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Displaying items by tag: La Solitaire du Figaro

A collision after the restart of the La Solitaire du Figaro off Kinsale this afternoon has resulted in the retiral of two of the leading competitors. Both boats have returned to Kinsale marina and withdrawn from the race.

After a general recall a 'violent collision' occurred during the build up to the second start between Swiss Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat) and Matthieu Girolet (Entreprendre).

The collision was as a result of a port and starboard incident.

As both boats suffered from serious hull damage both skippers decided it was not safe to continue racing and abandoned the Solitaire.

Stamm's Figaro had a conspicuous hole on the bow (below) and despite all the other competitors' shore teams immediately started working on it, the damage was too extensive to be repaired in a reasonable amount of time.

Girolet's breakage was equally evident, and he also reported to have some parts detached inside the boat and there was doubt the rig was still intact.

Stamm will be given a DNF in the final ranking which means the last's time plus two hours. Racing continued for the other 42 skippers, who, before heading offshore had to sail a windward/leeward course between the Seamobile and the Radio France Marks, with a good breeze of 10 to 12 knots.

Bob Bateman's photographs of the damage to the Swiss boat, Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat) is below:

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Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro

The fourth and decisive leg of 2010 La Solitaire du Figaro will start from Kinsale tomorrow at 13.00. The 44 skippers will have to deal with the last 435 miles to Cherbourg and weather conditions are expected to be fairly tough, for a fast passage to the finish. Armel Le Cleac'h is still solidly in the lead but his competitors will surely play their cards right to be on the highest step of the podium.

Rule one: good manoeuvres and no breakages. The long stopover in quiet and friendly Kinsale is nearly over, after resting, enjoying the scenery, the hospitality or some golfing or fishing, the skippers get ready to leave for the last lap to Cherbourg.

To leave Ireland, the competitors will once more have to sail along the Irish cost to reach the famous Fastnet lighthouse 45 miles away, leaving it to port side. As opposed to the third leg, the 250-mile leap across the Celtic Sea will see the fleet leave the Scilly isles and the imposing lighthouse of Bishop Rock to port side. The skippers will have to negotiate the cross currents common to the English Channel for more than 100 miles, their waypoint set precisely on the cardinal buoy West Lizen Ven north of the île Vierge. After this mark, to be left on port side, the fleet will set off for 140 miles towards the Channel Islands. But this time, only the île d'Aurigny will be left offshore.

Like it happened for their way up to Kinsale, overtaking the islands of Guernsey, Herm and Jersey will require all the skipper's fine strategy. Later on, there could be some good options or tactical chances nearer to the Cotentin coastline.

The Raz Blanchard could open up the game over the last miles to the finish in Cherbourg-Octeville, will host the grand finale of La Solitaire du Figaro. As tradition the 44 skippers will meet late afternoon for the briefing, to get the last details on the weather they will encounter and routing to deal with the 435 miles that separate them from Cherbourg and the final verdict on who will win the 2010 edition.The fight looks fiercer than ever: if Armel Le Cleac'h (Britair) can count on a solid lead on his two immediate competitors, François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010) and Tomas Rouxel (Credit Mutuel de Bretagne) nonetheless he will have to watch out for at least ten sailors who can well play a master stroke and obliterate their disadvantage. Same can be said for the "bizuth", the newcomers category, where Anthony Marchand (Espoir Region Bretagne) has slightly more than 18 minutes on Yoann Richomme (DLBC) and 56 minutes on Swiss Bernard Stamm. Easy to predict very close, tactical, racing for them.

According to the weather forecast by Météo France's expert Sylvain Mondon, after having rounded the Fastnet on their way to Lizen Ven, the fleet may encounter, and have to tackle with accordingly, two different meteorological outlooks: one with lighter northwesterly winds blowing at around 15/20 knots and one with stiffer breezes topping 25 with gusts over 30 knots. Maximum focus and eyes wide open together with faultless manoeuvring will be needed, since a badly conducted gibe or a broken spinnaker may involve significant time gaps on the finish line, loosing or getting many positions in the general ranking. As confirmed by Race Director Jacques Caraes: "It will be physical, very tiring and skippers will have to steer a lot. No mistakes allowed there.

The leg will be probably faster than expected and we could finally have a finish in daylight."As a matter of fact the leaders could well reach Cherbourg, where the Solitaire comes back for the seventh time in its history, Wednesday around midday or Thursday at the latest should the wind be lighter. The approach to Cherbourg will be nonetheless a tricky one because of the strong tidal flows and currents that could be as strong as 3.5 to 4.5 knots. Quotes form the skippers:Romain Attanasio (Saveol) "We'll sail fast, under spinnaker and it looks like there won't be light airs. There is not a big tide coefficient so we don't expect an awful lot of current at the raz Blanchard. Yet, we will have to play with a cold front. I had a similar experience and it was a pretty busy time: people going into the low and others who trail behind and at the finish it was... 20 miles. This leg does not worry me more than the others, there will be much spinnaker downwind sailing and I feel at ease with that. I'm not afraid but I know that it will be necessary to be in front from the start. The risks? Breaking a spinnaker would mean disaster." Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert)"It will be a fast one, there's wind the route is straight.

