Just 505 miles remain of this 48th edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro race, the run to Dieppe will seal the fate for the sailors. Well rested following three complete nights spent in Concarneau, the competitors will on Monday depart once more mustering their strength for the last battle which promises to be exciting!
A leader, three hunters, two free-shooters
So who can beat the leader Nicolas Lunven (Generali)? His opponent Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement), with a difference of 24 minutes in the general classification Hardy recognized on his arrival at the pontoon in Concarneau that it would be necessary to make a perfect race, as the skipper of Generali seems this year the master of speed and navigation. If Adrien Hardy isn’t in the best position to be able to worry Lunven it will be Charlie Dalin (Skipper Macif 2015) and Sébastien Simon (Brittany Credit Mutuel Performance) at a difference of one hour who can still claim final victory. Only three minutes separated these two riders and the fight for the podium will be extremely tight and all the way down to the wire.
Nine competitors in twenty minutes
Between the 7th place Damien Cloarec and the 15th place, a group of 9 sailors are separated by just over 20 minutes. In other words, there is not a position between them (Mettraux, Beyou, Macaire, Loison, Biarnès ...) all will be decided in Dieppe. Two of them will be watching especially for the outcome of the Rookie ranking. Julien Pulvé (Team Vendée Formation) and Tanguy Le Turquais (Nibelis) who are only separated by a quarter of an hour.
With stage 4 returning to the English Channel, a third of the leg will be raced along the very familiar south coast, the British contingent will be hoping to utilize their knowledge and experience of these waters for a competitive advantage. Lying in 23rd Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) will be looking for a significant improvement on his last 3 stages, misfortune and unfortunate tactical decisions put the Brit back in the low 20’s in the general ranking, a little off his aspirations of a top 15 result but still within reach, just needing a good final stage result. Hugh Brayshaw (The Offshore Academy) competing in only his second Solitaire sits in 25th and is ranked 1st amateur overall going into the final stage whilst Mary Rook (Inspire+) is in 29th and will just like Roberts be looking for significant improvement in her stage results.
Between Concarneau and Dieppe, a complex weather picture awaits the 43 solo sailors on a 505-mile course that will not be easy. The most optimistic routes announce an arrival in the middle of the night from Thursday to Friday. It is mainly in an eastern breeze that the stage will take place, except tomorrow night when the effects of breezes along the Cornouaille and in the Iroise Sea could create the first deviations…
Tomorrows start at 14:00 local time will give the fleet the benefit of an established wind, starting in relatively low wind conditions, “not more than 7-8 knots” warns Pascal Scaviner of Météo Consult. No inshore course: just a buoy in the bay, then the cardinal Linuen to leave to port before heading under spinnaker to the Yellow Bass (Glénans), buoy Radio France of this stage. From the archipelago that the fleet passes to the south, to Penmarc’h, the competitors will evolve in a period of transition, with potentially soft breeze to negotiate before the wind settles in the west-north west in the evening.
The road leading to the Occidentale de Sein is quite open and allows opportunities for the fleet to play with their routes. The first decision will be played there, at night in this zone where the current is still sustained, with little breeze. The skippers will then make their way north west across the Iroise Sea navigating around the island of O’ouessant where the wind will strengthen in the early morning.
From the Lighthouse of Banc du Four to the Wolf Rock, the Channel is wide - 87 miles - and remains of a westerly swell could combine with the wind to create rather unpleasant conditions. No big tactical shots to be played on this crossing where the competitors will evolve through the current rather than technical steering, reaching along with a sustained wind of 15-20 knots. The first could see the English coast in late afternoon on Tuesday. Will they be preparing for a long procession east to the southerly cardinal of Owers, to the east of the Isle of Wight, it will take a lot of insight and inspiration to position well as possible and stay in step with this eventual forecast and the transition that will accompany it.
Do not let yourself go
The final crossing between Owers and Antifer, the last major mark before the climb up the Alabaster coast to Dieppe should prove fast and under spinnaker. With already three days of racing in their boots, the competitors will still have to draw on their resources on the last few miles and remain focused if the wind pattern softens at the end of the race and forces skippers to sail near the cliffs, the arrival in Dieppe having often written epic pages of the Solitaire.
With this varied, complex and undecided weather forecast, the wines in Dieppe will be able to cherish a great victory on a stage in accordance with the Solitaire legend.
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