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Thread: Le Figaro A Go-Go

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    Le Figaro A Go-Go

    CHAMPAGNE START TO 52ND LA SOLITAIRE DU FIGARO




    Saint-Nazaire, on the French west coast some 40 miles west of Nantes, laid on perfect conditions for the start of the 52nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro. Light WNW’ly breezes of 10 to 12 knots and flat seas at the mouth of the Loire Estuary ensured that the 34 solo skippers were allowed a relatively straightforward opening to the 627 nautical miles leg downwind across the Bay of Biscay to a turning mark close to the NW Spanish coast at La Coruña and back to Lorient.


    The stage got under way after one general recall in what France 3 commentator, Vendee Globe racer Clarissa Cremer described as “champagne conditions”. Bright sunshine, moderate winds and blue skies gave the fleet a brisk opening circuit to the La Solitaire du Figaro buoy where favourite Tom Laperche led the fleet towards the open sea and the Rochebonne mark. Britain’s Alan Roberts and Ireland’s Tom Dolan were well placed.

    While the course is broadly an extended windward-leeward to the windy corner of Galicia where big seas are likely to prevail followed by a long slog back upwind, it might be the tactical decisions and timings how best to deal with three exclusion zones – set up to prevent competitors straying into a French Navy exercise – that shape the final podium. But most weather advisers and their skippers concur that a final shut down of the breeze on Thursday afternoon might actually prove decisive.



    TRACKER


    “After all these four days and nights at sea it could be Heartbreak Hotel in Lorient that some of these guys and girls might be checking into in Lorient.” Grimaces Marcel Van Triest, meteo adviser to one of the biggest race groups in the fleet, who has been instrumental in the winning strategies of Armel Cléac’h in 2020 and Yoanne Richomme in 2019. “It will all be about the timing getting to Lorient. As it looks just now if the leaders can be in by around 1300hrs then it can be fine but after that there is a big hole in the breeze develops from the west, and then three, four, five o’clock in the afternoon there will be next to nothing until seven or eight in the evening. That is going to be pretty hard to take after doing all that sailing.”

    “We have a massive high filling in from Norway with a big ridge towards the Azores, that means the wind will go right to become NNE but it is all downwind to the waypoint of Spain. From the start to the mark at Rochebonne it is fairly straightforward. There might be a little gybe to get to the mark there. From there to Spain it can be a little tricky because of the exclusion zone. During the night to midmorning we might see some differences in how people get to the forbidden area. When to place your gybes is key and there can be some differences. By tomorrow morning everyone is going west into the building breeze to find the layline to the mark.” Van Triest outlines.








    The breeziest, bumpiest section of the course will be in and out of Ouest Farallones cardinal mark at La Coruña where the wind will be over 30kts. Downwind will be about maximum time driving and keeping the boat fast while there will be time to recover and rest on the long beat back when there is not much to lose and gain. At the latitude of about Les Sables d’Olonne, so abut 180 nautical miles upwind, the choice needs to be then made to go south, north or between the no go zones. “It could be that the leaders extend as we get across Biscay, but right at the end there could be the first few boats getting in and the rest having to wait to get breeze. This leg will not be over until it is over. And it is La Solitaire so the key objective is not to lose the race on the first leg. Looking at the exclusion zones, through the middle seems the least risky option. But I am sure people will try stuff. It is La Solitaire. My aim is to keep it simple, to come out at the end of it still in contact with the title.” Explains Alan Roberts, the British skipper of Seacat Services. “The key to this leg will be being near the front of the top group at the turn at Spain.” Says Ireland’s Tom Dolan, skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, “The elastic will stretch a lot. Upwind the boat does not accelerate a lot. The wind shifts left in the afternoon and the main thing is to be doing your starboard gybe at that time and not be heading into the exclusion zones at that time.”

    Out to win

    Groupe SNEF’s Xavier Macaire, the French skipper who won Stage 1 of this race last year, is among the favourites to triumph this year and is very much on form having won the Solo Guy Cotten, the final circuit race before this La Solitaire du Figaro. Before leaving the dock he said “these zones don’t change the course completely but you have to adapt. I don’t see it as something to constrain us but it adds to the game. That is the main thing about our sport, you have to know how to constantly adapt, whether it is to the weather conditions or to the course which may change the day before the start.”

    Asked about his ranking among the favourites Macaire, the leading light of the Team Vendée said “given my start to the season many give me the status of favourite and I want to live up to that. I want to win this. That is true. I want to focus on what I’m doing myself without looking too much at the competition, like I did on the Solo Guy Cotton, always trying to exceed my own limits, to make good courses and to always look ahead and to be always faster and more efficient.”

    Tom Laperche (CMB Bretagne Performance) finished third in 2020 on his second La Solitaire du Figaro and is widely tipped in France as a likely winner. “This is an elimination race. You have to be consistent, and not lose it from the start. My goal is but no one is immune from having a shocker on this race. I know it’s going to take some risk to be able to make the difference and win. I’m ready to do that ” says 24 year old Laperche.







    Into the Unknown

    Twelve rookies took to the start line today on a long leg which should prove a relatively straightforward introduction to the unique challenge of La Solitaire du Figaro. Among them Catalonia’s Pep Costa (Cybele Vacations-Team Play 2 B) hopes to acquit himself well “I feel good. It is such a big race but I have done everything I could in terms of preparation. I am very young compared to some of these guys. I think I have been doing well in training and my speed it good but I will just try to take it as it comes.” Said Costa, 22.


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    Close Knit Fleet Dances Toward La Coruna

    DRAG RACING TO LA CORUNA
    Published on 23/08/2021





    Racing in downwind conditions with their bows pointing just to the east of the mark at La Coruna, conditions over the first night at sea have been relatively straightforward 10-13kts of wind and following seas, but it has been an intense period with no let up in the quest for speed. This downwind stage of the leg was described as a drag race, a speed test and that is what it is proving to be.

    Tom Laperche led out of the Loire estuary last night and he was first around the Rochebonne mark at 0256hrs. The skipper of CMB Bretagne Performance is holding a tiny lead of just 0.2 of a mile over Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement-Ruban Rose) and Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola). Mahé is furthest to the east of this lead pack but there is very little in it.

    At the latitude of La Rochelle, 65 miles off the Ile d’Oléron around 0800hrs this morning Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan), the Irish skipper has taken the most easterly option in anticipation of the breeze going more east further down the track. There is still 200 miles to the bouy at Farallones and with the breeze due to build skippers might try to catch a few minutes sleep. Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is 19th Dolan 22nd.


    images © Alexis Courcoux





    “The weather is very consistent with what was forecast. The progression of the fleet follows what was planned in the routings. They are making progress this morning in 12 knots of north-easterly wind,” said Francis Le Goff, from the Race Direction. “The most striking point of this first night is the race of Tom Laperche who has been in the lead since almost the start and he is lengthening his stride. We can also see the older hands like Gildas Mahé and Fabien Delahaye, who pushed hard and well during the night to get up to the front.”