Not much to think about, it will be breezy, a low to deal with and it looks like we won't sleep too much, it's not going to be very relaxing, that's for sure. Helming and manoeuvring... I like the idea. You can get or loose time easily, the main thing is not to break anything, to gibe well, watch out for the cargos' route, because we will get to the finish in a dash under spinnaker..." Anthony Marchand (Challenge Espoir Région Bretagne) "I did my navigation session earlier, I'm downloading the latest weather grib files to make some simulations. I've had three bad starts and I know I can't have another one... after that is fast downwind, there will be wind but not so much. If it's downwind, even in 25 knots, on a Figaro you don't really realize.

It's one of those legs that may seem easy because you're going straight to the target but then the small lateral gaps when you get to a waypoint can make a difference. I have the impression that there is more difference among us on windy legs, at least this is what I feel. I'm less stressed than I was at the beginning, when I felt like going to a new school not knowing if the schoolmates would be nice. At the end the teachers are nice and the mates too..." Jonny Malbon (Artemis)"Kinsale is a beautiful place with very friendly people and we've been pretty lucky with the weather. Ready to go now, for me I've got to have a good leg cause although being quite close in the last leg it was pretty disappointing to be right down at the back of the fleet. Given the level of the fleet, you just make one mistake and it's difficult to get back in. So, I've got to focus, I've got nothing to loose just go full power and try to do my best, be in a good position and a good result in Cherbourg. Fingers crossed the weather looks ok, we should see some good speed downwind and fleet racing. We won't be having much sleep because you have to be more on form with the boat."

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro

During a very friendly and informal ceremony,  (Click HERE for photos by Bob Bateman) Kinsale Yacht Club’s Commodore Alice Kingston welcomed back the La Solitaire du Figaro fleet after 12 years’ absence and said that she hoped her hometown will keep its record for the location who hosted the highest number of stopovers intact. Commodore and Race Director Jacques Caraes exchanged mementoes.  François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010) received a cheque for being first at the Radio France mark in Brest, Thomas Rouxel (Credit Mutuel e Bretagne) got the GMF Assistance prize for his lead at Wolf Rock, Gildan Morvan (Cercle Vert) who, during the leg went up 40 places recording the best progression between the Radio France mark ad the finish was given the CLS prize.

 Anthony Marchand (Espoir Region Bretagne) who crossed in first among the newcomers, the so called “bizuth” category, by only five seconds in front of Portuguese Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM) received a check worth 800 Euros from Bénéteau.  It was then the turn of the three skippers that got on the podium: third placed Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls), Yann Eliés (Generali Europ Assistance). Finally, a radiant Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement) received the prize for his first ever leg victory. During the ceremony a special award, consisting of a bottle of wine, was also presented to yesterday’s golf tournament winner Jimmy Pahun by race’s veteran Jean-Paul Mouren.

Tomorrow will be the last day for the 44 skippers to get ready for the last, and in many cases decisive, fourth stage of the 2010 edition of la Solitaire, from Kinsale to Cherbourg for a total of 435 miles. Quotes form the skippers:Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement): winner of the third leg on receiving his prize“I’m over the rainbow for this victory, it’s such a weird a positive feeling to win a leg in the Solitaire, especially at the end of such a hard and fought for race. Thanks to my competitors for the support and the nice words they had for me, their respect is a prize in itself.”   

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here

 

Published in Figaro
12th August 2010

Figaro fleet in Kinsale

The penultimate leg of the Solitaire du Figaro finished last night in Kinsale with Adrien Hardy claiming the leg win in a time of 2 days, 6 hours, 8 minutes and 45 seconds, arriving just after 8.00pm. Jonny Malbon on Artemis finished just 1 hour, 19 minutes and 45 seconds later in 41st place. The third 349-mile leg of this arduous Solitaire proved challenging with strong winds, rain, less than seasonal temperatures and fog making it hard work for the solo skippers. Jonny undoubtedly found the leg hard work having not fully recovered from leg 2 when he was forced to hand-steer for nearly the entire leg due to a broken autopilot and did not sleep for three whole days! “I’m fine a bit tired but actually not feeling quite as tired as I probably should be! The boat is fine. I managed to get a big cut in my hand after picking up a fish hook in my spinnaker sheet which I didn’t see when I was cleaning it and it ripped through my hand. But that’s the only injury and the boat is in really good shape,” said Jonny as he stepped ashore in Kinsale.

