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Displaying items by tag: La Solitaire du Figaro Race

#fullrish –  Irish solo sailor David Kenefick shares some thoughts at the end of his second Figaro which I finished yesterday in Cherbourg.

The season

This was my second year and my biggest take out from the first year was to keep it as simple as possible. This is already a complicated project without making it harder for myself. Looking back at it now I am pretty satisfied that I wouldn't have changed anything in my preparation if I had to do it again.

I set myself the primary objective of wanting say to myself that I was satisfied with my season and my race when the project was done. Here I am the day after finishing my second Figaro season, four Fastnet races in a month singlehanded on a 32-foot boat SATISFIED. No question about it.

At the beginning of the year I realized I had a 50% chance of doing better than last year's result (28th). I know I sailed much better this year, I was confident with the boat, I had my moments of brilliance that lasted sometimes five minutes sometimes a whole afternoon, sometimes across a couple of days. I know it is about the result at the finish but I also knew inside myself that I sailed well most of the time.

I finished 23rd this year and I know exactly where I made mistakes and exactly how much they cost me. I also understand more and more why this race is so special and so tough. Jeremy Beyou won this year's race, his third victory in 13 attempts. He told me last night it took him nine years to get on the podium for the first time! My biggest lesson this year is quite how hard it is to do well, much harder than I thought this time last year and before I ever began I had no idea what this was about. But that is what makes it special, until you have done it you can't possibly imagine what its really about. Only people who have done the race will understand what I am talking about.
The whole experience was much more enjoyable than last year, of course because I had a vague idea of what I was getting into. Interestingly I slept a lot less this year during the race than last year but I know I am fresher now than this time last year.

Highlights and low points

Without a doubt the start at Deauville was my highlight. Nailing the pin end and rounding the top mark in third and holding all the way round the inshore course until out of sight of land was pretty special. Having my Dad Neil in the spectator fleet there too, watching made it extra special because the whole family has supported me so much in this project.
Probably the next high point was the exciting reach towards the Chausée de Sein in Leg 3. The weather wasn't very nice, drizzle, misty, all a bit tired but the boat going fast in a nice breeze with the big spinnaker set. Then we were hit by a big squall of over 35 knots. Luckily I had put my ballast snorkel down and so the boat filled up with water on the right side just in time and I just hung on driving it hard through the waves at ridiculous speeds on the edge of control whilst most boats around dropped their kites or broached out of control. I noticed Alan Gautier (a past Vendée Globe and Figaro winner) and Xavier Maquaire (2nd in Figaro last year) amongst these boats. I survived the squall, made the mark, gained some places and had a great buzz inside that I had controlled the situation well and made the most of it. Those are the kind of memories you will keep forever.
Then the low points, the scary moments. The first really downer was in leg three approach the BXA mark near Bordeaux. We had been at sea for three days and three nights at that stage, everyone was shattered. I was three miles from the mark which was a 90 degree turn to the North. Normally you are wide awake on the approach to the marks as there are plenty of things about to happen. Anyway, one of our fellow competitors Thierry Chabignet just sailed right past the mark and headed on towards the shore. No one could contact him and his boat sailed on for 30 minutes before we knew what was going on. The only reason that someone doesn't respond or sails past a mark is because they are not on the boat. We all had visions of Thierry floating past us in the water as we approached the mark. One of the escort boats finally got up close to his boat, he woke up and immeadiately put the boat back on course. It turns out he had slept through his alarm his boat had sailed the right side of the mark and just kept going.
On my own boat the scariest moment was on the last morning. We were approaching the West side of Guernsey to get out of the tide. Sailing upwind I had decided to get 15 minutes head down and I must have slept too long. I woke up with a start went up on deck and I swear I was doing six knots two or three boat lengths from a big rock sticking out of the water!!!!
Crash tack, ballast and jib on the wrong side but I saved it. I'm sure my keel was in the weed! If I had slept for 10 seconds more it would have ended differently. Of course on recovering from that I had to tack straight back into the rocks to get out of the tide again, but not sleeping again until last night when I finally got ashore.
The race is rich with stories like this. They are shared with all other competitors and everyone has their's to tell.

