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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)
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    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
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


    • #3
      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
      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


      • #4
        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

        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

 Photo Gallery


        • #5
          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

          " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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          • #6
            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.”

            " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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            • #7
              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.
              " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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              • #8
                ~• 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
                " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

       Photo Gallery


                • #9
                  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

                  " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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                  • #10
                    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.”

                    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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                    • #11
                      A Rocky Start To Leg 3

                      Tanguy LeTurquais ran aground on the rocks of the eastern tip of Alderney around 1330hrs French time.
                      Despite several attempts to get off unaided Race Direction sent an inflatable RIB to help.
                      Unfortunately on the falling tide, Quéguiner-Kayak was stuck fast on rocks while there was still about
                      twenty centimetres of tidal range still to fall.

                      Bob Escoffier’s motor trimaran Express, which accompanies the fleet as media boat and guard ship,
                      tried to pass a line which was connected to a spinnaker halyard to tilt the Figaro Bénéteau 3 over
                      enough to get it off. Finally, Le Turquais has stayed on board knowing that the tide was not going down much more.

                      French 2012 Olympian Pierre Leboucher, who lies second overall, stole the limelight from local heroes Armel Le Cléach and Jérémie Beyou as the third stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro started on their home waters, the Bay of Morlaix in northern Brittany today, Sunday 16 June.


                      Leboucher, 28, who is racing his third La Solitaire, started smartly and established an early lead on the 10 mile showcase circuit before the 46-strong fleet left the famous rocky, tidal Finistère bay behind. It is on these waters which the current Vendée Globe champion Le Cléach, three times La Solitaire winner Beyou and past Figaro winner Nico Lunven all grew up as close friends and sparring partners.
                      The opening, preliminary circuit of what promises to be a challenging, light winds 450-mile third stage from Roscoff to Roscoff, proved to be a perfect spectacle for the huge crowds which turned out on one of the most exciting days of the multi-stage annual race’s ten day stop which incorporates two starts and two finishes.

                      Under leaden skies which parted periodically to allow slivers of sunshine to dapple the bay, Leboucher (Guyot Environment) underlined why he is presently the biggest threat to overall race leader Yoann Richomme, who started this stage with a comprehensive margin of two hours and 17 minutes. In 15 knots of southwesterly wind, by the first turning mark, after an exciting, competitive two mile beat, Leboucher had eked out a decent lead ahead of Eric Péron (French Touch). Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) made his best start of the three stages so far and was fifth round the first two marks while compatriot Will Harris (Hive Energy) was in the top ten and going well. Surprisingly, Richomme started modestly and was nineteenth.

                      As he docked out Roberts, who is 12th overall in this years Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, explained the leg ahead: “This leg is a lot more tidal. Going through the Channel Islands will be key and thankfully this morning the weather forecasts starting to agree a bit more. We should see some more breeze to Videocoq the first mark (at Granville) nicely. Then to Alderney. There, you need to sniggle through to get the tide, if not there can be big differences there. Then there is the option to got north of the TSS. It will be dependent on the time you get there. For me this is not a high risk leg. It will be more of the same as I have been doing; stick with the pack and be conservative and fast. I am not going out to win this leg I am trying to stay in the bunch and let some of the top guys drop out of the bunch.”

                      This third stage looks like it will be the critical decider of the four legs which comprise this 50th anniversary edition Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. It knits together some of the most renowned tidal passages in the west of the Channel and with light, unpredictable winds forecast including periods of calm, there will certainly be splits in the fleet which may extend to several hours.

                      Initially the fleet heads east on the heels of a solid breeze passing by the iconic Mont Saint Michel to turn at buoy by Granville where the wind is forecast to die. From there it is 60 miles up to Alderney opposite the Cherbourg peninsula and the infamous raz de Blanchard or Alderney Race where the tidal current sluices between the island and the Cap de la Hague.

                      Then it is 90 miles across the Channel, probably staying south of the Casquets TSS, although perhaps there might be more wind to the north. The northernmost turning mark is Hands Deep which is three miles to the northwest of Eddystone Light. The it is back across the Channel to the Fromveur mark between Ushant and the TSS, then to Chaussée de Sein (130 miles), through raz de Sein and the chenal de Four up to Portsall Grande Basse buoy (50 miles), repeating the same finish leg as Stage 2, in to Roscoff.

                      Weather advisor to some of the sailors Christian Dumand explained what is ahead: “The wind should decrease around Granville in the early morning. Then they go to the next mark with about 10 knots then to Hands Deep. But here, by Eddystone, is where the ridge will be encountered and here the wind will shift from the southwest to the northeast with very light winds. That will be one of the keys. The end of the race is very unsure. It should be northeasterly to come back to Ushant and then a little trough develops for the approach to the finish but we don’t know where. The key may be this evening around Saint Brieuc before Granville because there could be no wind in the north. Then the current at Alderney will be key, and then the transition through the ridge tomorrow evening.”