On leaving Brest the 44-boat fleet raced north up the coast of France before crossing the English Channel and rounding Wolf Rock off the south-west tip of England: “It was hard in places, the start was great and tacking in the Raz de Brest was fantastic - not difficult but everyone was pushing it right up to the rocks. Then it got a bit more difficult and I had an accident when I got my spinnaker wrapped around the forestay in a gybe which was a bit frustrating. I lost a bit of time as I had to go off and sort it out but then I managed to get back with the fleet. The second day was harder, the weather was horrible – grey, miserable, strong, strong winds and visibility was really bad so I couldn’t really see anyone or see what sails they were using. I was hanging on to the genoa in 25, 28, 30 knots of wind which is too much. So it was quite a relief when that cleared and the front went through very quickly.”

The racing was close between the competitors with constant position changes as the sailors vied for their places: “The last day was really nice and I enjoyed it. At the end I went to the beach to try and find some wind and I was quite lucky as the breeze came from the beach so I had a much nicer angle than the people offshore.”

Finishing just over an hour after the leg winner is testament to Jonny’s training this winter and his improving race performance in this highly competitive class. He has consistently been able to stay with the main fleet compared to his previous participation last year. His autopilot set back on leg 2, after lying in 12th place at the start of the leg, cost him dearly as the overall rankings are calculated on cumulative time. Finishing nearly 10 hours after the leg 2 winner Armel Le Cleac’h, who still leads in the overall rankings, has put Jonny at the bottom of the leaderboard with one more leg to go.

The final leg of the 2010 Solitaire du Figaro leaves Kinsale on Monday, 16th August on the final 435-mile leg to Cherbourg.

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here

 


Published in Figaro

As Kinsale gets ready to host the La Solitaire du Figaro single-handed sailors next week the race Jury met today in Brest to discuss the protest against Yann Eliès, who was forced to use his engine during the first leg to get off after going aground. The sailor was given a two hours penalty and as a consequence he falls from second to 19th place. Following the decision involving the skipper of Generali Europ Assistance the top part of the scoreboard has deeply changed.

The third leg of the race from Brest to Kinsale is 349 miles and it leaves Brest tomorrow.

Eliès got a 30 minutes penalty for breaking the engine seal plus an additional 1 and a half hour for infringing the propulsion rule, two hours in total, that's the judgement for Yann Eliès. Going aground on the beach at Primel is costing dearly to the skipper from Saint-Brieuc: he goes down from second at 51 minutes and 58 seconds from leader Armel le Cleac'h  to 19th distanced of nearly three hours in the general ranking after two legs. He then has to change his goal of winning the 2010 Solitaire, a hard not to say impossible target to reach.

As it happens in sail racing, for nearly every decision from the Jury, this will be judged too heavy or too light according to the profit anyone makes of it, but this one is without appeal and will have to be accepted as it is.
As a result the leader Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air) gains another 13 minutes on his immediate follower who is François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010) at 1hour 04' and Thomas Rouxel (Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne) jumps on the podium at 1hour 31 minutes from Le Cléac'h. In the Top Ten positions in goes a skipper form the Med, that is to say Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel), still at 2hours 08' but now in tenth position. Between him and the top three everyone keeps his or her position but goes up one place. Jérémie Beyou (BPI) is 4th at 1hour 43 minutes; Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire) fifth at 1.48; Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen-Ouistreham) sixth at1.54; Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) seventh at 1.56; Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) eight at 1.58; Eric Peron (Skipper Macif 2009) ninth at 2.01. To be noted that ait's a very small time difference that separated the fourth to the tenth placed skipper: only 25 minutes. The podium for the newcomers is also affected by this new general ranking with each of the rookies going up one step: Anthony Marchand (Espoir Région Bretagne) is now 12th at 2.14, Yohann Richomme (DLBC) 14th at 2.18 and Swiss Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) 18th at 2.47.

During today's meeting the Jury also inflicted a 20 minutes penalty to Sébastien Josse (Vendée) for breaking his engine seal following some issues in recharging his batteries. This decision, in fact, has no direct consequence on Josse's general ranking: he still occupies the 34th position at 5.56 from the leader.

Yann Eliès (Generali Europ Assistance) comments the Jury's decision:
"The penalty was not easy to accept at first. Now, in retrospective I believe it is a good decision. You can't let a skipper who used his engine win a race as important as the Solitaire du Figaro. It's a question of fair play and image, and I'm one of the strongest believer in this concept. I've got 48 hours to try and recover, get mentally ready to go on racing. I wish to do something good, why not winning a leg to finish my Solitaire with my pride intact?"

Jean-Bertrand Mothes Massé, President of the Jury:
"Despite considering that Yann has made a serious mistake for a professional sailor going aground, the Jury is also convinced that he acted with seamanship, using his skills to save his boat. Moreover he did not ask for outside assistance. We then decided to increase the penalty established by the class and the racing rules."

At noon today the Figaro Race Village hosted a crowded prize giving ceremony, in groups of four all the skippers went on the scene for a short speech and to get a well deserved applause.