Future

It's dangerous to comment on the future the day after you finish this race. I will definitely do this race again. Not sure when but it is too special not to want to do it again. But for now I need to reflect on a lot of things in life. I need some time to recover and reflect on the last 18 months of my life, which frankly have been a whirlwind. I'm a bit tired of being alone and eating meals on my own. I need to reintegrate into society a bit for a while. Right now I have absolutely nothing planned after next week. This is probably the first time in my adult life that this has been the case, a weird feeling but great too.
I will repeat saying this until the day I die, you just can't describe how special this race is. It is brutally hard. Alan Gautier and Jeremie Beyou will tell you it is way tougher than the Vendée Globe, their words not mine. Racing against a clock makes it weird. Anyone out there needs a real mental and physical challenge in their lives needs to tackle this scene. The sense of community amongst the sailors at sea and ashore is also unique. Friends for life, respect for life.

Published in Figaro

#fullirish – David Kenefick has finished 17th out of 35 starters in the Solo Maitre Coq race. The mid–fleet finish in the 270–mile opener to the 2014 season is a strong result for the Irish Sailor of the Year.  Here the Royal Cork sailor recounts his race, a game of four quarters.

The first part was light, very light and so light that for long periods we just hung there waiting for something to fill in. The race committee needed three starts to get us all off the line. I had had two great starts in the middle of the line as you can see from the photo, but the third was not my best. The line was short for 38 boats and that makes it even more critical to get off in good shape. I really struggled to get going on the first beat and as the wind was dying I struggled more. By the time I got to the first mark I was one of the tail-enders and it was looking like a long race. But I've learnt from last year that these races often yield real opportunities to get back into it. This 270-mile race, with two laps of a figure of eight course around the island of Yeu and Ré passing by a gate in Les Sables in the middle, was going to be full of transitions, corners and lots of tidal things to manage. On top of that a ridge of High pressure was going to pass overhead from the North to the South.

The ridge axis was overhead at ile d'Yeu in the middle of the night and with a cardinal mark right on the shore to go round, plus plenty of unlit fish-farms to get around and a nice knot or so of current, navigation was tricky. I approached almost last into here and found most of the fleet already anchored struggling to get around the buoy. So I was back in the group now and stayed close to others for the next legs, which took us back to les Sables through dawn on Friday.

By mid-afternoon the ridge was well and truly to the South of us putting us in a decent Northerly wind that slowly moved to the North west over the rest of the race and stayed always above 12 knots. I slept nicely on the straight line downwind legs and pulled back into the next group on the beat away from the bridge at ile de Ré. The boat is going well and I was comfortable with all parts of my game, navigation, tactics and speed. Now it was just a case of staying in the match through the second night, and not burn out. I could see that others had dropped off the race pace and I suppose my experience from last season is really starting to drop into use now.

It was a tough second part of the race and it is always tough going into a second night at sea but I'm really pleased with how it went. I crossed the finish line this morning in 19th place but hear as I come ashore that two boats that were ahead of me get the mandatory two hour time penalty for being over the line in the last minute to the start. So I finished 17th out of 35 boats, which if I'm not mistaken is officially the top half of the fleet!

Looking forward to the next big race, which is in six weeks in Concarneau. Between now and then I'll deliver the boat back to Lorient this evening after the rugby match and the prizegiving and then we have some more coaching sessions with Tanguy Leglattin in April. I'll also be working on my fundraising too as I haven't yet reached my budget commitments for the year.

Published in Figaro

#NAVAL VISIT – A sistership of the French Naval patrol vessel that performed 'guardship' duties during last year's La Solitaire du Figaro Race to Dun Laoghaire (click HERE), is due to dock in Dublin Port in advance of St. Patrick's weekend, writes Jehan Ashmore.

PSP Pluvier (P678) is a 54m offshore patrol vessel (OPV) that belongs to a trio of the'Flamant' class, the remaining pair are the leadship PSP Flamant (P676) and PSP Cormoran (P677). The latter OPV escorted the race fleet on the second leg between Ouistreham (Caen) to Dun Laoghaire, the only international port of call of the prestigious race.

The naval visitor is the last of the sisters built and was constructed in Cherbourg at Chantier des Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie (CMN). She entered service in 1997 and carries out patrols in seas up to 200 nautical miles offshore of the French économique exclusive zone (ZEE).