    At 7 o’clock this morning, the first 20 were contained in a two-mile postage stamp. Tom Laperche (Bretagne - CMB Performance): “I am very happy to be in the lead from the orange buoy in front of Saint-Brévin. The conditions are quite pleasant with a full moon, it’s pretty and all good. We are under spinnaker towards Spain, the moon is in the spinnaker. The wind is not very strong, around ten knots but I think it will building during the day. For the moment, the situation is quite close to what was expected, it is happening as it was on paper! Today, we expect a good day of sliding south before the passage of the buoy in Spain tomorrow morning at dawn, in a little over 24 hours.”


    TRACKER


    Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT Environnement - Ruban rose): “The start of the night went well, especially since I made a good gain when I arrived in Rochebonne. I’m doing well, I’m happy. We had a magnificent moon rising just after dusk, all round, all red. I really loved that. I managed to put the pilot on, but I wasn’t tired enough to take a nap. I had recharged the batteries well before the start and there is this adrenaline that keeps me awake. “

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    Macaire At The Mark



    Winner of the first stage of the last race in 2020, Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) led the 34 boat 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro fleet around the Farallones mark off La Coruña, NW Spain this morning at 0820hrs CET, in brisk 25kts winds and big seas. The 40 year old from the Team Vendée group is on his 11th participation and is known as ‘the boar’ for his hard driving, fast downwind speeds. Such skills have proven valuable again during yesterday night as the winds and seas built in the southern Bay of Biscay, Macaire pulling out a very valuable 1.6NMs margin ahead of second placed Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement-Ruban Rose).



    TRACKER





    Macaire said as he approached the Los Farallones mark: “There is water on the deck of the boat and loads of noise because the keel is vibrating. I only now see bits of the fleet in these rough seas. The day is breaking and it’s nice to start a beautiful day with the passage of this small buoy. Last night, we had to do a gybe to get down to this corner of Spain. We gybed almost all at the same time. Then the wind picked up and the gaps were created quite quickly. We had 25 knots of wind all night with gusts to 30 knots. In these conditions, the boat is going fast. I found good settings, and put a little distance on my pursuers. “

    In the brisk wind conditions the gaps have now opened through the fleet with the tailenders such as David Paul (Just A Drop) now 31 miles behind Macaire. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) remains the best placed of the international sailors in 17th place at eight miles behind Macaire. On here first ever long solo offshore the Italian-American rookie Francesca Clapcich on Fearless State Street Marathon Sailing is going strongly in 20th place – also around eight miles from the top of the fleet, but pushing hard in the thick of the main group of ‘bizuths’ or rookies. Top rookie is Gaston Morvan (Bretagne CMB Espoir) in ninth. Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) will be conserving himself as best he can for the finish stretch into Lorient on Thursday morning where an opportunity may present itself to come back from his current 22nd place to find a more valuable first leg finish time, consider always this race is scored in cumulative time aggregated over all four legs so the most important aspect is always time delta behind the winner.







    Pam Lee, Irish short handed racer who is preparateur for Roberts this race noted this morning, “The pack hit the layline for the Bouée Cardinale Ouest “Ouest Farallones” off the coast of Spain at about 2300 last night, with the most northerly boat Marc Mallerat - CTB, Controles Techniqie de Voile, the first to gybe, Jesse Fielding - Opportunity – State Street Marathon was close second to make the call. As the rest of the fleet headed south, the wind had already increased with a steady North Easterly but it will be a wet, bumpy climb 300 or so nautical miles back upwind to Lorient. There is still the prospect of a shut down on Thursday morning if they don’t keep up the pace, which could really stretch out the final hours of this leg. The big tactical decision for the long upwind will be which route to take through the three exclusion zones. Weather models were giving a number of different alternatives before the fleet left the dock. Undoubtedly the skippers will be searching for the key signs to help them make this big decisions. “

    Roundings at Los Faralllones.

    1 / Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) à 8h20

    2 / Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT Environnement – Ruban rose) à 8h30

    3 / Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) à 8h37

    4 / Fabien Delahaye (Groupe Gilbert) à 8h38

    5 / Tom Laperche (Bretagne – CMB Performance) à 8h40

    6 / Corentin Horeau (Mutuelle Bleue pour l’Institut Curie) à 8h45

    7 / Martin Le Pape (Gardons la vue) à 8h45

    8 / Elodie Bonafous (Bretagne – CMB Oceane) à 8h53

    9 / Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) à 8h53

    10 / Gaston Morvan (Bretagne – CMB Espoir) à 8h54 first rookie

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    A Flurry To The Finish



    On the eve of a very tight finish tomorrow morning in Lorient, all of the skippers of La Solitaire du Figaro have finally chosen to pass between the areas closed to navigation due to military tests. All night long, Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group) held his leadership position with brio and determination, keeping his pursuers Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) and Tom Laperche (Brittany - CMB Performance) 2 miles in his rear table. For the moment.


    How long and painful this ascent to Lorient is! Since the passage of the Spanish buoy, the competitors of the 52nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro are sailing against a solid breeze which has never fallen below 20 knots, with gusts to 30. In a short sea, which throws up waves two meters, the discomfort is total and permanent humidity, sleep a rare commodity and vigilance a constant obligation. If there is no official breakage to deplore, the untimely meeting of the young English rookie David Paul (Just a drop) was right for his participation in this stage.

    Assisted by the Express crew, the organization's media star, he was disqualified from this stage and will be allocated a time corresponding to that of the last classified competitor of this first stage, to which 2 hours will be added. And it could well be that it is Benoît Mariette (Senior Generations) who serves as the reference time. The one who passed the first mark of the course in the lead off Saint-Nazaire is now dead last, the fault of a technical problem which forced him to deviate from the wind and take a very westerly trajectory which l 'moved further away from the direct route.

    Macaire, a solid leader?

    For the rest of the fleet, where the lateral gaps now reach around twenty miles, the vast majority of riders have chosen to set off together the tackings necessary for the reframing towards Lorient, for the first time at one o'clock in the morning towards the east and three hours later to resume the northern route. A sequence of which Alexis Loison (Normandy Region) was able to exploit the subtleties since he went from 11th place last night to 4th this afternoon. A gain of 2 miles on the leader who puts the Normand back in the race for the podium.