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro

No wonder that he's called "the Jackal", Armel Le Cleac'h is showing such a determination and mental strength in La Solitaire du Figaro that he surely deserves the nickname. On Friday August 6th at 2 hours 44 minutes and 40 seconds he crossed the finish line in front of the Moulin Blanc harbour, in Brest. It took Brit Air's skipper 2 days, 44 minutes and 40 seconds to sail the 385 miles long leg from Gijón to Brest, at an average speed of 6.34 knots. Le Cleac'h, left no options to his more direct adversaries, François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010) and Jérémie Beyou (BPI) who were left to duel for the second place. Fourth on the line and first female skipper a happy Jeanne Gregoire (Banque Populaire) who crossed a mere 11 seconds earlier than Yann Elies (Generali – Europe Assistance).

A determined and convincing Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM) finished 6th overall and is the first rookie, getting also a special prize awarded by Bénéteau, and regaining morale after his disappointing first leg.
Despite loosing some ground on the final stretch to Brest, Italian Pietro D'Alì got a good 16th place, whilst other non French skippers were Swiss Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat) in 23rd  and Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) in 27th.

A fatigued Jonny Malbon finally crossed the finish line in last place at 12.36 on Friday. Reaching the pontoon, he was warmly welcomed by several of his competitors, by the public and the media, where, despite being visibly worn out he gave a very lucid account of what happened to him, explaining that just two hours after the start form Gijon his pilot failed and he had to steer for the following three days, without being able to sleep, rest, eat or drink. Physically and mentally exhausted he also suffered from allucinations.

Quotes from the skippers upon their arrival in Brest:
Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air), winner of the leg and leader of the overall ranking
"it's becoming a nice tradition this champagne bottle... What an intense race, endless I would say. Towards the finish I was a bit stressed, but crossing in first is such a joy." And about the race: "We had to manoeuvre a lot, change sails, make strategic choices. I took my chances and seized the initiative, tried to be one step ahead and I realized the my opponents in a way were following me... that's why I could stand up to the finish. I had to be careful with François (Gabart) and Jérémie (Beyou) which were with me in the front with me. And I can keep my first overall. It was very physical, very tiring up to SN1, we had 35 plus winds, heavy swell, you had to steer and it was nearly impossible to sleep. You had to endure all that. Luckily after Groix, the swell eased off and I could have some rest, taking 20 minutes max naps. All in alla I think I slept 3 or 4 hours."
On his victory, Le Cleac'h commented: "I'm exhausted and thrilled because the last months have been fantastic for Brit Air and it proves that all the work we've done with the team is paying us back.  As for now I'm contented with the result, we're only half stage, I guess I have to wait until Kinsale, it's too early to judge, I need to go on sailing well and enjoy the race.

Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM) - 6th overall and first rookie
"I'm really satisfied, tired but happy as I reached my target. For the first time in the Solitaire I've always been in the leading group. The hardest part was at the beginning where I could not get any rest, had to helm all the time and I was pretty exhausted, I found it difficult to get into the race's rhythm. I slept for hours total, I guess. I'm still on a learning curve, grasp something new everyday, especially from the "experts" and that's why is so important for me to be here. I still make small mistakes and in this class you pay for each of them dearly. The final part was brilliant as I could make up ground to the leaders."

Pietro D'Alì (I.NOVA.3) – 16th overall
"I did a good race, all in all. I've recovered well from the OCS at the start, was fast and could stay in the front of the fleet, among the top ten. We had fairly hard conditions, some bad squalls. During one I was sailing with the spinnaker in Eric Drouglazet's company when the wind gusted suddenly to maybe 40 knots, the boat went 90° off course and I had to rush forward to take down the spinnaker and hoist the genoa, in the process the boat was lying on one side... we got pretty wet and lost some ground. You can't afford any of that in the Figaro. My race was all right up to the Groix, then I tried to "make a coup" and get closer to the podium."

François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010) second placet at 16'55' from the leader
"We had two incredible legs. On the first night we were crossing the ridge, in light airs, the day after we hd 30 knots and on the third day we were wearing only our T shirts. This is the Solitaire, being able to have so many different conditions in just one leg. Moreover, I sailed well. After the start I was not in the leading group and I focussed on speed. Jérémie (Beyou) took me over last night at Belle Ile and then we've been fighting like mad. Just imagine that at the Goulet (a few miles before the finish ed. note) we were only three lengths apart but when we arrived into the gulf I managed to catch him up, Wha ti like best it's the sensation that I'm learning and progressing. I'm no longer what I was last year and for a sailor that's a very positive sensation to be better than before. Armel is very strong but we'll do our best to stop him."