She is scheduled to arrive on Thursday afternoon and berth at Sir John Rogersons Quay, downriver from the Samuel Beckett swing-bridge.

Published in Navy
4th December 2009

La Solitaire du Figaro

La Solitaire du Figaro

2005 Race

1st Leg – Perros-Guirec to Getxo-Bilbao (390 miles) – A clean and fast start to the race for all. There is a downwind spinnaker crossing of the Bay of Biscay and then fight to the finish among the great and experienced of La Solitaire. 8 knots of top average speed on a race that is won by Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert). Cercle Vert finishes 1 minute and 47 seconds ahead of the Jérémie who finishes 2nd. Gildas Morvan sets the pace and ensures his place as a serious contender for the remaining 3 legs.

2nd Leg – Getxo-Bilbao to La Rochelle (368 miles) – The leg goes to the Italian rookie sailor Pietro D’Ali on Nanni Diesel, a triumphant win in La Rochelle. The high pressure ridge to negotiate in the Bay of Biscay becomes the dangerous trap in which Jérémie gets caught, forces him to fight it out on the last arduous run to the finish line, to keep the time difference to a minimum. He finishes 10th and 27 minutes and 5 seconds behind the leader. Now he finds himself in 4th place in the overall provisory rankings with a 17 minute and 25 second deficit over the new leader, Pietro D’Alí.

3rd Leg – La Rochelle – Cork (456 miles) – It is a long and arduous leg upwind with rough seas to Ireland. Jérémie leads the fleet for the fist 24 hours on a path to victory only to see it snatched away. A 5th place finish with a 26 minute and 20 second time difference on the first. However, due to his consistency and perseverance he remains only 10 minutes and 32 seconds behind a new overall leader, Laurent Pellecuer (Cliptol Sport).

4th Leg – Cork to Port Bourgenay (428 miles) – We know the outcome… Jérémie, on this leg, that will forever be remembered by the Figaro sailors for the tough conditions endured, makes history and become the newly crowned winner of La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro for 2005. A worthy winner at 29, Jérémie Beyou is welcomed by thousands of visitors who turn to welcome the new hero of La Solitaire.

1/ Jérémie Beyou - 2/ Michel Desjoyeaux - 3/ Kito de Pavant (46 starters, 43 ranked)

 

2006 Race

Leg 1: Cherbourg-Octeville/Santander – 590 miles – tactical, technical and downwind... For the 37th edition of La Solitaire Afflelou le Figaro race, the first leg from Concarneau to Santander was the longest at 590 miles. The race between France and Spain was set over a course that took the 44 single handed sailors round two marks off the south coast England; Shambles and Wolf Rock. After a start in the Bay of Cherbourg in light winds, a rookie sailor, Corentin Douguet (E.Leclerc Bouygues Telecom) lead the fleet from the Radio France offset mark across the English Channel on a long downwind run to Shambles buoy. The next 135 miles along the south coast is fought upwind. Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert), who positions himself furthest north, rounds Wolf Rock in the lead ahead of Charles Caudrelier (Bostik) and Gérald Veniard (Scutum). Spinnakers are hoisted in 25 knots of breeze and then it is fast run south to the Bay of Biscay. The wind gradually slackens and becomes variable on the final approach to the Cantabrian town of Santander. At 1 am on the 9th of August, Scutum, particularly fast downwind, moves into the lead, a lead he maintains right to the finish. At 18h31 that same day, Gérald Veniard crosses the finish line after 79 hours and 24 minutes of racing (at an average 7,43 knots) ahead of Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and Charles Caudrelier (Bostik). Gérald is to later loose his first place after the jury applies a 24 minute penalty for exceeding the weight limit 3 hours prior to the start in Cherbourg.