    Charlotte Yven - photo: Alexis Courcoux

    A podium whose highest step seems for the moment to extend its arms to Xavier Macaire. The 40-year-old skipper with ten appearances in La Solitaire du Figaro has been in first place for more than 36 hours now. Even if a lot can still happen from here Lorient, it has just demonstrated - if need be - its ability to stay ahead. He will still have a lot to do to contain the assaults of Pierre Quiroga, Tom Laperche, Alexis Loison therefore, Corentin Horeau (Blue Mutual for the Curie Institute) or even Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT Environnement - Pink ribbon) whose small adjustment recent shows the fierce desire to return to contact with the leader. The pressure is maximum on Xavier Macaire ...




    TRACKER


    With just over 140 nautical miles to go to the finish line in Lorient, sailing upwind on starboard tack in 18-20kts of breeze, race leader Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) is doggedly holding on to his lead of 2.6 nautical miles ahead of Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) who has managed to get himself up into second place chasing on almost the same line as the leader Macaire who has been in front since early morning yesterday when the fleet turned at La Coruna.



    Right now, around 0830hrs this Wednesday morning, it is all about picking the best, shortest laylines through the three exclusion zones which lie on the rhumb line into the famous Breton sailing mecca.

    Macaire, who was the winner of the first stage last year, is doing a good job of keeping the fleet covered as best he can. Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Performance) is third and has a lane about three miles to windward of that of Macaire, Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement) is absolutely in the match too in third at the same delta behind the leader.
    Ireland’s Tom Dolan is going very well on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan with very good upwind speed which has helped get him up to 12th position at just over four miles behind the leader.
    Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is 17th at 7.1 miles from Macaire. The leaders are expected to break the finish line just before breakfast time tomorrow morning perhaps seeing the breeze hold out to give a more straight forwards finish.

    Meantime British rookie David Paul (Just a drop) has been cleared out of the fishing nets which he had become entangled in late last night. After receiving outside assistance from the guard boat L’Express he has to retire from the leg and so receives the elapsed time of the last boat to finish the leg plus two hours.






    Stopped since last night by a drift net caught in the keel and the rudders, David Paul (Just a Drop), the young English competitor who brought up the rear of this 52nd Solitaire du Figaro, has finally managed to break free, with the help from Featured Media Express. This external intervention means for him the abandonment of the stage.




    Stopped since the day before, a little before midnight, the young rookie was joined by the star Media Express a little before three in the morning. In difficult conditions (25 knots of wind and a short swell of 2 meters, in the dead of night), the crew of the motor trimaran was finally able to assist the English sailor in the early morning hours, which for the latter meant l abandonment of this first step.

    Fortunately, his Figaro 3 suffered no apparent structural damage. The time retained following this abandonment will be that of the last classified competitor of the first stage, to which will be added an increase of two hours.

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    All Boats In For Le Figaro du Solitaire

    IMPERIAL VICTORY OF XAVIER MACAIRE
    Published on 08/26/2021




    He was one of the sailors expected at the outposts. He did not disappoint. After 3 days 14 hours 30 minutes 21 seconds of racing (before the jury), Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group) has just won with panache in Lorient, the city of arrival of the first act of this 52nd Solitaire du Figaro.

    What a final! This last night of the race must have drawn heavily on the riders' sleep reserves, already in great demand since the start from Saint-Nazaire, four days ago. Four days of permanent watch and incessant adjustments where Xavier Macaire showed himself imperial, taking the lead a few hours before rolling the Spanish buoy in the night from Monday to Tuesday to never leave it until the finish. Better still, he managed to increase his lead on this last section of the route where it was necessary to knit all night along the zone prohibited to navigation (due to military tests by the French Navy).

    1. Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group) 08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 08:27:21

    Race time: 3 d 14 h 30 min 21 sec

    Distance traveled: 721.87 nm

    " What a step! It was what we were promised. It was a great stage. It started to play out in the night from Monday to Tuesday, after Rochebonne. Afterwards, I continued to glean, I gave myself completely, I did not look in the rearview mirror with the objective of always going faster. It worked well! I had a little fright after the Farallones buoy: it started upwind, I was a little lower than the rear pack. They started to luff, I wondered if it was going to be okay but I managed to reposition myself. With the forbidden zones, it was not easy either, in terms of timing with the wind shifts… But in the end it went well. I was super comfortable under the spinnaker on the descent, super in phase with the boat, it was great. It was played on speed, I was really fast downwind. Afterwards, upwind, I was not in contact so in these cases, we don't really know if it's the weather system or if my speed was really better. Now you have to keep a cool head, this is just the beginning! Much more will happen in the next steps. I will concentrate on the rest, rest well, check the boat again. There is a gap with the others, so much the better, but I mainly stay focused on the future. check the boat again. There is a gap with the others, so much the better, but I mainly stay focused on the future. check the boat again. There is a gap with the others, so much the better, but I mainly stay focused on the future."





    This Thursday August 26, Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) crossed the finish line of Stage 1 of La Solitaire du Figaro in 2nd position at 09:14:36, after 3 d 15 h 17 min 36 sec of racing , 47 min 15 sec after the winner Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group).

    2. Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) 08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 09:14:36

    Race time: 3 d 15 h 17 min 36 sec

    47 min 15 sec from 1st

    Distance traveled: 722.29 nm

    “ Arrived under this beautiful sun in Lorient, that's a pleasure! At night at sea, it was cold, cold, cold. It was in pain but it was nice to go fast. Since the start of the season, upwind, things have been going well, this has been confirmed.

    Even if there was a way to sleep a lot, you're afraid of taking a buoy, another boat, so in the end you didn't sleep at all the last night.

    It was a grueling step from a physical point of view because you are leaning at 40 degrees all the time, with your eyes full of fog, full of salt: a step from school that makes gaps. I made two or three small technical mistakes; I ended up quite far from Xavier (Macaire, winner of the stage).

    The Solitaire is an experience race; you have to know how to take your pain patiently. In the end, I didn't have so much fun in the race, but second place is very satisfying on this open-sea stage, after having managed to overtake and have been ahead. ”




    This Thursday August 26, Tom Laperche (Brittany - CMB Performance) crossed the finish line of Stage 1 of La Solitaire du Figaro in 3rd position at 09:55:25, after 3 d 15 h 58 min 25 sec, 1h 28 min 4 sec after the winner Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group).


    3. Tom Laperche (Brittany - CMB Performance) 08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 09:55:25

    Race time: 3 d 15 h 58 min 25 sec

    at 1 h 28 min 4 sec from the 1st.

    Distance traveled: 725.63 nm

    “ There are people here! I'm happy to be here and to finish third. Because, when I hit 50 miles from the buoy in Spain, and it's already hot, I run out of rudder. I even wondered if I was not going to have to stop in Spain. Things got better in the end. Quite quickly I regained my confidence and overtook the boats.

    I was off to a good start; 3rd at the first buoy; at the top in the middle of the Bay of Biscay.