Jonny Malbon (Artemis) last placed in Brest
"Just after the start in Gijon the autopilot started misbehaving. I went on the process of checking everything, the terminals, the connections, the link to the instruments but the thing was dead. I tried to continue as best as I could with no pilot, it was horrible. The scariest thing for me was changing from the genoa to the solent in big, big seas in 35 knots, it was horrendous, not very much fun... I'm just absolutely exhausted, it feels horrible, I'm happy to be here but being flat last is not good. I haven't slept at all, or better I must have been asleep but I didn't realize. I haven't been down below at all, haven't eaten very much. I've crashed tacks so many times and gibed involuntarily trying to use the pilot. I'm happy to be here and I hope we can fix the problem and get on with leg three. It's quite strange actually and it may sound like I'm crazy but I had hallucinations, all sorts of things: the waves take funny shapes, the boats and lights merge, they all merge into one and the look like cars... The worst time was when the weather got worse, Tuesday I guess, and we were having 35 knots in the evening. I spent all day thinking I don't want to change the sail because it's not windy enough. I waited and waited and changing the genoa in about 28 knots is really frightening...the waves are huge and at that point I wish I had done it sooner. To do that I turned the boat into the wind and the tiller was not operating, that was ok to go forward and change the sail or put a reef. I'm very, very tired and I'm upset that I lost a leg, I just can wipe leg 2, it's gone and that's going to affect me overall. Sad because I started well I was with the rest of the fleet on the right side of the course. I've virtually lost the race, I'm flat last with no chance to recover. The next two legs are just about me doing my best..."

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro
Sun, warm weather and light wind are all just a memory for the 45 skippers participating to the 41st Solitaire du Figaro. The fleet crossed the high pressure ridge fairly early and is now preparing for the second night at sea, on their plate strong breeze, autumnal weather and rain. SN1 mark could be rounded soon.

The worries of crossing the high pressure ridge are only a memory for the skippers who left Gijon to Brest for the 385 long second leg. The fleet is well spread out over a 17 miles large area and the coming hours will be crucial to judge whether the best option was East, West or centre, that is to say the shortest one to the target. By now the more easterly route seems to have paid off but it will not be until the SN1 mark that the games will be revealed. All the boats are keeping impressive average speeds and the mix of good strategy, physical strength and good manoeuvring will make a difference.

"It could well be that the leaders will round the mark around 10 p.m." said Race Director Jacques Caraës "It's going to be a fairly exerting night and I advised all the skipper to wear their lifejackets, personal Epirb and a flash light at night. Just to remind them, you know."

As far as the ranking is concerned the leader at the latest position report (at 16hrs) was Jèrémie Beyou (BPI)  who has a little more than 3 miles advantage on second placed François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010), third is the well experienced Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel) while the winner of the first leg and leader of the general scoreboard  Armel Le Cléa'ch (Brit Air) is fourth at 3,9 miles. Italian Pietro D'Alì seems to have found the right feeling with his Figaro II and is fifth at 4.5 miles behind Beyou.

Portoguese Fracisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO TEAM) is also doing very well, second of the rookies and ninth overall, less than 6 miles from the top. The positions of the other non French skippers are Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) in 17th at 8 miles, Swiss Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat) 29th whilst Briton Jonny Malbon (Artemis) is trailing in fourth, distanced by 16.10 miles

Quotes from the sailors:
Jérémie Beyou (BPI)
"It's becoming more muscular. The courses diverge, my competitors are not in view, I can't see anyone. There are rainstorms and it's pretty choppy out here. I opted to go to leeward, and those more windward have some ten miles lateral separation. We will see if my actual VMG is enough or if they'll catch me. Next position report will tell. The weather is not nice at all, the sky is grey, the swell a bit annoying and the wind strengthened and the air is wet. I'm sailing under spinnaker, pushing hard and trying to make the shortest possible course."

PIETRO D'ALì (I.NOVA.3)
"Everything is all right onboard, after the first 24 hours in very light wind, the breeze got stronger, We're crossing the Bay of Biscay pretty fast, I'm getting ready for the high winds head and some rainstorms. During the night I had to do some sail changes. I'm in the leading pack and it feels good to be here. I really hope to keep this position to the finish, it would be a great result for me!"

Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat)
"All well onboard, it's pretty windy, sailing under spinnaker. Cool! I could take some rest, in five minutes naps. There is quite a few boats around me, Isabelle Joschke slowed down a bit but I can see one of the two Skipper Macif boats some hindreds metres in front."