                      The overall race leader Richomme sounded confident as he left the dock this morning. “It does not look that bad going up to Alderney which we should get to tomorrow morning. I could be wrong, there could be a light patch on the bay going over there before Granville, but we might be OK and go through easily. Tomorrow morning we will be going straight into the tide going west towards Plymouth. That might be quite tricky. There might be the option to go north of the TSS. I probably won’t do that except under extreme circumstances. The tricky part is the transition going south across the high pressure ridge. I think the first ones to pop out there will have the advantage, how big I am not sure.”

                      Asked if he felt the pressure of leading into a leg which holds so many potential pitfalls, Richomme said: “I feel really confident. I take this leg by leg. I don’t want to think about anything else. I know the ranking roughly but I don’t look at it. I know each leg is hard enough and I take each leg at a time. I feel good. I know the key points. I am just aiming for the top ten. That is what I always do. And then for the first half of this race I will be just doing my race for sure. Then if I need to, like on the first one, I will control a little bit just to make sure I can control if I need to. I want to do my race. I don’t want to do a race under pressure to watch everyone. There are just too many people. I will do my race.”

                      In second place on the overall ranking, Leboucher is reckoned to be one of the rising stars of La Solitaire. Sixth at the 2012 Olympics in the 470 as helm with crew Vincent Garos, his coach from the Pôle Finistere Christian Le Pape says he is “a force of nature who has excellent control driving downwind, a finesse at the helm and intuitive sensations that make a big difference as the boat accelerates “.
                      Behind Leboucher in third, at two hours and 28 minutes behind Richomme is Armel Le Cléac’h who will be racing in his backyard on a course where rock hopping and hugging the coast to seek relief from the strong tides may be essential. A double winner of La Solitaire, once by just 13 seconds overall, the skipper from Saint Pol, the next town south of Roscoff, Le Cléac’h will be a threat on this stage, especially as the accumulated fatigue and stress impinges on the decision making processes.

                      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

             Photo Gallery


                      • #12
                        Some current moving through there, thats for sure!


                        • #13
                          The Helen Keller method of navigation?


                          • #14
                            Tidal Trap Tangles Tanguy Le Turquais

                            IS THE STAGE 3 PODIUM ALREADY SET?

                            Less than 24 hours after the start of the 450-nautical mile third stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, Alex Loison, (Region Normandie), is currently leading a breakaway trio which has earned a cushion of 18 miles since they escaped through a key tidal gate off the north eastern tip of the Channel Islands.

                            Loison made a clear pass of the point at the Alderney lighthouse at around 1130hrs this morning, the light on the Channel island marking the west side of the notorious raz Blanchard as the French call the Alderney race, where the tide can run to 12 knots. Only Gildas Mahé, (Breizh Cola-EquiThé), and Anthony Marchand, (Groupe Royers-Secours Populaire), made it past with Loison who had led all the way from the dawn rounding of the Videcoq mark at Granville, in the south east corner of the bay of Saint Malo, early this morning.

                            As the three musketeers made their getaway at between five and seven knots, their stricken rivals tried all they could to wriggle free of the tidal currents grip. Some tried to sneak in and out of the rocks on the Alderney shore seeking relief from the fast flowing water. Others worked painstakingly to the north and east only to be sluiced back south again.

                            At 1700hrs this Tuesday evening, Loison still had around 45 miles to sail to the most northerly turn of the course, Hands Deep by Eddystone Rock to the south of Plymouth. Three times winner Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) was leading the chasing pack, but with nearly 20 miles of advantage, the podium for this stage may already be set.

                            Several boats touched the rocks. Worst affected was Tanguy Le Turquais (Groupe Queguiner-Kayak) who was trapped for more than two hours before he was helped off by a RIB from the Race Direction’s Etoile, the media and safety boat for the race. Le Turquais is currently heading to shore to check his boat, although there was not thought to be serious damage.

                            “I’m still suffering from shock,” the solo skipper reported. “There were a lot of boats in between two lots of rocks off the eastern tip of Alderney. I joined them moving in behind them just ten metres or so in but the tide was going out. And I just got caught out. Those in front got across, but I got stuck there. The bulb got stuck in between two rocks. There was hardly any wind as I tried to move backwards. Now, the tide is going out further, so I’m well and truly stuck on the rocks. It’s not very comfortable. The current is strong here with lots of whirlpools in the water. And the boat is moving around on the rock with the current. It’s horrible to watch. I can’t see any leaks, but there are some nasty cracking noises. I’m afraid the boat is going to be damaged with me in it.”

                            It is a particularly stressful time for overall race leader Yoann Richomme, (HelloWork-Groupe Telegramme), who is in seventh place. The saving grace for Richomme is that the three leaders are a long way behind him on the general classification. Loison left Roscoff Sunday with a deficit of 10hrs 31 mins, Mahé is more than 10 hours off the lead and Marchand more than 11 hours.