    There was a match! It was nice on the way back: the wind was not always very stable, so a lot of strategy. And La Solitaire du Figaro is far from over, there are still 3 stages ”


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


    1. Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 08:27:21

    Race time: 3 d 14 h 30 min 21 sec

    Distance traveled: 721.87 nm

    2. Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 09:14:36

    Race time: 3 d 15 h 17 min 36 sec

    47 min 15 sec from 1st

    Distance traveled: 722.29 nm

    3. Tom Laperche (Brittany - CMB Performance)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 09:55:25

    Race time: 3 d 15 h 58 min 25 sec

    at 1 h 28 min 4 sec

    Distance traveled: 725.63 nm

    4. Corentin Horeau (Blue Mutual for Institut Curie)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 10:03:44

    Race time: 3 d 16 h 6 min 44 sec

    at 1 h 36 min 23 sec

    Distance traveled: 724.36 nm

    “Honestly, I think I sailed well and I don't say it often. It was tough anyway. The descent was pleasant but the return was long. But I'm happy, I'm on target. It's been 6 years since I last came, so a place in the 5 is very good. I am progressing well. Fatigue side is fine, I have recovered well. We will try to continue like this and keep confidence in ourselves and in the boat. I've wanted to come back for a long time and I'm happy to be there ”

    5. Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT environment - Pink Ribbon)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 10:11:16

    Running time: 3 d 16 h 14 min 16 sec

    at 1 h 43 min 55 sec

    Distance traveled: 723.77 nm

    “We got a little stoned with the sea. It hit a lot. It was impressive. The descent was nice but when you get to the bottom, you tell yourself that the return will be long. On the rack I managed well, it was really nice. On the return, upwind, I was a little less comfortable, but it was difficult, there was wind, current. I quite often had my opponents nearby. The whole team came to welcome me and it was really great. It’s great fun ”

    6. Alexis Loison (Normandy Region)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 10:26:51

    Race time: 3 d 16 h 29 min 51 sec

    at 1 h 59 min 30 sec

    Distance traveled: 724.32 nm

    “It was nice but it was long. When we rolled up the buoy in Spain and had to go upwind, I said to myself “we haven't arrived”. But it was nice to put the boats back together: it goes faster when it's like that. I was really comfortable in speed. It was a great round. There is a bit of a gap with the first one, but there are 3 steps left. In any case, there is level, it sails really well; it's great to sail with these people! It's ultra open, we see rookies in the top 10. We will have to not let go! "

    7. Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 10:31:40

    Race time: 3 d 16 h 34 min 40 sec

    at 2 h 4 min 19 sec

    Distance traveled: 723.77 nm

    “We got a little stoned with the sea. It hit a lot. It was impressive. The descent was nice but when you get to the bottom, you tell yourself that the return will be long. On the rack I managed well, it was really nice. On the return, upwind, I was a little less comfortable, but it was difficult, there was wind, current. I quite often had my opponents nearby. The whole team came to welcome me and it was really great. It’s great fun ”

    6. Alexis Loison (Normandy Region)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 10:26:51

    Race time: 3 d 16 h 29 min 51 sec

    at 1 h 59 min 30 sec

    Distance traveled: 724.32 nm

    “It was nice but it was long. When we rolled up the buoy in Spain and had to go upwind, I said to myself “we haven't arrived”. But it was nice to put the boats back together: it goes faster when it's like that. I was really comfortable in speed. It was a great round. There is a bit of a gap with the first one, but there are 3 steps left. In any case, there is level, it sails really well; it's great to sail with these people! It's ultra open, we see rookies in the top 10. We will have to not let go! "

    7. Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola)

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 10:31:40

    Race time: 3 d 16 h 34 min 40 sec

    at 2 h 4 min 19 sec

    Distance traveled: 728.67 nm

    " I am very happy. I got off to a good start in Saint-Nazaire, I was well positioned. I reached my Top 10 goal on this stage. We had a race in the race with Gaston (Morvan), it was nice, we were often side by side, it always makes someone visually, so it boosts! The descent was really royal. The return, there was a small contrast: I finally managed to enjoy it but it was long. "

    10. Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan) - 1st Vivi Trophy

    08/26/2021

    Arrival time: 10:43:02

    Race time: 3 d 16 h 46 min 2 sec

    at 2 h 15 min 41 sec

    Distance traveled: 725.87 nm

    “It wasn't the hardest stage we did, but I'm not very fresh either. I didn't get off to a good start but managed to get some speed in the big tails upwind. There was a lot of strategy, it was an interesting step. And it's not over. But it was very cool. Wet but very nice. "

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    Leg 2 Underway!




    Being as it is, at the epicentre of French solo and short-handed ocean racing it was appropriate that Lorient bid a big, passionate farewell to the 490 miles Stage 2 of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro offering up a preliminary demanding technical circuit with three key sail changes. Raced in perfect overhead conditions, sunshine, fluffy cumulus clouds and a solid 11-15kts of north easterly breeze, this was a great display of solo round the buoys racing at its best.



    TRACKER






    After the marathon 627 nautical miles Stage 1 – a downwind-upwind passage across the Bay of Biscay and back that finished Thursday morning, Stage 2 is a much more intense, coastal passage. From this afternoon’s Lorient start there is a 100 miles downwind passage to a turn at Rochebonne – a rocky plateau off Les Sables d’Olonne – after which the 34 strong fleet should follow the rocky Breton coastline, passing around the Cherbourg Cotentin peninsula and then east into the English Channel to a finish at Fécamp, just east of Le Havre. The stage is of a ‘classic’ type for La Solitaire du Figaro, unrelenting, intense and demanding with little opportunity to rest. Periods when key tactical decisions need to be made occur later in the leg, when real tiredness prevails and lucidity becomes ever more elusive. From the 1400hrs start gun today it was Tom Laperche (CMB Bretagne Peformance), France’s prodigiously talented 24-year-old, who led the fleet around the four-leg circuit which was designed to allow the huge, knowledgeable local following a chance to see the racers doing their thing, bypassing all the main headlands and beaches before heading southwards under spinnaker.

    Switzerland’s Nils Palmieri (Teamwork) led the fleet at the first two marks of the course before succumbing to Laperche’s challenge. And as the Stage rolled out into the open water Italian-American rookie Francesca Clapcich (Fearless-State Street Marathon Sailing) was going well in 14th just over half a mile behind the leaders and locked into the main peloton. This time it was a reaching, sprint start unrolling Code Zeros from the starting blocks on a close reach to the first mark before peeling to the big A2 spinnaker for a fast reach followed by an even- sided upwind under J2 headsail. It was an exciting, picture postcard spectacle with kitesurfers dashing effortlessly around the hard-working solo sailors

    Leader Macaire a solid start
    Lying sixth race out of the bay, the 40 year old from the Team Vendée Formation, Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who leads the General Classification was comfortably in touch with young Laperche. On his eleventh – and he says, final challenge to finally win the La Solitaire du Figaro title which has twice eluded him – Macaire starts this stage with a useful but not impregnable margin of 47 minutes and 15 seconds.