Leg 2: Santander/Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie – 314 miles – West gives runaway leaders huge advantages... Against all odds, it is on the shorted leg of the 37th edition of La Solitaire, that a winner is decided. Following a wonderful inshore race in the bay of Santander, set with the backdrop of the Magdalena castle, Eric Drouglazet (PIXmania.com) is the first skipper to pass the Radio France offset mark. The 44 competitors proceed on to the Birvideaux Lighthouse on one long run. The conditions, unclear from the start, complicate the sailing for all but two ingenious sailors. Nicolas Troussel and Thierry Chabagny head off west off the course and are the only two sailors to find wind. First and second in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie after 62 hours racing, these two sailors manage to gain more than 4 hours advantage over Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit’Air), the third to finish in the Vendee town. The advantage the winner gains over the rest of the competitors is vast (ranging from 7 to 16 hours). This marks the deciding point of the 37th edition of La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro.

Leg 3: Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie / Dingle – 545 miles - A windy 30 hour run upwind for a lottery ticket finish... With barely any time to rest in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, the 44 skippers leave the Vendée for Ireland just 36 hours later. The race organisers reduce the leg by 70 miles, cutting out the trip down to the Ile de Ré. The boats head north, led by Armel Le Cléac’h (Bit’Air), in a big sea swell and on an abeam reach. Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire) moves in to take the lead, which she holds for the next 30 hours of upwind tacking in strong 25 to 30 knots of north westerly wind. Ingeniously, the rookie sailor, Erwan Israël (Delta Dore) momentarily takes the lead from Jeanne. The fleet regroups at the Fastnet Rock for the final run along the southern Irish coast to Dingle. Liz Wardley (Sojasan), who flies up the fleet having taken a westerly option, joins Jeanne Grégoire, who still maintains control of the fleet. Everything boils down to the 21st of August, just five hours before the finish; a calm settles over all those close to shore, among these Jeanne Grégoire and Nicholas Troussel (Financo), whom are forced to drop the anchor as they watch despairingly those further out hoist their spinnakers and avoid the treacherous calm. Samantha Davies (Roxy), Corentin Douguet (E.Leclerc-Bouygues Telecom), Gérald Veniard (Scutum), Nicolas Bérenger (Koné Ascenseurs), Marc Emig (A.ST Group) and Gildas Mahé (Le Comptoir Immobilier) all benefit from their fellow competitors wrong footing. As the sun sets, the calm settles once again over the fleet in the Bay of Dingle. The myriad of green red and white lights appear out of the darkness making it impossible to say who can win in the night. Gérald Veniard, with his masterstroke of genius, crosses first again. The second leg will be remembered for the huge gaps built at the finish and the third leg for the minimal ones. 35 boats cross the finish line after 83 hours and 479 miles in under 35 minutes!

Leg 4: Dingle/Concarneau – 458 miles - Full pelt under spinnaker to the Scilly Isles and the calm for the finish... A third for Gérald Veniard. The skipper of Scutum wins the fourth and final leg between Dingle and Concarneau. The exhausting race, 458 miles long pushes the sailors to the absolute limits; 36 hours of strong downwind sailing under spinnaker in a huge sea swell and then a nerve-racking day spent in frustratingly calm conditions before the finish. Nicolas Troussel (Financo) who leads the overall ranking at this point, starts well to round the Radio France offset mark in Dingle first and then the trio Le Cléac’h, Veniard and Bérenger (Kone Ascenseurs) take control of the fleet in this marathon spinnaker run to the Scilly Isles. Veniard pips Le Cléac’h at the post at the Seven Stones lighthouse boat to take the Grand Prix Suzuki. The frightening gybes in 30 knots, is not for the weak or faint hearted; blown spinnakers or wrapped round the forestay and then faulty autopilots or electronics are some of the problems encountered. Everything changes at Ushant, the wind drops and the fleet set the counter to zero for a new start just 100 miles from the finish. Once again, the West proves best. Christophe Lebas (Armor Lux) makes an astounding climb up the fleet whilst Le Cléac’h, Eliès and many others are forced to drop anchor. Feeling the wind come in further ashore, Veniard heads out together with Krauss (AXA Plaisance) and Marc Emig (A.ST Group). It is these three who eventually win in Concarneau. Nicolas Troussel and Thierry Chabagny manage to keep their time advantage and therefore 1st and 2nd places overall, so masterfully established in Saint Gilles-Croix-de-Vie. Le Cléac’h relinquishes his third place to Gérald, the triple leg winner.

