Above: Jérémie Beyou and Nicolas Lunven
Beyou owes his success on this leg to his choice of a more north-westerly route than most of his competitors, ensuring that he was the first to benefit from any reinforcement of the predominantly northern breeze: “It was a case of winning a favourable position in the early stages, and then watching every little detail, not letting any opportunity go by. I was above the rest of the fleet throughout, and needed to be because the wind was very shifty, like during the final afternoon when it was really at its worst. You just had to be steering and trimming the whole time. It was a definite decision to go north to find the breeze. That position above the fleet was a good one to be in, because I could bear down on them at any time. I was a bit early in making my move perhaps, I could have waited a bit longer, but there you go, it paid off anyway: I’m back in the overall rankings, back in the game, I’m no longer 46 minutes behind the leader”.
Beyou now stands 5th overall, with a more manageable time deficit of 27 minutes. Twenty-six-year-old Nicolas Lunven (CGPI) has every reason to be pleased with his second place, two consistently good performances now propelling him to the top of the overall leaderboard, ahead of first leg winner Yann Elies, himself slowed down by illness on this leg. On only his third participation in La Solitaire, Lunven is rapidly cementing a reputation as a rising star, having first come to notice in 2007 when he secured the ‘best rookie’ title. For now however he has resolved to keep a cool head: “Pressure ? No, I don’t feel any particular pressure. I’m going to try to stay focussed, the others can have the pressure, to have some youngster shaking up the hierarchy a bit !”
For Thierry Chabagny – pictured above – who at the half-way point of the leg was lying in 24th place, the key was never to give up, and to try new strategies: “In trying to creep up to the north a little, I realised that you could go up without losing too much ground in the rankings. So I kept creeping up, and didn’t lose anything, and even gained a bit. So I said to myself, we’re on an escalator here, onto a good thing, I’ll stick with it as far as it goes. So that’s how I pulled it off. I found myself with a lot of lateral separation but without having lost anything. Afterwards, when the wind came back a bit stronger, all I had to do was just come down to lay the mark at St. Nazaire and win some places.”
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this testing leg was the close grouping of the fleet right to the very end: no less than 40 of the 52-boat fleet finishing within 1 hour and 5 minutes, after more than two days of intense concentration and attention to detail, exceptional even by the standards of this race. For the two British skippers, Nigel King (Nigel King Racing) and Jonny Malbon (Artemis) there will be much encouragement to be gained from their ability to stay in contact with the fleet and find comparable boat speed when necessary. King finished in 39th, an hour and five minutes behind Beyou, with Malbon keeping his deficit to 1 hour 42 minutes to take 43rd place.