    “This is a fairly typical, classic coastal stage which will see the sailors get very little rest. I am not seeing anything really that might be considered a race winning or race losing point – say someone opening a six-hour gap, but this one will keep the sailors working hard and after two hard days and nights they will be making key decisions how hard they want to push their risk. There are gains to be made, say cheating the tide but 200 metres more inshore in this instance can make a big difference. But pushing that hard really ups the intensity and stress much more and then there is the risk of literally having nothing left for the last stage.” Warns Marcel Van Triest who advises one of the biggest French ‘Pôles’ or training groups.

    Rearview mirror
    Before docking out from Lorient Macaire said, “I want to do well, to work smartly and hard. And to do that I won’t be concentrating on my rearview mirror. Above all, I don’t want to rest on my laurels from the first stage, think about my lead on the provisional general classification, let alone try to contain my opponents. The goal is to sail well, to navigate well and to continue in my good flow that I have.” He explains, “This is a very different course from the first one. It is a coastal race with difficult passages of the tidal stream at the raz de Sein, the chenal du Four, the Breton and Norman coasts, and the Raz Blanchard. It will not be easy because there are a lot of currents, lots of weed and maritime traffic, and local geographich effects because the wind is very changeable. It will be interesting and above all we will have to be focused throughout and stay efficient. For example, finding the right moments to rest because there won’t be too many of them and you will have to remain lucid until the end of the stage. This should be a three-day leg, shorter but also more intense than the previous one.”













    Internationals, Dolan looking to upwind pace
    Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) is the best placed of the seven non-French skippers, starting Stage 2 in tenth place with a deficit of 2hrs and 15 minutes on Macaire but within reach of the second and third places on the podium. But the 34-year-old who moved to Concarneau, France from County Meath ten years ago, made another lacklustre start and had work to do not long after the start. One outstanding strength he has shown was upwind speed on the breeze windward leg back across Biscay and with these North Easterly winds set to continue through this leg, this will be a primarily upwind stage. “I have found a good, slightly different jib setting which I have been working on and that seemed to be very good in the breezy upwind stuff and there will be a good lump of that.” Said Dolan, “The weather is looking that there might be no really big tidal gates unless we are late leaving, we get stuck a bit at Penmarc’h tomorrow but you never know. Because the wind has been in the North East for so long it might mess up the tides a bit in the English Channel but let’s see. This first part has a lot of manoeuvres and so they need to be clean and then you need to be quick tonight. I know this passage to Belle île and to Rochebonne pretty well, I’ve been out there more times than I have had hot dinners!” Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is lying 22nd, an hour behind Dolan. He was in a positive mindset: “The first leg is gone. I am not thinking about Leg 1 now or Leg 3, it is one leg at a time. I need to sail the way I know I how to and have confidence in my ability.”

    Later this Sunday evening could be one of the first keys to the course as the wind is due to drop away before Belle Ile then return in from the North East building to 17kts for a fast downwind sprint to Rochebonne. The leaders should be at the mark at around 0100hrs Monday morning in 20kts of wind. All the time the sailors need to be pressing hard to be in the lead group.

    The northwards climb starts in 17-20kts of NE’ly wind with the breeze moving right to allow speeds to rise slightly. An unstable thermal low develops and the breeze will slacken. Passing Ushant and round the corner into the west of the Channel the wind is more unstable but the seas will be around 1.5m. Tides are less of an issue than might be expected with a coefficient relatively slack at 30 compared with 90 on the first leg. That said the passage across the raz du Sein can still see strong tides. Tuesday in the western channel the NE’ly is unstable 17-20kts with big seas and it may prove beneficial to sail more distance to find flatter water and go proportionately faster. Tuesday afternoon they will be W and NW of the Channel Islands before moving back to the northern coast of the Cherbourg peninsula towns. Even across the Baie du Seine there will still be 25kts of NE’ly upwind conditions, but the brisk NE’ly should stay in for Wednesday morning finish.

    Van Triest asserts: “The bit from Groix to Belle Ile this evening will be very tricky as the breeze goes very light offshore. There will be some residual NE’ly close in and this wind will win out again.” Concludes Van Treist, it will be pretty quick to Rochebonne then a tighter reach north. By the time they are abeam of Lorient again tomorrow it will go light again, do you go offshore there to avoid the lightspot under Penmarch or you go stay close to the land to get through the transition zone here at potentially worst and also narrowest. Tonight is definitely one issue, with the bonus for anyone left behind at the raz de Sein, is that even if you are really well ahead you will still have the tide against you so that will help those who are a bit further back. And, of course, as it is an upwind finish, a relatively small distance is still significant in time and so that needs to be remembered.”










    UPDATES:

    At 1030hrs CET this morning, Monday, Violette Dorange (Devenir) informed the Race Direction that her boat had just struck an unidentified floating object.

    The port rudder came up and struck the hull. There is a small crack in the hull, but no water ingress. The autopilot cylinder plate has come off. Dorange is looking to find a solution to repair but has not immediate plans to give up the race at this time.

    Race management and Violette remain in contact to monitor the situation.


    This morning Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT Environnement - Ruban Rose) who was fifth going into this leg informed Race Direction of problems with his steering unit and the autopilot. These technical concerns account for his odd headings and speeds over recent hours

    At 01:40 PM he was in 19th position less than five miles behind leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper MACIF 2019).
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    Leg 2 Completed



    Pierre Quiroga (Skipper MACIF 2019) won the second stage of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro (before jury) when he crossed the finish line at 08:43:45hrs CET/Local hrs this morning, completing the 490 nautical miles coastal stage from Lorient to Fécamp via a turning mark at the Rochebonne plateau off Les Sables d’Olonne, having built himself a margin of just under four miles.

    After finishing second on the 627 miles first leg, some 45 minutes and 15 seconds behind stage winner Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF), the 28 year old solo racer who originates from Marseille puts himself in a strong overall position.

    Macaire the 40 year old sailor who Quiroga took over the helm of the Centre Entrainement de Méditerranean’s Figaro programme in 2015 caught a fish pot round his keel early on Monday night and had to dive to release it, losing touch with the leading group. He was lying 17th more than 12 miles astern when Quiroga finished.

    Quiroga, a past French Olympic sailing squad sailor who raced in the Laser and the 470, takes the first stage win of his career as he competes on his sixth La Solitaire du Figaro. He finished ninth overall on the last edition of the race in 2020 and sixth in 2018.

