Published on 23/06/2019
Just over 24 hours after the start of the fourth and final stage of what has been a La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro marked by unusually big time deltas and many pre-race favourites languishing much lower down the general classification than would have been expected, it finally seems to be back to business as usual.
The 500-nautical mile grand final follows a course from Roscoff to Dieppe via Wolf Rock, the Owers mark east of the Isle of Wight and Ouest Saint Marcouf on the east side of the Cherbourg peninsula to the finish line. After passing Wolf Rock early this morning, the 47-strong fleet are beating offshore off the Cornish and Devon coast, fighting the ebb tide to pass Start Point. Under leaden skies with the occasional shaft of sunlight and intermittent rain, on a chaotic, choppy sea with 12-15knots of easterly breeze, it seems like, finally, all the La Solitaire big hitters are where they should be.
While Alexis Loison (Region Normandie) who lead most of Stage 3 and lies third overall, is back in command again, he has three-times winner Jérémie Beyou (Charal) in second. In third, double winner Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) is also breathing down his neck less than half a mile behind, as they retrace essentially the same course up the Channel as they took during Stage 2 from Kinsale to Roscoff via the Needles.
In sixth place is Yann Eliès (Saint Michel), who many had tipped pre-Solitaire as the soloist most likely to succeed in the new Figaro Beneteau 3 and become the first to win four overall titles. And right in the middle of the peloton is Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Telegramme Groupe), the overall race leader, at 1.6 nautical miles behind. The last stage looks like it might yet deliver the battle of the giants’ scenario which has been touted since it was announced that all of the big guns would return to the race again to resume rivalries in the new Figaro 3.
Vendée Globe champion Le Cléac’h is working further offshore, to the south of the main pack, looking for the new flood tide and more wind pressure. The easterly wind is due to drop as the fleet pick their way upwind this evening, easing back to just a handful of knots.
Britain’s Will Harris (Hive Energy), is hunting with the main pack on his native waters, lying 13ththis afternoon, pacing Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola-Equi Thé), the French sailor who lies second overall on the general standings.
And although the leaders will carry the fleet in to the dying breeze and face a slow 155-mile passage up to the Owers mark south east of Portsmouth, at least they also enjoyed last nights fast crossing of the Channel from the Portsall mark to Wolf Rock under gennaker.
Returning for Stage 4 after having to retire from Kinsale with structural concerns after hitting a rock during stage 1, Gildas Morvan (Niji) is delighted to be back in the fray on his 22ndLa Solitaire. Contacted this afternoon he reported: “Since the start it has remained tight, we’re a big group close enough within a few miles of each other. We see boats everywhere, in front and behind, it’s pretty cool. Last night the Channel crossing was quite fast, I was doing over 18 knots under spinnaker, it was bombing along but it was safe enough, it was nice. Since Wolf Rock we’ve been going along the English coast in 10-15 knots of wind with non-stop rain, it’s not very nice, but that’s life. For now, all is well, my morale is good. We expect light winds for tonight.”
Celebrating his 45thbirthday today, Corentin Douguet (NF Habitat) said: “I have had sunnier birthdays, this is the wettest time. I also know I have been better placed when racing on my birthday. I was not very inspired in my choice of course but there is a long way to go and lots of things will happen. Twenty years ago I was on my first Figaro race, the Tour de Bretagne in 1999, and my first Solitaire in 2006. The years’ creep by and I here I am. I have three days left to try finally to win the Solitaire.”
The leading pack have just over 300 nautical miles to go until they finally reach the finish line, not only of this Stage, but of the 2019 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. Track their final Stage here, and get the latest update on Twitter here.
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