François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010)
"Things start to become serious, we're sailing fast with the small spinnaker. The breeze is up to 23 knots but my instruments recorded 27 a few seconds ago! There's swell from the left, which makes sailing uncomfortable. You need to focus on helming to be as fast as possible. Last night I decided to stay in the group who chose a central route, because I did not want to risk to be too east or too west, and I'm happy with my choice. Plus, I slept for a good while. We're 90 miles away from SN1 mark gliding at 10 knots

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro

The 45 Figaro sailors set off from Le Havre in Northern Normandy yesterday on their first leg, 515 miles to the Gijón, in Asturias on the Spanish Cantabrian coastline. The race is calling to the Cork coast next month. Eric Peron (Skipper Macif 2009) grabbed Karine Fauconnier's (Eric Bompard Cachemir) early lead shortly after the last position poll and has continued over the past twenty four hours to maintain a narrow margin over his immediate pursuers, Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat), Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement), Nicolas Lunven (Generali) Armel le Cléac'h (Brit Air).  Sailors who opted for a more inshore course were rewarded with a lead this morning, however as the fleet rounded the Cherbourg headland filing down past and between Guernsey and Sark, the bulk regrouped.  The coming twenty-four hours promises to be just as complex as the sailors attempt to get some rest and keep their keel and rudders clear of the seaweed before embarking on the passage at Four and the maritime traffic at Ushant on the turn south into the Bay of Biscay.

Eric Peron (Skipper Macif 2009) holds just a tenth of a mile lead over both Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) and Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement), all of whom opted for a more inshore route under the rhumb line.  Twenty-nine sailors are within two miles of each other twenty-four hours into racing, proving once more just how high and level the standard of racing is. Each inch of a mile is eked out with effort and concentration.  "What is annoying me most is the seaweed, every 5 minutes you have to get into the water to get rid of it" complained 2009 winner, Nicolas Lunven (Generali) over the VHF this morning.  Seaweed, windless patches and currents are all impediments to the smooth boat handling that the sailors have to contend with constantly.  Keeping up a regular performance whilst attempting to rest and prepare for what looks to be a second complex night at sea constantly eats away at the minds of the solo sailors throughout the day.

"Although we are sailing comfortably in 10 to 12 knots of westerly breeze, tacking our way upto the point of Brittany, we are likely to have a complex night ahead to get past Ushant and the heavy maritime traffic" reported Race Director, Jacques Caraës from the Race Management boat shadowing the fleet.  "Tonight it is going to be tough once more." Explained Isabelle Joschke (Synergie), lying in 18th place at 16:00 Wednesday, "we are most likely going to get round the Four under spinnaker against the current so we should have much of the same, maybe even tougher than last night", she concludes.

Most agree that there will be choices to be taken and options that open upon rounding the next major point of passage, where the wind is forecast to veer round towards the north, northwest and "decreasing before increasing at the Raz de Sein" predicts Sylvain Mondon from Météo France, "the ridge of high pressure is expected to drift tonight just ahead of the fleet right up to Friday, when they will have to negotiate crossing it on the final approach to Gijón.  Early forecast would expect to see the first to finish in Gijón in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Anthony Marchand (Espoir Région Bretagne) leads the rookies in 15th place, whilst Jonny Malbon (Artemis) from the UK lies in 20th place well positioned with the leaders.  Pietro D'Alì (I.NOVA 3) has managed to catch up on the leaders and currently stands in 27th place and just 1.7 nm from the leader, after having lost ground on the more offshore option last night and Francisco Lobato (Roff / Team-Tempo) has narrowed his gap on the leaders to 7.4 miles bringing up the back of the fleet.

Quotes from the sailors:

Eric Peron (Skipper Macif 2009) – Current leader talks over the VHF this afternoon:
There were a few options to be made...and right now I am really quite happy.  You have to take care as there is loads of seaweed and you have to keep an eye to get rid of it.  The wind is not quite what was forecast, which again gives you a few options, which I am keeping an eye on.  Every time the position reports come out you see that we have closed in on each other.  Right now I am getting a bit of rest..."

Damien Cloarec (Port de Plaisance Roscoff) – rookie and in 9th place 13:00 today
"Just coming out of my nap...the start was not all that easy with loads of seaweed and last night it was really tough getting past the Cotentin under the moonlight, the current....and then it was not all that easy round Guernsey this morning.  I must say that I am happy to be here and should be sailing past home (lives near Carantec), but then looking at the level of the fleet, who know what they are doing, I do not think I have all that much of an advantage being local!  Right now I am trying to keep up the pace...I still have not managed to make myself any food.  Sailing close I have Bernard Stamm and Synergie downwind, then just about pretty much all the sailing greats are close by: Armel Le Cléac'h, Nicolas Lunven...so the intention is to try and carry on like this.  The wind is pretty stable at 13 to 14 knots right now.  I have moved toward the Douvres Roches to try and make the most of the current and hope it will pay off in the long run."

Nicolas Lunven (Generali) – 4th on the 11:00 position report
"Not doing too badly but it is a bit complex in terms of the weather forecasts: the wind is oscillating a bit, which was not what was forecast...we were due to reach pretty much the whole way to Guernsey...but I would say it is more a matter of zigzagging.  I am with the leaders, but not on the offensive, we would say I am on the defensive.  It is not be best of situations to be in, but the conditions are pretty nice and I am not feeling all that bad; workingon possible solutions.  What is annoying me most is the seaweed, every 5 minutes you have to get into the water to get rid of them.  They are all over the place..."