    He took the lead of the 34 strong fleet in the middle of Monday morning on a muscular, breezy close reach up the west coast of Brittany, sailing nearly a mile offshore of the lead group, passing Tom Laperche (CMB Bretagne Performance). Quiroga built his lead on the long beat to the Channel Islands when he tacked north of the group and was twice able to find a more favourable, lifted wind angle. With more than half of the stage raced upwind in NE’ly breezes of up to 20kts when boatspeeds would normally be very close, Quiroga’s performance is impressive.









    1. Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019)

    01/09/2021at 08:43:45

    Elapsed time 2d 18hrs 43mins 45secs

    Actual course distance sailed: 556 nm

    “It was hard, hard, hard! I thought this leg was never going to end. What I do know is that I have now fulfilled my deal. The objective was to achieve a stage victory, and that’s it done. On the first stage I was not far off with that second place. And now, on such a complicated stage, with the currents, tacking a lot of the time, it really tested all that a sailor should know how to do. I am amazed and delighted to have won this stage in such a beautiful way!”

    Asked about his choice to separate from the fleet at times, he said:
    “At the start of this season, on the Solo Maître CoQ, I won (the long offshore) by going to a corner a bit on my own. Here is was a little bit the same. This is what I like to do and I wanted to have fun on this stage. I felt there was an option, the planets were aligned, I went for it and it worked out.

    My overall objective on this Solitaire is still just to be in the top 5 or even a podium. That is the box ‘stage victory’ checked but I’ll keep pushing! And now I will be sailing with less pressure because my main objective is fulfilled. The general classification? I think about it, but I take everything as it comes, I will first savour this victory. Opening the course among the rocks of L’Aber Wrac’h for a guy from the Mediterranean is not easy. Clearly my 6 years of experience here have paid off.

    We were burnt out on Monday. I told myself that we were going to calm things down a bit for later for Guernsey and all the islands, the Chat, the Raz Blanchard. I knew we needed to be in good shape. That night I had no e energy, I did a lot of stupid things when I got there. And here I’m burnt out. My eyes are itchy and my muscles are telling me to go to sleep. To take the lead in the Raz de Sein and the Raz Blanchard, ahead of the best Figarists, was a thrill. But it was important to stay calm and keep a lid on my emotions.










    Third on the first stage Tom Laperche finished second across the line at 09:40:04hrs CET/Local in an elapsed time for the leg of 2d 19hrs 40m 04s and Achille Nebout (Primeo Energie-Ammaris) was third Nebout taking third gun at 09:56:23hrs for an elapsed time of 2d 19hrs 56mins 23secs. The past SB20 world champion who also started with the CEM and originates from Montpellier, ensuring that two of the top three finishers have their sailing roots in the Mediterranean.

    2. Tom Laperche (Bretagne - CMB Performance)

    01/09/2021 at 09:40:04

    Elapsed time 2d 19hrs 40mins 4secs

    56mins 19secs after the leader

    Actual course distance sailed : 560.92 nm

    3. Achille Nebout (Primeo Energie – Amarris)

    01/09/2021 at 09:56:23

    Elapsed time 2d 19hrs 56mins 23secs

    Actual course distance sailed : 561.02 nm










    4. Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola)

    01/09/2021 at 10:01:07

    Elapsed time 2d 20hrs 1min 7secs

    Delta to stage winner : 1hr 17min 22secs

    Actual course distance sailed : 567.22 nm

    5. Gaston Morvan (Bretagne - CMB Espoir) - 1rst bizuth

    01/09/2021 at 10:08:22

    Elapsed time : 2d 20hrs 8mins 22secs

    Delta to stage winner : 1hr 24min 37secs du leader

    Actual course distance sailed : 559.88 nm

    6. Alexis Loison (Région Normandie)

    01/09/2021 at 10:11:19

    Elapsed time : 2d 20hrs 11mins 19secs

    Delta to stage winner :1hr 27mn 34sec du leader

    Actual course distance sailed : 555.05 nm


    7. Fabien Delahaye (Groupe Gilbert)

    01/09/2021 at 10:37:22

    Elapsed time : 2d 20hrs 37mins 22secs

    Delta to stage winner : 1hr 53mins 37secs

    Actual course distance sailed : 564.69 nm

    8. Erwan Le Draoulec (Skipper Macif 2020)

    01/09/2021 at 10:39:56

    Elapsed time : 2d 20hrs 39mins 56secs

    Delta to stage winner : 1hr 56mins 11secs

    Actual course distance sailed : 563.46 nm

    9. Eric Peron (French Touch)

    01/09/2021 at 10:44:01

    Elapsed time : 2d 20hrs 44mins 1sec

    Delta to stage winner : 2hrs 0mn 16secs

    Actual course distance sailed : 559.91 nm


    10. Corentin Horeau (Mutuelle Bleue pour l’Institut Curie)

    01/09/2021 at 10:46:05

    Elapsed time : 2d 20hrs 46mins 5secs

    Delta to stage winner : 2hrs 2min 20secs

    Actual course distance sailed : 557.96 nm
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    Leg 3: 624 nm Fecamp to Bay of Morlaix


    The third stage of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro started on time at midday with a clean start made by the 34 solo skippers who have a 624 nautical miles stage from Fécamp to Roscoff via a northernmost turning mark at Saint Gowan off the SW corner of Wales.

    The race started in four to eight knots of easterly breeze. Because of the light winds in close to the coast the fleet had only one buoy to pass before setting a course for South Pullar buoy. The 65 miles reach to the English coast started under Code Zero headsails with over two knots of ebb tide running. Arthur Hubert, the French rookie on Monatoutenergie.fr passed this first buoy in first place with race leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) in second. Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) was well placed in fourth, making his best start of the race so far.







    Warm, hazy sunshine, light easterly winds and big crowds on the beaches, in the vibrant race village and the clifftops sent the third stage of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro on its way at midday today from Fécamp with race leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) warning that he believes this complicated 624 miles long penultimate stage could be decisive.

    The leg opens with a light winds reach the Channel to turn west at South Pullar just as the tide changes. The local sea breeze gave decent conditions to get away from the high, white cliffs which surround Fécamp and the NE’ly gradient wind appeared to have come in early to see the fleet racing north under Code Zero at 8.5 to 9 knots.

    Strategies on the approach and rounding to the Pullar mark - just four miles out from Selsey Bill - and then the choices in the morning hours of Monday could shape the outcome of the stage. Any initial advantage could be quickly magnified if the reach to the English coast is quicker than expected.

    There is a strategic choice early on the 200 miles long leg out of the Channel, whether to invest to go south of the Casquettes traffic separation zone, that is to say close to the Channel Islands rather than to stay towards the English coast.

    Most weather gurus suggest a key gain could be made here but the risk is high to sail more miles if the timing of the E’ly wind strengthening across the course from the south does not prove as per the weather models suggest.

