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The 4 Day Solo Endurance Challenge Commences

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  • The 4 Day Solo Endurance Challenge Commences

    Published on 30/08/2020

    This was the top 10 at the first buoy 3 miles upwind after the start, wind 15-18kts from N 1 - Loïs Berrahar (CMB Performance) 2 - Marc Mallaret (CER Occitanie) 3 - Anthony Marchand (Groupe Royer - Secours Populaire) 4 - Fabien Delahaye (Laboratoires Gilbert) 5 - Corentin Douguet (NF Habitat) 6 - Éric Peron (French Touch) 7 - Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) 8 - Adrien Hardy (Ocean Attitude) 9 - Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) 10 - Kevin Bloch (Team Vendée Formation) and just after buoy.....11 Goodchild, 22 Roberts, 23 Dolan, 28 Bouttell 34 Rumball


    Published on 30/08/2020

    As the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro Starts on the Bay of Saint Brieuc The 35 solo sailors who started the 642 nautical miles first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro on Bay of Saint Brieuc on France’s north westerly Channel coast enjoyed a spirited send off in perfect 15-18 knot northerly wind

    With sunshine threatening to finally split the leaden skies, the lone skippers set their course for Fastnet Rock, 300-odd nautical miles to their west- north-west, knowing that the first 24 hours of the out-and-back passage, will be battling through a ridge of complicated light winds in strong tides. This first night may yet prove decisive not just in terms of the first stage results but the whole four leg race.

    France’s Tom Laperche (Team Bretagne CMB Espoir), who won the Solo Maître Coq and was second in the Drheam Cup, was leading the fleet on the beat out of the bay towards the turn left turn where sheets would be eased. Britain’s solo skippers made solid rather than spectacular starts, Phil Sharp (OceansLab) recovering quickly back into the fleet after being called as being over the start line before the gun.

    Solidarity between skippers in the Figaro fleet is well known in the world of sailing and it was exhibited again when Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola), runner up last year and local favourite on his home waters, tore his mainsail doing an emergency gybe to avoid a collision with another boat crossing his path. Friend and rival Xavier Macaire immediately proposed to lend him a previous mainsail of his Groupe SNEF. With the rapid response and collaboration of other support teams Mahé had the replacement set. He reached the start on time keeping intact his aspirations of winning Stage 1.

    As the fleet negotiate the rocky north Brittany, English Channel coast this evening and into the night northerly wind is due to fade, heralding the arrival of a high pressure ridge of very light, unstable and unpredictable winds.

    As they left the dock in Saint-Quay-Portieux in Breton drizzle nerves were obvious less so among those who have raced ten editions or more, “I’m starting to get to know things well, so I wouldn’t say I feel anxious, it’s more about concentration,” explained Adrien Hardy (Ocean Attitude), with ten participations and five stage wins on his clock. “The good thing about our sport is that there is always a huge part of adventure, it’s that uncertainty and playing with the natural elements that makes me come back every time. “

    The northerly wind is expected to die progressively to become very light during Sunday evening and night, the prelude to 16-18 hours of calms. There are two tactical options which offer no middle ground, no safe, conservative choice between them. The sailors can either stick very, very close to the rocky coastline to try and knit together the land breezes.

    The tidal current is favourable until around eight pm this evening and then the fleet have a full contrary tide against them with less current towards the English coast but probably less wind. Inshore where the currents rip through the rocky islets and headlands anchoring might be a required option. The push is to get west through the ridge and into a building south south westerly wind which will gift the first into it a rich get richer scenario.

    “It will be a bit of a lottery to start with.” Grimaces Marcel van Triest, the Dutch weather guru who supported last year’s winner Yoann Richomme, “But the return from the Fastnet will be quite quick and then there might be this high pressure near the finish.”

    Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) was up in the top ten during the first couple of hours of the course. Ranked among the pre-race favourites, Goodchild said before leaving, “There is a tactical choice to make tonight which can really impact rest of the leg and so I have been trying to get my head around that a bit. There is this ridge to cross and you have to decide where to cross it, north, south or in the middle. You have to watch how the wind evolves round you and what the rest of the fleet are doing. I am a bit nervous in that I want to do a good job.”