                            Before he escaped the clutches of the race, Richomme aired some of his frustration: “The tidal current changed just as Alex (Loison) was passing. We were 200-300m behind him and the door shut in our face. It was like a conveyor belt. Sheer hell. I thought I could get through close to the rocks, but it didn’t work out. It’s a good way to test the boat in this current, going to port then to starboard. It’s very physical. In the rankings at 1500hr Alex was about twenty miles ahead. We’re still stuck here, so he’s extending his lead. It’s not good for us at all. I don’t know what is going to happen later though. The wind could get up. We never know. I must admit, I prefer not to spend time looking at that and calculating how far behind we will be.”

                            In his favour, Richomme had second overall Pierre Leboucher five miles behind him and third placed Armel Le Cléac’h, was 12 miles behind in 35thplace.

                            The international competitors, who are vying for the Vivi Trophy, are having a tough leg. At 1700hrs, Brit Will Harris, (Hive Energy), was the top ranked amongst them in 14thplace with fellow countryman Alan Roberts, (Seacat Services) in 26th. Irishman Tom Dolan was 33rdafter reportedly touching the rocks earlier this afternoon, while the others struggle in the currents to get out of the bottom 10.

                            " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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                            • #15
                              The Rich Get Richer

                              Alexis Loison, (Region Normandie), continues to assert his dominance on the shortened 400-nautical mile third
                              stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, having led the fleet for much of the last 48 hours.

                              Alongside Gildas Mahe, (Breizh Cola-Equi-Thé), and Anthony Marchand, (Groupe Royer-Populaire Secours),
                              the trio have earned themselves an incredible buffer of 52 miles over the rest of the fleet, having escaped
                              through a key tidal gate off the north eastern tip of the Channel Islands, which so many others fell foul of,
                              describing it as ‘hellish’ and ‘disastrous.’ (You can watch an incredible video of the fleet battling on the passage past Alderney here.)

                              However, with just one-nautical mile separating the leading threesome at 1500BST today, there will be no let up.
                              Their eyes will be firmly fixed on each other, while their heads are surely considering the impact their substantial
                              lead will have on the overall race rankings, as they race towards Ushant.


                              The cumulative fatigue of three mentally and physically gruelling stages will be setting in more than ever for the solo skippers,
                              but one man who will be getting very little rest is the current La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro overall leader Yoann Richomme, (
                              Hellowork-Groupe Telegramme).

                              At 1435BST today, Richomme was in 16th place, having just rounded the Hand Deeps mark by Eddystone Lighthouse
                              approximately 10 hours and 20 minutes behind leader Loison. For Richomme, who came into Stage 3 with a 10 hour,
                              31-minute advantage over Loison, he is hanging on to his overall lead by a whisker. Having diminished to just 11 minutes,
                              that margin is looking increasingly fragile and eyes will now be on the tidal gate at Ushant. The overall race lead could be
                              determined by how quick the final miles to the finish are which could yet turn things on its head.

                              Originally from Cherbourg, Loison has been a professional skipper since 2006 - the same year he first entered
                              La Solitaire at 21-years-old. Since then he has competed in the annual solo, multi-stage race an incredible 13 times,
                              including his one career leg win in 2014 when the fleet raced to Plymouth, UK.

                              Speaking this afternoon as he looks ahead to the remaining 88 miles of this leg, Loison said:
                              “We’re advancing gently towards Ushant. I’m not surprised they shortened the course.
                              There is still the sail around Ushant, which isn’t going to be easy. I think we’ll be in amongst
                              the rocks at some point. I would have liked to be out in front alone, but now I have a couple
                              of friends close to me. It’s not bad, as we can see what the others are doing and adapt.”

                              Last year, Loison worked with one of those close friends, Marchard, on a two boat programme.
                              Talking earlier today, Marchand, who was second overall in last years La Solitaire and won the
                              first and last legs, commented: “We have our little battle between us three, the goal is to try to
                              catch up and pass Alexis. I will try to position myself well, choose the tactics correctly and after that,
                              we will see once the finish line is passed. I try not to think too much about it, even if it is in the corner
                              of my mind. What is certain is that it is nice to recover and erase the hours lost stupidly on the first stage.”

                              The rest of the fleet are currently bunched into two fairly tight groups. A split at the TSS exclusion
                              zone at Casquets off the Cherbourg peninsula late last night has paid dividends for those who
                              favoured the southern route. Amongst them was Martin Le Pape, (Skipper Macif 2017),
                              who is currently in fourth place and was the first of the chasing pack to round Hand Deeps pursued by
                              three times overall leader Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) who is certainly strengthening his overall challenge.

                              In touch with the leading chase group is Irishman Tom Dolan, (Smurfit Kappa), who by 1500BST this afternoon,
                              had worked his way up from 33rd place last night to eighth. Not far behind in 13th is Brit Will Harris, (Hive Energy)
                              and both are now enjoying the relative respite of the channel with less than 150 miles to the finish.

                              The leading threesome are expected to arrive at the finish in the Bay of Morlaix early on Wednesday
                              and with a gap that is currently around six hours to fourth placed Le Pape, it’s not really a case of who
                              will be on the podium for this leg, but more what positions will they be in.

                              " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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