas de future), Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) and Morgan Lagravière (Voile d’engagment) were all on the same tack, less than four miles behind the leader and all slanted towards the Dorset coast, heading in to the east of Weymouth Bay. The gap back to sixth is another two miles.

    Alan Roberts (Sea Cat Services) has done well for staying closer to the English coast and has worked up to eighth but has ended up out of phase with the boats ahead of him. Will Harris (Hive Energy) continues to hold 11th to windward now of a big pack of boats at around 14 miles behind the leaders who still had about 20 miles to sail to the Needles Fairway turning mark.

    Three skippers retired during the night with problems with the seals around the foil aperture Cécile Laguette (Eclisse), Martin Le Pape (Skipper Macif 2017) and Thomas Ruyant (Advens-Fondation de la maer). Reports to the Race Direction boat are that Arthur Le Vaillant (Leyton) and Damien Cloarec (@Damien Cloarec Skipper) have had similar problems but are managing to carry on. But after the night that has just passed, how many will still be at 100%?


    After beating upwind since around 0900hrs this morning when the wind went ahead, Yoann Richomme has managed to keep both Armel Le Cléac'h and Morgan Lagravière under wraps to lead at the easternmost turn of Stage 2 from Kinsale to Roscoff.

    As they tacked upwind off the Dorset coast between Swanage and Poole, leader Richomme has held distance on both and managed to stay ahead of Adrien Hardy who took a more offshore line.

    After a brutal night racing along the English coast from the Scillies Yoann Richomme led around the Needles Fairway mark this afternoon at 1409hrs local time and was first to set his kite again.

    Hardy’s choice to stay out in the tidal current paid and he rounded the buoy 12 minutes and 11 second behind having moved up to in second. Le Cléac’h is 20 minutes behind the leader Richomme.

    Top five at Needles Fairway.

    1- Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Telegrame Groupe) at 1409hrs local

    2- Adrien Hardy (Sans nature pas de future) at + 12 m and 11 s

    3- Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) at 20 m and 54 s from the leader

    4- Morgan Lagravière (Voile d’engagement) at 26 m and 20 s from the leader

    5- Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola Equi Tea) 26m and 30s behind the leader
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  10. #10
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Leg 2 Finishing Up For Solitaire Sailors

    With the breeze off Roscoff shutting down to become very light yesterday evening and through the night,
    the later finishers on Stage 2 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro struggled against the tide and unfortunately
    saw big increases in the time differences behind the leaders and some of their rivals.

    Such is the uncompromising nature of this race, the combination of missed tides and light winds,
    means hard earned minutes can very suddenly turn to hours.

    Even so this 50th edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro sees some of the biggest deltas all the way
    through the fleet.

    For the pack of international solo racers it has proven especially hard to put together two equally
    strong legs, as it has been for many others among the 47 starters.

    Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux (Teamwork) is in ninth overall and leads the quest for the ViVi Trophy
    with a delta to the leader of 4 hours and 47 minutes. Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is 12th 5 hours
    and 43 minutes behind the leader. Briton Will Harris (Hive Energy) lies 21st at +11hrs 1 minute,
    Conrad Colman, the Kiwi skipper of Ethical Power is 26th at +13hrs 15mins, Alberto Bona the
    Italian rookie on Sebago is 30th at +15hrs 38 minutes, 38th is Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) +19hrs 7 minutes
    and Joan Mulloy (Believe in Grace-Businesspost.IE) is 45th at +1day 5hrs

    Last night Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) came in just around midnight local time to finish 29th.
    The Irish sailor was disappointed with his finish. He said he became stuck twice on the first under
    big clouds with no wind and watched the fleet sail away. He lies 38th overall. After finishing last night.

    Tom Dolan IRL (Smurfit Kappa): “ It was a bit difficult from the first night. I got stuck under two
    different clouds on the first night and I found myself deserted by the fleet, I was pretty much last at
    Bishop Rock. Then again I got stuck at The Needles with no wind again. And then again at the finish.
    So, apart from that it was good. I found a pigeon at the Scilly Isles and he came and sat on the boom.
    He stayed with me even in the strong winds, reaching in 30-35knots, doing 18-19knots. The boat just
    lifted and sat on the water and it was so nice to have some strong winds for a while. But the race for
    me has been difficult. It has not been good for me so far. It has been difficult. It can only get better.
    I look at that way. I’ll nit be taking the pigeon on the next legs.”

    Conrad Colman NZL (Ethical Power) arrived in 35th place: “The Solitaire URGO Le Figaro is a
    legendary race and I am starting to understand why. On that stage we passed the coastline of
    three countries and we had very light, delicate and tactical conditions and also very strong conditions,
    gusting 40 and sustained 30 knots, and really we had something for everyone. In many ways I enjoyed sailing
    the boat a lot more on this second leg because we had such a variety of conditions, and it was really a big challenge,
    a puzzle to try and solve. So that how it was. The result is not so good and it is extremely disappointing for me.
    I had a decent first leg but I was penalised twice by adverse current, I had to fight the tide to get to the buoy at
    the end of Brittany and I then had to fight it to get back to the finish. As I was coming down I could see the boats
    zooming the other way and I knew it would be terrible for me.

    For me I came here to sharpen my skills, in my career I missed a step. My whole goal to start with was to sail
    round the world and I have done that three times, I now really want to hone my skills before doing the
    Vendée Globe for example. Here is an option to retake the class I missed before re-taking my next exam,
    I am trying to become a better sailor.”

    Joan Mulloy IRL ( In Grace) just beat the time cut off in 38th position:
    “It was really hard. It was a very difficult race. Last night was very hard as I had no wind and thought
    I was not going to finish before the cut off. It was really tough to be three miles from the finish and see
    it is going to take you 15 hours. It was tough. On the second leg there was a bigger range of conditions.
    Coming back to France and in to the Channel it feels like the open ocean stages are over. I made the finish by an hour.”
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