    Phil Sharp (OceansLab), back to La Solitaire nine years after his one and only previous challenge, said “I am a bit apprehensive about what lies ahead at the very beginning of the whole race. To do well on this leg would really give you a head start on the whole race. It is an important leg and it will be quite long with a long first night with very unstable winds. It is going to be important to stay 100 per cent focused on the first night and then it can be a case of the rich get richer. The models don’t agree much at all. It can be quite tactical and it will interesting to see what people do with a split in the group. I am not here to take risks and so I don’t want to venture too far from the fleet, especially early on, that will be most people’s game plan. But it is important to go out there and give it everything and if it all goes to plan I hope I can come in with a respectable result.”

    And Aussie-Brit Jack Bouttell (Fromagerie Gillot) looked relaxed but focused as he cast off from the race dock less than four weeks after making the decision to do this race. Top rookie in 2013 Bouttell said, “I am in pretty good shape considering how late I started the project. I am in a position which is as good as I could have hoped for. Now I just want to get sailing. I will be trying be fairly conservative and not do anything too wild and just get through the first day of the first leg, the first 24 hours and then it looks a bit easier after that.”

    Follow the race tracking at https://lasolitair
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  • #2
    Into Fresh Breeze


    Published on 31/08/2020

    After a first night at sea which proved painfully slow and frustrating at times, the leaders on the 642-nautical mile Stage 1 of La Solitaire du Figaro have their noses into the first of a forecasted new southerly breeze, and by mid-afternoon this Monday, some 27 hours after the start, the pacemakers were seeing intermittent periods of promising speeds, back up to 7-knots.

    French skipper Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) has led the 35 solo skippers since 0530hrs this morning, a middle track close to the most direct, shortest course proving most profitable. The 39-year-old from the Team Vendée Formation training group already has two overall podiums to his credit including second place in 2013 and third in 2015, but in nine previous challenges he has not yet won a stage.

    Leading the fleet out of The Channel approaches this afternoon he had stretched from 0.3 to 0.7 nautical miles ahead of Corentin Douguet (NF Habitat) over a 90 minute period. The leaders are contemplating the passage of the Scillies this evening and will choose their passage around the forbidden zones marked by the Traffic Separation Schemes there.

    Into the second night the breeze is expected to build to present a ‘rich-get-richer’ scenario for those in the vanguard of the fleet, gennaker reaching in 13-16kts of breeze towards the Fastnet, which is just under 200 miles from Macaire this afternoon.

    Trying to work through the very calm, sticky zone of the high pressure ridge, last night definitely saw elements of bad luck come into play. Some of the solo skippers, who at one point were only tens of metres from their rivals, got left behind, unlucky to miss out on local zephyrs of wind, especially among those who chose the inshore option, closest to the north Brittany coast. As expected speeds dropped to zero for periods off Roscoff.

    Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) left the Baie de Saint Brieuc start line on Sunday with one avowed intention; to exercise the ghosts of the two ‘disastrous’ first legs which ruined both of his first two La Solitaire du Figaro’s.

    In 2018 he was forced back to Le Havre when a spreader root failed less than one hour after the start – he did not even make it to the first buoy – while last year he was one of many who went west on the beat to Fastnet which ultimately saw him finish many hours after the winners.

    Lying fifth, the 33 year old from County Meath who has based himself in Concarneau for 11 years and has finished fourth in the MiniTransat, is making a decent fist of the first part of this stage, best of the eight international, non-French sailors, just 1.2 miles behind Macaire and seemingly well established within this main peloton.

    In contrast Brit Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) had a terrible first night, finding himself going backwards in the current at one point. He was down in 33rd place this afternoon with a deficit of 23 miles on the leaders.

    Top British hope Sam Goodchild (Leyton) recovered well after a modest first couple of hours and lies eighth on his first La Solitaire du Figaro stage for six years.

    As he did on the equivalent first leg last year, twice winner Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) has underlined his self confidence in doing his own thing, working well to the north of the group. The sailor previously known as The Jackal for his ability to hold pace with the leaders then pounce when they made mistakes, appeared to have lost 20 miles on the leaders and was 22nd, but some forecasters suggest there will be more wind pressure to the north of the rhumb line as the high pressure moves away.

    But as fellow two-times overall winner Nico Lunven cautioned in his lunch time analysis written on land today, the new Beneteau Figaro 3s are lighter and faster than their predecessor Figaro 2s and under gennaker against a Code Zero or vice versa, a sustained 3 knots speed differential is not unusual.

    Similarly not to be written off is the French ace Yann Eliès (Queguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) who could become the first skipper to win outright four times. Eliès was also working a very northerly routing compared with the peloton and was 23rd, the same distance behind the leader as his long time rival Le Cléach.