    The passage from Longships Light off Lands End to Lundy Island and Saint Gowan - off the SW corner of Wales - looks like it will be in a building breeze and on strong tides but it then becomes very messy on the leg towards the finish near Roscoff on the Baie de Morlaix.







    Some meteo models show very light winds and strong adverse currents such that the leaders might struggle to pass Bishop Rock at the Scilly Islands before a cut-off low pressure approaches from the south to give a light upwind finish. Options will remain open even here, the last big choice being whether to pass east or west of the Scillies TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme, an exclusion zone reserved only for shipping).

    Quiroga, who holds a lead of 1 hour and 36 minutes on the General Classification, made an excellent start and quickly overhauled the young French rookie Arthur Hubert (MonAtoutEnergie.fr) who lead the fleet at the first mark. But as the 65 miles reach north across the Channel towards the Pullar mark unfolded Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF), who lies second and won Stage 1, was almost alongside him and pacing his rival.

    Speaking to the assembled early morning crowds in Fécamp Quiroga smiled, “It is nice to have sunshine again at the start. I don’t remember having so much sun on any La Solitaire du Figaro before. It is a pleasure.”

    He added, “But I am a bit stressed because this is a complicated leg with a lot of light winds, tidal gates and transitions to manage. It will be hard to manage everything perfectly. I think this might be a decisive leg but I want to enjoy it. The forecast has got a bit better than a few days ago with a little more wind coming in.”

    Bertrand Pacé, the former French America’s Cup racer who is a coach with the Lorient training group concurred, “This promises to be a difficult stage with light winds at the start but a building breeze for the second part. And a lot will depend on the first part of the race, there is a bit of everything. There are a lot of traps, a lot of transitions and we finish on strengthening tides, the coefficient building to 100 and so there will be strong currents at the finish. The first 36 hours can be crucial.”

    Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) who lies 18th overall has already delivered on his first pledge, leaving the dock with the promise to start better and attack hard, looking forwards to sailing through his native English waters this evening, even if it is only for a short time. He was fourth at the first buoy and passed Tom Laperche (Bretagne - CMB Performance) who had to make a penalty turn apparently for touching the mark.




    TRACKER





    The seas are glassy, the sky tinged with purple as the sun rises with the fleet of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro making slow progress under spinnaker off the Dorset coast, taking care to avoid the military firing zone at Portland and soon passing about 35 nautical miles south of the 2012 Olympic waters.

    Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) leads ahead of Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) and Alexis Loison (Region Nomandie) but there is less than half a mile between Macaire and Loison. Quiroga lost time and distance on last night’s rounding of South Pullar when he elected to carry on rather than gybe at the mark. Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is fifth 1.1 miles behind the leader. The tide has just turned and is against the fleet.

    Francis Le Goff, race director explained this morning

    “The fleet is moving well all close together for the moment. We are a little ahead of the routings as it was quicker on the reach to get to South Pullar. Competitors are going further west than expected, but the fleet should go to the south quickly because the tide will reverse in a few minutes. It was planned like that. They will go south in the morning. Over all of the weather files, it was more of a southern passage of the Casquets DST, but for now, they are still progressing westward. The rounding of Pullar passage was decisive for those who gybed quickly after the mark. For those who held on it was more complicated. The winds will will stay between 5-7 knots from the east all morning. “

    Niels Palmieri (TeamWork) reported on the VHF: “It’s not really okay. I stayed in a calm zone for ten minutes and everyone else sailed away The fleet regrouped as we passed the mark and I caught up a bit from behind. But as I rounded the mark, I went 30 seconds too long on starboard and got stuck in a hole. Those who gybed early did better. I tried to get some sleep but I have to stay focused. Nothing is clear to me about this race, even when the day dawns it will not be very clear. I just put the spinnaker back up ten minutes ago, it’s back to 6 knots.”

    All of the top skippers who spoke on the VHF today admitted their original strategy was to go south of this almost square exclusion zone that lies north east of Alderney, but it seems like no one was bold enough to break for the south on what was a not very appetising angle.

    It was left to Tanguy Le Turqais (Quéguiner - Innoveo), the young Catalan rookie Pep Costa (Cybele Vacances-Team Play To B) and Italian American Francesca Clapcich (Fearless - State Street Marathon Sailing) to lead a group of six round the south of the no go zone. They were making three knots faster than the leaders and pointing more directly towards Land’s End, the next waypoint on the 624 miles course to Morlaix Bay via a mark off the southwesternmost tip of Wales.

    Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) -winner of the first leg and second overall – has led since the turn at South Pullar mark at around 2230hrs last night. Race leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) was leading but chose not to make the early gybe at the mark which is to the east of the isle of Wight, and lost out to Macaire and others, lying fourth this afternoon at 1.2 miles

    Racing in warm, sunny conditions the leading peloton of ten boats is tightly packed, constantly benchmarking themselves against each other. Conditions are easy – warm and sunny with six to eight knots of breeze and the prospect of carrying big spinnakers all the way to Land’s End where they should reach early tomorrow morning.


    Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) made an excellent start to the leg and was approaching South Pullar in second position after Macaire but got caught in the bunch as the fleet compacted in the strong contrary tide and very light winds. He is still nicely in contact with the main group in 17th but two miles back from the leading line. Correspondingly Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) came back from the very depths of the fleet on Sunday afternoon’s reach across the English Channel to wriggle up to seventh on this morning’s light winds run but he is 14th at three miles behind Macaire.

    Just over a mile ahead of nearest rival Quiroga but left in a bit of a leeward position Macaire said the race is more or less re-starting from the TSS corner, “This is not what I had hoped for this morning and this afternoon. I was trying to play a wind shift and it didn’t go as planned. I was expecting an easterly wind as the files predicted and I still don’t have an easterly wind. There are rivals who are further south who have managed to get back to me, it’s not too serious. It makes a new start in a way. It’s amazing, all the weather forecasted this east wind for noon and we haven’t got it yet. We had 6 knots of wind earlier on now it’s more like 8-9 knots. It’s moving fast now so it’s not bad to be with the flow right now. I am calm, there is such a long way still to go I am happy with my start to the race, just a little disappointed with this change that did not happen. I could have scored the advantage since I broke away on my own, but it just got me back into the game. But I am calm for and will stay that way for the rest of the race! “


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    Leg 3 On Final Leg

    QUIROGA LOOKS TO DEFEND ON HIGH WIRE STAGE 3 FINALE INTO MORLAIX BAY




    With just over 100 nautical miles to sail to Roscoff on the Bay of Morlaix Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) was maintaining a slender lead of just under one mile after passing Bishop Rock at the Scilly Isles this afternoon. But this 624 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire du Figaro, from Fécamp to Roscoff, is shaping up to maintain a high level of tension all the way to the finish line. And Roscoff, a regular fixture on the annual French solo racing classic, is notoriously stressful to finish into, especially on a change of tide.