1/ Nicolas Troussel - 2/ Thierry Chabagny - 3/ Gérald Veniard (44 starters, 44 ranked)

 

2007 Race

Leg 1: Caen to Crosshaven (415 miles) – Tactical with currents and rocky coastlines… “I can’t ever remember as a young Figaro sailor having seen so many changes to the leadership. It was like musical chairs, well that is what the first leg of the 2007 edition of La Solitaire was like”. The “young” Figaro sailor, talking that morning of the 3rd of August, was none other than Michel Desjoyeaux who finished third in Ireland, behind Nicolas Troussel (Financo) and the victor, Frédéric Duthil on Distinxion. The leg was full of changes, each part of the racecourse requiring careful strategy: passing the Barfleur mark, the English Channel crossing, navigating along the south coast of England with the currents and calm areas…right up to the “re-start” between Lands End and the Scilly Isles where the fleet re-grouped to cover the last 140 miles of the leg. Just one Figaro sailor did not get to the start line: James Bird (GFI Group) who missed the first leg after hitting something upon leaving the port. The other 49 skippers did not have a moment’s rest on the 415-mile leg. It was a continuous tactical game with currents and wind shifts to deal with leading to seven lead changes: Duthil at the Radio France mark, Gérald Veniard (Scutum) at the Fairways buoy, Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) along the south coat of England, Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and then Nicolas Bérenger (Koné Ascenseurs) at the mark at Hand Deeps, Thierry Chabagny (Brossard) at Cape Lizard and finally Fred Duthil, who at 33 years of age won his first leg after 4 participations. He covered the leg in 2 days, 19 hours, 49 minutes and 55 seconds at an average speed of 6,12 knots.

Leg 2: Crosshaven/Brest (344 miles) – An exhausting sprint... The second leg to Brest via the Fastnet, 344 miles long, proved to be exhausting. For 41 hours the sailors went without sleep, stuck to the helm as they reached their way round the southern shores of Ireland before rounding the Fastnet and then tackling the 200 mile downhill run south to Ushant. Shattered and full of stories of hallucinations, the sailors all tried their best to shine out by the time they reached Brest. In the end it was Michel Desjoyeaux who won the leg, the sixth Figaro leg win of his career, ahead of Frédéric Duthil and the local Brestois sailor, Gildas Mahé (Le Comptoir Immobilier). The 50 solo sailors set off from the Bay of Cork in the rain, with Foncia leading the fleet round the Radio France mark. There then followed a 10-hour sail along the stunning Irish coastline with Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) heading the fleet followed by Frédéric Duthil, who rounded the Fastnet Rock in the lead. Then conditions got tough with 20 knots of wind and a rough sea…the downhill run proved to be exhilarating but also exhausting. On the 7th of August Michel Desjoyeaux moved into the lead and never lost it. After a final game of cat and mouse in the vast bottleneck harbour of Brest with Duthil, Mahé, Lebas, Bérenger, Morvan and Chabagny, Foncia crosses the finish line at 05h20 the next day to win the leg.

Leg 3: Brest / La Corogne via BXA (562 miles) – Corentin Douguet – the king of upwind sailing... On Saturday 11th of August the weather forecasts at the Fastnet rock were predicting 55 knots of wind and huge seas. Because of this, the Race Committee decided to avoid sending the 50 solo sailors in that direction. And so the longest leg of the race was reduced from 762 miles to 562. The new course left out the Fastnet and had the fleet heading down to the Gironde Estuary and the BXA mark before heading for La Coruña in Galicia. After a third start in light winds; some skippers were forced to anchor over the evening to hold their position against the turning tide at the Raz de Sein. Shooting stars and wonderful spinnaker sailing conditions followed for the first night at sea. Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), Gildas Mahé (Le Comptoir Immobilier) and Thierry Chabagny (Brossard) enjoyed the lead initially, but it was Jean-Pierre Nicol (Gavottes) and then Christian Bos (Belle Ile en Mer) who managed to get out of the calm area after BXA first. The calm was deceptive because soon after the fleet endured a 300-mile battle in winds gusting 45 knots and 5 metre waves to get to the finish in La Coruña. Corentin Douguet (E.Leclerc/Bouygues Telecom) proved strongest in these hellish conditions. He decided to tack South for the finish last and won his first leg with a healthy margin over the rest of the fleet. Only Nicolas Troussel (Financo) and Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) were able to limit the damage by finishing in 2nd and 3rd place, 24 and 47 minutes behind respectively. Huge gaps built after that and the overall time rankings were completely changed: Michel Desjoyeaux moved into first place with a 9 minute lead on Corentin Douguet and 14 minutes ahead of Nicolas Troussel.