    Before leaving his native Baie de Saint Brieuc, Eliès told the local Le Telegramme newspaper in an interview:

    “Maybe I’m wrong, but it is getting harder and harder. There were of course other difficulties back in the days when my father was racing. But I don’t know if I will be able to enjoy myself without having that desire to win… just getting out there to sail around. In the past, there was the idea of going on a trip, sailing off to Kinsale for example. But this time, Saint-Quay, Dunkirk and Saint-Nazaire. No point in going there if you’re not aiming to win… It’s tough, hard work and the boat is difficult too… But that is one of the reasons why we keep coming back. People think we must be crazy, but when you get back ashore, you tell yourself, “We have done something incredible.”

    He adds, “It is a question of motivation, commitment and the result of being in a group… During the delivery trip, we got up to 15-20 knots under spinnaker, or maybe more. We could have taken it easy with the gennaker and stayed in our bunk. But of course we didn’t. I needed one more shot to make sure I was ready. I’m still in my prime, but it doesn’t feel like it did when I achieved my third win. I felt I was that bit better and that it was easy. Here, I’m simply in the group of contenders, but I’m not head and shoulders above everyone else. To get three wins, I had perfect control of the boat and it was so easy getting out in front. I felt relaxed and didn’t have to suffer… Now even to be up at the front means I have to push extremely hard. You have to give so much and I’m not sure I can do that throughout the Solitaire. I feel I am capable of getting a win in one leg, but will my body be able to cope with all that effort? I just can’t recover and recuperate so easily. There is the question of preparation. I have a great partner, but when I see the lads with Macif, Bretagne CMB and how they have been hard at work since November…”
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    • #3
      Fleet Has Rounded The Rock

      French skipper Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) led the 35 strong fleet round the Fastnet Rock at 1830hrs local time Ireland this Tuesday evening. The 39 year old skipper from the Team Vendée Formation, who has never won a stage, has been in the lead since very early yesterday morning. He passed the half way point of Stage 1 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro in a modest ten to 11 knot southwesterly breeze with a very slender lead.

      As two times overall winner Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) turned round the iconic rocky lighthouse within clear sigh of rival Macaire, half a mile behind, it marked the conclusion of a spectacular recovery, rising to chase the leader’s stern at the turn, in the space of 24 hours coming back from 22nd and 20 miles behind the leader

      Le Cléac’h – who takes weather strategy advice from Dutch ace Marcel Van Triest - as did last year’s leg and overall winner Yoann Richomme - clawed back fully 10 miles and nine places as he took a more northerly route at the Scillies TSS, cutting inside the fleet on the corner entering the Celtic Sea.

      The Vendée Globe winner’s track gained him more wind pressure and speed and, as he passed the rock which he first encountered on a Figaro race in 2001, Le Cléac’h is back in the game in a very strong position to challenge for the fifth stage win on his career.

      As is so often the case the passage into and out of the Fastnet brings all the leading contenders within close sight of each other, the top ten sailors all within two miles of leader Macaire. The passage, leaving the mark to port proved a very tight turn as the fleet skirted the very edge of the forbidden traffic separation zone to their east and there were opportunities to gain and lost places.

      Passing the iconic rock in his home waters in seventh place casts out the some of the ghosts of La Solitaires past for Tom Dolan. The Irish sailor was third for most of the passage across the Celtic Sea but dropped places being too high on the line approaching Fastnet letting three boats slide inside him.

      That said the 33 year old sailor from Kells, County Meath has shown again that head to head he can match speeds with the best of the fleet sprinting across the Celtic Sea in moderate 12-15kts southwesterly winds. Until the corner at Fastnet he lived up to his billing in France, as the ‘Irlandais Volant’ (Flying Irishman).

      In 2018 when the opening leg of the race was heading to the Baie de Saint Brieuc, Dolan had to motor there from Le Havre, forced out of the leg by a damaged spreader root. Dolan was up to second, 1.1 mile behind the leader Macaire during this afternoon, but soon became another prey for the ‘Jackal’ as Le Cléac’h has been known as.

      For all the 35 skippers now the big challenge is managing themselves on a fast reach back to Saint Quay Portrieux where they left Sunday afternoon. The quick reaching will require long hours at the helm to maximise speed whilst still considering a light winds finish is forecast where the fleet is expected to compress significantly in the final miles to the line.