Frédéric Rivet (Vendée 1) at 11:00 was lying in 32nd place
"I managed to catch up a bit just after Barfleur, but the passage of La Hague was not all that good: having caught up with the leaders I got stuck with lots of seaweed and then lost further places.  As I did not have a great first night I have left feeding and getting rest aside.  This morning I have managed to get a bit of rest, so right now I am rearing to go.  Average speeds right now but what is going to be tough is getting to the Four area where we are likely to go close to shore tonight.  Right now I am not worrying and just getting on with it."

Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) 12th at 11:00 this morning – talks about her first 24 hours at sea
"The first night was quite complicated, not only did we have seaweed all over the place, but we also had a complex and tactical passage with the wind varying in direction.  You had to make decisions and follow them through to the end; basically it was not all that simple.  I have to always feel there is more to do and at the same time maintain good energy levels for the remainder of the race, but then I am already feeling tired!  The plan is to try and get some rest this afternoon.  Tonight it is going to be tough once more.  We are most likely going to get round the Four under spinnaker against the current so we should have much of the same, maybe even tougher than last night."

Yoann Richomme (DLBC) –in 7th place and leading the rookies
"I had a pretty good start, nearly got caught at Barfleur but managed to get out of it.  Then I dove south first just under Sark where I was nearly in the lead, but did not have much luck hitting a windless area, which reshuffled the fleet.  I am a bit further south of the main bunch and about half a mile south of Eric Peron.  My position is not all that bad, but as we do not have the wind forecasts it is hard to work out what is going to happen next.  I just do a bit at a time and try and to be ready for tonight for the passage of the Four.  There are two other rookies putting me under pressure, not least Bernard Stamm.  It is not all that bad, but I am a little stuck towards the South, but should be able to be among the top 15 on the next crossing, so all in all it is not that bad."

Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) – in 30th position on the last position report
"Conditions are pretty good and there is not much one can complain about.  It was a bit difficult last night, what with a bunch of boats heading to shore in search of the current whilst we went further out in search of the stronger breeze; it was the shore option that paid off the best.  The distance on the leaders at the morning position report is relative, there is till a long way to go.  The boats are pretty spread out around me and I can see some ahead, behind, but I suppose a bunch is still grouped together and within site.  Apart from last night, ahead we have the currents to deal with at Four and quite a bit of work ahead."

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro

The 45 sailors competing on the 41st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro got off today at 14:00 under overcast skies in the bay of Le Havre with 8/9 knots of breeze from varying north-westerly direction.  Bar the two individual recalls given to overeager rookies, Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO/TEAM) and Louis Maurice Tannyeres (St. Ericsson) the race got off to a clean start.  Eric Peron (Massif 2009), warded off some stiff competition to reach the offset mark some thirty minutes into racing in the lead and continued to ward off attempts by Frederic Duthil (BBox) and Adrien Hardy (AGIR) to grab the coveted Radio France mark lead.

The fleet now face their first night at sea with wind predicted to rise gradually overnight to up to 20 knots from the North, Northwest on the approach to the Cotentin and Barfleur headlands.  The sailors now face multiple difficulties, but one in particular that all unanimously complained of before the start is the seaweed.  “It can stop the boat and even modify your course, especially at night when you don’t see it and you could be sleeping… you can well sail for 20 or 30 minutes without realising and that’s a disaster. It’s a minefield for everybody and I am under the impression that I get more than the others!” Worried Eric Drouglazet (Luisina) competing for the 18th time on the race.

The first part of the leg could be considered as “inshore and very technical” marked by the crossing of the bay of Seine; the skippers will then have to sail past the Cotentin and the Raz Blanchard headlands, well known for the strength of their powerful currents. Aurigny Island must be left to starboard, at the passage of the cape of the Hague, the sailors then head South sailing through the Channel Islands. Guernsey and Herm are official gates, which means that the fleet have to either sail through the narrow passage called the Great Russel on a direct route, or sail a more Southerly course depending on the turning tide times.  This first stage requires careful navigation and strategy to be well positioned for the second stretch along to Brittany headland.

The course between the Four channel and the Raz de Sein is yet another difficult and technical area that will remind the trailing skippers that nothing is yet decided with so many new obstacles to face. The Triagoz isles, île de Batz, île Vierge, Four lighthouse, Molène archipelago, Saint-Mathieu point, the legendary île Tévennec, île de Sein, passage of the Raz de Sein... there will be so many key passages to approach and each requires careful negotiation.  Once these initial 90 miles have been covered, the sailors will head south on the run to Gijón.

Pietro D'Ali (I.NOVA 3) from Italy reached the Radio France buoy in 21st place whilst Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO/TEAM) from Portugal managed to climb up to 31st place after the upset start and Jonny Malbon (Artemis) from the UK reached in 41st place; but it is early days with a further 511 miles to go to the finish in Asturias.