Leg 4 : La Coruna/Les Sables d’Olonne (340 miles) – Second leg win for Fred Duthil/Michel Desjoyeaux triumphs for the third time... From an upwind thrashing to a downwind one! After a start in sunny conditions in a big swell, the wind increased and continued to increase throughout the race. For the first part of the race, the idea was to work out where to position oneself on the race course, either north or south for the crossing of the Bay of Biscay to reach Les Sables d’Olonne. Butin the end it came down to the gruelling weather conditions - 40 knots of wind, gusting to 50 with 5 metre high waves in the pitch-black night. For some it was a matter of survival, for others it remained a full on battle to the finish with the maximum amount of sail up. Fred Duthil, a former windsurf champion, and Gérald Veniard (Scutum) sailed furthest south and on the most direct route to the finish. Duthil refused to even put a reef in and overtook Veniard who close to the finish blew out his spinnaker. With waves thundering over the boats, Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire) dismasted just 25 miles from the finish. Douguet, Mahé, Troussel and Desjoyeaux took the most northern course in search of the best angle for the final approach based on the wind shift due to come in, but when it did it was not for long. Fred Duthil took a second amazing win followed by Gérald Veniard and who other than… Michel Desjoyeaux, who joined the legends of La Solitiare, Jean Le Cam and Philippe Poupon as the only ever triple winners of the race. Fred Duthil moved back onto the podium to take second place 26 minutes behind Michel Desjoyeaux with Corentin Douguet taking 3rd. Nicolas Lunven (Bostik) takes the Bénéteau Rookie class lead off Vincent Biarnes (Côtes d’Armor) and Aymeric Belloir (Cap 56).

And so Michel Desjoyeaux remains the undisputed King of Solo! 

 

2008 Race

Leg 1: Caen to Crosshaven (415 miles)– Tactical with currents and rocky coastlines… “I can’t ever remember as a young Figaro sailor having seen so many changes to the leadership. It was like musical chairs, well that is what the first leg of the 2007 edition of La Solitaire was like”. The “young” Figaro sailor, talking that morning of the 3rd of August, was none other than Michel Desjoyeaux who finished third in Ireland, behind Nicolas Troussel (Financo) and the victor, Frédéric Duthil on Distinxion. The leg was full of changes, each part of the racecourse requiring careful strategy: passing the Barfleur mark, the English Channel crossing, navigating along the south coast of England with the currents and calm areas… right up to the “re-start” between Lands End and the Scilly Isles where the fleet re-grouped to cover the last 140 miles of the leg. Just one Figaro sailor did not get to the start line: James Bird (GFI Group) who missed the first leg after hitting something upon leaving the port. The other 49 skippers did not have a moment’s rest on the 415-mile leg. It was a continuous tactical game with currents and wind shifts to deal with leading to seven lead changes: Duthil at the Radio France mark, Gérald Veniard (Scutum) at the Fairways buoy, Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) along the south coat of England, Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and then Nicolas Bérenger (Koné Ascenseurs) at the mark at Hand Deeps, Thierry Chabagny (Brossard) at Cape Lizard and finally Fred Duthil, who at 33 years of age won his first leg after 4 participations. He covered the leg in 2 days, 19 hours, 49 minutes and 55 seconds at an average speed of 6,12 knots.