      Race veteran Gildas Morvan, with 22 La Solitaires to his credit, observed in his lunchtime analysis today: “In the standings, Xavier Macaire and Corentin Douguet are leading the way, their trajectories are exemplary, they have sailed well right from the start, they are the ones who set the pace, they are quite impressive, these old guys still have it! The young guns of Crédit Mutuel Bretagne (Tom Laperche and Loïs Berrehar) are not very far behind, they keep up the pressure, we will see who will be the strongest on the return leg, because we will have to let go and push hard. Even on a pure speed drag race there are still options.”


      Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) is still very much in the leading group in 13th place at 2.5 miles behind Macaire. Goodchild lost places on the final approach to the turn but gained back distance on the leader as the fleet compacted. His compatriot and long time Class 40 rival Phil Sharp (OceansLab) is 16th. Sharp is alongside Anthony Marchand (Groupe Royer-Secours Populaire) who won the first stage into Saint Quay in 2018. But this duo have a three miles gap to make up to the next boat.

      On his first La Solitaire since 2015 when he was tenth overall Jack Bouttell (Gillot Fromagerie) is in 22nd place and reported “Physically I am pretty good I would say, the first night was pretty tough with the light winds zone, obviously I got through it better than I thought I did, but to be 17 miles behind first place is quite a long way back and disappointing. I am hoping to catch up some miles in the next few days. I think the strategy I had was opposite to what happened I did no really understand what went on, I was not in the right place and I struggled a bit with upwind speed. I think with that and a combination of things I did not end up in the best place. The wind was meant to drop from the front of the fleet and not the back and in the end the further back you were the worse you were. The rich got richer. I t should be good now with some faster sailing in the next few hours, to Fastnet, The breeze is a bit more left than forecast and so I hope it goes right again. I don’t really know where the leading group are. I think the we are quite lined up now. The front I don’t know where they are.”
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      • #4
        A Roaring Finish To La Solitaire du Figaro

        Published on 02/09/2020

        Macaire Looks To His First Stage Win Thursday Morning. Holding a lead of 2.3 nautical miles with 120 miles to make to the finish line of Stage 1 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro on the Baie de Saint Brieuc, a seemingly confident, composed Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) may be on the threshold of his first ever leg win of his decade of Figaro racing.


        If Macaire’s margin was under threat yesterday night when he led around the Fastnet Rock he has modulated his return leg, fast spinnaker reaching, well. The 39 year old who races out of Saint Gilles Crox de Vie with the Team Vendée Formation, has sailed a textbook race, not least showing ample speed during what has largely proven a drag race back across the Celtic Sea.

        Passing the Scillies today he was slowed and saw his margin cut to just over one mile, but the French Solo Offshore Champion of 2015 had doubled that in recent hours.

        Known as Le Marcassin (the boar) for his ability to push hard under the big spinnaker in big winds, Macaire, has Alexis Loison (Région Normandie), 36, – who won Stage 1 into Plymouth in 2014 in second and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), 43, in third. Age and experience seems to have prevailed thus far, Loison has 14 participations and Le Cléac’h 11. Lois Berrehar, 26 and Tom Laperche, 23 are the best of the young guns in seventh and eighth who may yet come good tonight.

        The best of the internationals is Briton Sam Goodchild (Leyton) in eighth poised four miles behind the leader, Swiss rookie Nils Palmieri (TeamWork) is tenth while Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) is half a mile back in 11th.

        Increasingly there seems the chance of a relatively straightforward and quick re-entry into the Baie de Saint Brieuc. According to forecasters the breeze will build to 18kts for a finish which is expected to be some time after 0500hrs Thursday morning. The good news for the chasing pack is that an increase in the SW’ly breeze will mount from the west and so compress the fleet.

        Indeed weather routings this afternoon even suggest the top 30 boats might yet finish within one hour, which might partially salve the tattered nerves of some of the top hopes who had found themselves deep in the fleet with big deltas as a result of the combination of bad choices made during the first night’s very light winds and an out and back course which has largely been devoid of tactical options

        The last night will doubtless prove who can sustain their performance through the fog of fatigue and increasing stress as the finish line approaches. At 642 nautical miles this has been a very long three and a half day test of speed, stamina and personal management. And in the very essence of La Solitaire du Figaro, there are really just 48 hours to recover before Stage 2 to Dunkirk via Wolf Rock
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