    “I am going into defence mode.” Briefly warned the 28-year-old Quiroga who originates from the Mediterranean port of Hyères and holds an overall margin of one hour and 36 minutes on the General Classification. That might be easier said than done on a stage which has already seen three major compressions, sailors making back nearly ten miles at a tidal gate in light winds.

    Quiroga took the lead again in the early hours of the morning on a fast spinnaker reach from the course’s most northerly turn, Saint Gowan shoals off the SW tip of Wales. Sailing slightly lower and faster than the fleet he was able to manage the transition from reach to upwind slightly better, most notably not having to tack to pass the western edge of the Land’s End exclusion zone. All the time off the wind, Quiroga has had excellent speed.








    But the final stretch across the entrance to the English Channel will be far from straightforward. The leaders are skirting the edge of a messy, complex low-pressure system. Sailing more to the west, closer to its centre should yield more wind but at the risk of sailing further. Conversely the direct route might see the breeze dying progressively as the north Breton coast is approached and the remnants of a cut off low looks like it will be centred over the Channel Islands, and so it looks very much like a high wire, tightrope race to the finish line.

    Quiroga does have the option to defend against his nearest rivals on the overall standings. Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who conclusively won the first stage and is second on the General Classification struggled between the TSS and Bishop Rock and lost more than five miles to lie 27th this afternoon more than ten miles behind the leader. And third placed ‘wunderkind’ Tom Laperche is fifth at four miles astern of the leader.




    TRACKER

    Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) and Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) both had good nights and are up in the top ten as the final leg back to France started. Roberts was quick last night and got himself from 28th to fourth by the exclusion zone which he negotiated neatly and Dolan made up from 21st to eighth. Roberts is well positioned in a fast, experienced group to benchmark himself against and was 3.5 miles behind Quiroga, Dolan was a further mile back.

    “Yesterday was not good for me.” Roberts told the media team on the guard boat this morning, “The wind was very tricky going north to Lundy. There were a lot of boats managed to steal up the short with breeze and when I got to Lundy I was nearly in second last place which was hard. But after Gowan I had really good speed with the right sail up and moving quick and managed to hold on with the breeze more to the right. Now I am not far behind. It is a long race.” He continued: “I am not too tired yet but am taking a nap shortly but I was on the helm all of last night since Wales. Now is my chance to get a little sleep. I am from England and so sail in the fog quite a lot. I quite like it. But with AIS it is like a computer game. You focus more on the numbers and going fast and have no visual references on the shore.”

    Current weather models suggest the leaders should finish into Roscoff just after midday Thursday.





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    Leg Four Gets Underway

    ONE FINAL FASTNET ULTRA MARATHON TO DECIDE LA SOLITAIRE DU FIGARO


    Corentin Horeau (Mutuelle Bleue pour l’Institut Curie) led the fleet out of Morlaix Bay this afternoon at the start of one of the longest legs in the recent history of the French annual multi stage solo offshore race, an epic 685 miles Stage 4 taking the 34 racers to the Fastnet Rock and back to the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro’s final finish line in Saint Nazaire on the Loire-Atlantique coast.




    The stage promises to be long, mostly slow and very complex. Weather routing experts variously predict the first boats finishing any time between late Thursday and late Friday. Some models even run into Saturday. Besides the very slack pressure gradient over the Celtic Sea and the Channel meaning mostly light winds, there will be a particularly challenging low-pressure trough descending from the Fastnet rock Tuesday morning which might split the fleet.

    After the 270 miles run and reach passing the Scillies and Lands End under big spinnakers the fleet leaders might be blessed with a favourable timing which allows them to transition to decent downwind conditions back towards the French coast if they come away from the mythical rock ahead of the trough.

    But on the other hand, others could suffer with a conflicting, thermal breeze cancelling the new northerly breeze near the rocky lighthouse which was known as ‘Ireland’s teardrop’ as it was the last landmark the 19th century emigrants saw as when they sailed for the new world, North America. There is a good chance that the fastest boats might be able to escape and open a gap. But if the later racers might be left fighting back the tears, there will be chances to come back, compressions all the way down the course and the final outcome will likely not be decided until the final 20 miles into the finish.





    all images ©© Alexis Courcoux / Christophe Breschi




    In terms of following a long-term strategy the biggest problem for the solo racers is that the weather phenomena are small and evolving. As the solo racers are not allowed to receive detailed weather information beyond the most basic updates from public marine broadcasts or the race’s weather forecasts broadcast by VHF from the Race Direction boats, identifying and monitoring changes to small systems becomes increasingly difficult as the race goes on.

    “I could not really dream up a more complicated leg if I tried. And it is long.” Concluded Marcel Van Triest, weather adviser to the Lorient Grand Large race group.

    “It is pretty complicated. At times I am just telling my guys to keep it simple, sail the most direct gybe when you don’t know.” Christian Dumard, Van Triest’s counterpart at Team Vendée Formation, admits.

    In line with Race Director Frances Le Goff’s abiding philosophies, the course is left as open as possible this time with no turning or passing marks other than Fastnet while observing the various shipping channel rules, notably the Traffic Separation schemes at Land’s End, Fastnet and Ushant. Le Goff has also notably restored the race to a real long hard-core test, eschewing the previous 24 hour sprint stages which were the finale of recent races, instead favouring one final ultra-marathon.

    Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019), the leader on the General Classification who has won two of the three stages so far and finished second on the first stage, was well placed – in the main peloton – as the fleet left the Bay of Morlaix. Ninth overall last year Quiroga will have to put on hold any celebrations for his 29th birthday on Tuesday, but may well have a bigger reason to pop the Champagne corks come the end of the week in Saint Nazaire. He carries a lead of 1 hour 53 minutes and 44 seconds.







    As he left the dock in Roscoff in the early afternoon September sunshine Quiroga smiled, “The crazy thing is that victory in the this super long and super tough Solitaire will be a magnificent achievement, whether it’s me or not. Today everyone has their doubts, their thoughts, their theories about the time gaps on the provisional general classification. Everyone plays with what they have and what they have to do and you have to play to your strengths. I am just like everyone in that respect in being stressed and having doubts. You have to stay humble on this stage in these kinds of conditions, where there will be little wind, current and weather systems to cross. I think the key is to have fun, and from the start I have done just that, I have had a blast on this Solitaire. In Roscoff, we didn’t have time to rest. If anything we have just managed to maintain our energy levels but we do have not increased them. We’ll make do with what we have left in the tank. “

    Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) was in tenth place, just a couple of hundred metres behind Quiroga, as the fleet started the 105 miles reach to Land’s End where the first big tactical decision will need to be made early tomorrow morning, to go east or west of the Longships Traffic Separation Scheme off Land’s End

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