Leg 2: Crosshaven/Brest (344 miles) – An exhausting sprint... The second leg to Brest via the Fastnet, 344 miles long, proved to be exhausting. For 41 hours the sailors went without sleep, stuck to the helm as they reached their way round the southern shores of Ireland before rounding the Fastnet and then tackling the 200 mile downhill run south to Ushant. Shattered and full of stories of hallucinations, the sailors all tried their best to shine out by the time they reached Brest. In the end it was Michel Desjoyeaux who won the leg, the sixth Figaro leg win of his career, ahead of Frédéric Duthil and the local Brestois sailor, Gildas Mahé (Le Comptoir Immobilier). The 50 solo sailors set off from the Bay of Cork in the rain, with Foncia leading the fleet round the Radio France mark. There then followed a 10-hour sail along the stunning Irish coastline with Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) heading the fleet followed by Frédéric Duthil, who rounded the Fastnet Rock in the lead. Then conditions got tough with 20 knots of wind and a rough sea…the downhill run proved to be exhilarating but also exhausting. On the 7th of August Michel Desjoyeaux moved into the lead and never lost it. After a final game of cat and mouse in the vast bottleneck harbour of Brest with Duthil, Mahé, Lebas, Bérenger, Morvan and Chabagny, Foncia crosses the finish line at 05h20 the next day to win the leg.

Leg 3: Brest/La Corogne via BXA (562 miles) – Corentin Douguet – the king of upwind sailing... On Saturday 11th of August the weather forecasts at the Fastnet rock were predicting 55 knots of wind and huge seas. Because of this, the Race Committee decided to avoid sending the 50 solo sailors in that direction. And so the longest leg of the race was reduced from 762 miles to 562. The new course left out the Fastnet and had the fleet heading down to the Gironde Estuary and the BXA mark before heading for La Coruña in Galicia. After a third start in light winds; some skippers were forced to anchor over the evening to hold their position against the turning tide at the Raz de Sein. Shooting stars and wonderful spinnaker sailing conditions followed for the first night at sea. Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), Gildas Mahé (Le Comptoir Immobilier) and Thierry Chabagny (Brossard) enjoyed the lead initially, but it was Jean-Pierre Nicol (Gavottes) and then Christian Bos (Belle Ile en Mer) who managed to get out of the calm area after BXA first. The calm was deceptive because soon after the fleet endured a 300-mile battle in winds gusting 45 knots and 5 metre waves to get to the finish in La Coruña. Corentin Douguet (E.Leclerc/Bouygues Telecom) proved strongest in these hellish conditions. He decided to tack South for the finish last and won his first leg with a healthy margin over the rest of the fleet. Only Nicolas Troussel (Financo) and Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) were able to limit the damage by finishing in 2nd and 3rd place, 24 and 47 minutes behind respectively. Huge gaps built after that and the overall time rankings were completely changed: Michel Desjoyeaux moved into first place with a 9 minute lead on Corentin Douguet and 14 minutes ahead of Nicolas Troussel.

Leg 4: La Coruna/Les Sables d’Olonne (340 miles) – Second leg win for Fred Duthil/Michel Desjoyeaux triumphs for the third time – From an upwind thrashing to a downwind one! After a start in sunny conditions in a big swell, the wind increased and continued to increase throughout the race. For the first part of the race, the idea was to work out where to position oneself on the race course, either north or south for the crossing of the Bay of Biscay to reach Les Sables d’Olonne. Butin the end it came down to the gruelling weather conditions - 40 knots of wind, gusting to 50 with 5 metre high waves in the pitch-black night. For some it was a matter of survival, for others it remained a full on battle to the finish with the maximum amount of sail up. Fred Duthil, a former windsurf champion, and Gérald Veniard (Scutum) sailed furthest south and on the most direct route to the finish. Duthil refused to even put a reef in and overtook Veniard who close to the finish blew out his spinnaker. With waves thundering over the boats, Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire) dismasted just 25 miles from the finish. Douguet, Mahé, Troussel and Desjoyeaux took the most northern course in search of the best angle for the final approach based on the wind shift due to come in, but when it did it was not for long. Fred Duthil took a second amazing win followed by Gérald Veniard and who other than… Michel Desjoyeaux, who joined the legends of La Solitiare, Jean Le Cam and Philippe Poupon as the only ever triple winners of the race. Fred Duthil moved back onto the podium to take second place 26 minutes behind Michel Desjoyeaux with Corentin Douguet taking 3rd. Nicolas Lunven (Bostik) takes the Bénéteau Rookie class lead off Vincent Biarnes (Côtes d’Armor) and Aymeric Belloir (Cap 56).

And so Michel Desjoyeaux remains the undisputed King of Solo! 

 


 

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