The stage is set in the Bay of SeineThe 45 sailors competing on the 41st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro got off today at 14:00 under overcast skies in the bay of Le Havre with 8/9 knots of breeze from varying north-westerly direction.  

Bar the two individual recalls given to overeager rookies, Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO/TEAM) and Louis Maurice Tannyeres (St. Ericsson) the race got off to a clean start.  Eric Peron (Massif 2009), warded off some stiff competition to reach the offset mark some thirty minutes into racing in the lead and continued to ward off attempts by Frederic Duthil (BBox) and Adrien Hardy (AGIR) to grab the coveted Radio France mark lead.The fleet now face their first night at sea with wind predicted to rise gradually overnight to up to 20 knots from the North, Northwest on the approach to the Cotentin and Barfleur headlands.  

The sailors now face multiple difficulties, but one in particular that all unanimously complained of before the start is the seaweed. “It can stop the boat and even modify your course, especially at night when you don’t see it and you could be sleeping… you can well sail for 20 or 30 minutes without realising and that’s a disaster. It’s a minefield for everybody and I am under the impression that I get more than the others!” Worried Eric Drouglazet (Luisina) competing for the 18th time on the race. The first part of the leg could be considered as “inshore and very technical” marked by the crossing of the bay of Seine; the skippers will then have to sail past the Cotentin and the Raz Blanchard headlands, well known for the strength of their powerful currents. Aurigny Island must be left to starboard, at the passage of the cape of the Hague, the sailors then head South sailing through the Channel Islands. Guernsey and Herm are official gates, which means that the fleet have to either sail through the narrow passage called the Great Russel on a direct route, or sail a more Southerly course depending on the turning tide times.  

This first stage requires careful navigation and strategy to be well positioned for the second stretch along to Brittany headland.The course between the Four channel and the Raz de Sein is yet another difficult and technical area that will remind the trailing skippers that nothing is yet decided with so many new obstacles to face. The Triagoz isles, île de Batz, île Vierge, Four lighthouse, Molène archipelago, Saint-Mathieu point, the legendary île Tévennec, île de Sein, passage of the Raz de Sein... there will be so many key passages to approach and each requires careful negotiation.  

Once these initial 90 miles have been covered, the sailors will head south on the run to Gijón.Pietro D'Ali (I.NOVA 3) from Italy reached the Radio France buoy in 21st place whilst Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO/TEAM) from Portugal managed to climb up to 31st place after the upset start and Jonny Malbon (Artemis) from the UK reached in 41st place; but it is early days with a further 511 miles to go to the finish in Asturias.

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro

The 45 competitors taking part in the 2010 edition of the classic summer solo race, La Solitaire du Figaro, are set to sail from Le Havre for Gijón on a 515 nautical mile leg tomorrow, Tuesday 27th July; the first of four stage race over the course of the next four weeks.

The race will dock in Kinsale on around August 8, zig-zagging north from Brest leaving Wolf Rock to port, and then the Fastnet to starboard. With 8 rookies geared up for their first participation, 5 non French sailors wishing to leave their mark and 3 women including the return of Karinne Fauconnier, the 2010 line up promises to produce some memorable racing.

The weather forecasts vary and there could be either very light wind for the start of up to 10/12 knots from the northwest depending on which module you look at, explains Sylvain Mondon (Meteo France). "In the worst case we could have little and variable breeze for the start or if we look at the more favourable modules, we could see the northwesterly breeze established for the upwind run to the Cotentin headland for the first night. The breeze should freshen up and we could see up to 25 knots as it backs to the west and the turning tide, which will make for a tough first night of racing." Continues Mondon. Once the fleet round the Brittany point, with the wind of the beam, the forecast is for the breeze to lighten providing for a comfortable run with some it should be a straight down wind run towards Spain. "We can expect to see the first reach Gijon in the early hours of Saturday" predicts Mondon, if the forecasts do not develop and change too much.

The worlds leading solo sailors inevitably pass through the challenge of participating in the classic Figaro race. This 41st edition is no different. We see experienced sailors returning to hone their skills against the young future stars aiming to leave their mark. Previous winners include Jeremie Beyou (BPI), Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel), Eric Drouglazet (Luisina), Armel le Cleac'h (Brit Air) and Nicholas Lunven (Generali).

* French title holder Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) won the Prologue Suzuki in the waters of Le Havre, second place goes to Ronan Treussart (Lufthansa) and third toThomas Rouxel (Credit Mutuel de Bretagne). An action packed prologue: light breeze, tidal flow and four starting procedures. Eight boats fall victim of a black flag start, including past winners Kito de Pavant and Jeremie Beyou.

* And this is just wrong... Thierry Chabagny will not participate at the race this summer due to a lack of sponsorship. He finished 4th in 2009 and 2nd in 2006.

Start of the 1st leg: Tuesday 27th July
Le Havre to Gijon (515 miles)
Expected arrival of the boats: Friday 30th Jul

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro
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