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Beyou's strategy pays off in second leg

7th August 2009
Beyou's strategy pays off in second leg
La Solitaire du Figaro – Jérémie Beyou guided his Figaro Beneteau 2 across the finish line in St. Gilles Croix-de-Vie at 20H20 and 37 seconds yesterday evening, to win the second leg of the event in an elapsed time of 52 hours 21 minutes 37 seconds – equivalent to an average speed across the 365 mile passage of 6.97 knots. The leg win  secured a remarkable come-back for the Breton skipper of Bernard Paoli, who climbed from the back of the fleet at the start in Coruna to the very front, and dominated the second half of the race across the Bay of Biscay. Second-placed Nicolas Lunven, reprising his strong performance in the first leg, now takes the overall lead on combined elapsed time, while third placed skipper Thierry Chabagny (Suzuki Automobiles) made a similarly impressive progression through the fleet to take third.


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.

Published in Figaro Team

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The Solitaire du Figaro, was originally called the course de l’Aurore until 1980, was created in 1970 by Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault.

Half a decade later, the race has created some of France's top offshore sailors, and it celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new boat equipped with foils and almost 50 skippers Including novices, aficionados and six former winners.

The solo multi-stage offshore sailing race is one of the most cherished races in French sailing and one that has had Irish interest stretching back over 20 years due to the number of Irish stopovers, usually the only foreign leg of the French race.

The race has previously called to Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

In 2013 Royal Cork's David Kenefick raised the bar by becoming a top rookie sailor in the race

In 2018, for the first time Ireland will have two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who join the rookie ranks and keep the Irish tricolour flying high in France. 

The 2019 course is more Than 2,000 miles between Nantes, Kinsale (Ireland), Roscoff and Dieppe and is the longest in the race's history.


At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

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