The BPI skipper covered the 437 miles in 72 hours, 37 minutes and 1 second. It was one of the closest finishes ever for the race, with four boats flying past the line in a little more than 30 seconds. Second place went to Paul Meilhat (Macif 2011) just 12 seconds later, third to Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham) 28 seconds after the winner and fourth to Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) at within 35 seconds.
At 35 and on his 12th participation in La Solitaire du Figaro, Jérémie Beyou secures his second victory following that obtained in 2005. He joins the very exclusive club of winners to have won the event twice; Armel Le Cléac'h (2003-2010), Nicolas Troussel (2006-2008), Jean-Marie Vidal (1972-1987), Gilles Gahinet (1977-1980), Guy Cornou (1975-1976) and Gilles le Baud (1973-1978). Only Philippe Poupon (1982-1985-1995), Jean Le Cam (1994-1996-1999) and Michel Desjoyeaux (1992-1998-2007) managed to do better with three wins each...
Beyou's domination over the four legs was rarely challenged: on the first stage between Perros-Guirec and Caen, he ruled the game together with Thomas Rouxel and Nicolas Lunven in the light airs up to twenty miles from the finish, only to be caught out in an bubble with no wind which saw him loose the leadership. He then went on to set the pace and lead on the breezy second leg that was 470 miles long, mainly upwind from up Caen to Dùn Laoghaire, and put his trademark on the third to Les Sables d'Olonne, also setting the pace and leading in the medium and light airs. Never giving up, Beyou built his lead and then final triumph on the fourth leg, carefully fencing off all of his adversaries' attacks. And, even more impressive, Jérémie Beyou won all the four GMF Trophy prizes, that is to say the turning point of each leg!
The rising star
By finishing in third on the final leg and second overall, Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen-Ouistreham) becomes the rising star and future talent to watch out for in the Bénéteau Figaro class. The young sailor from Caen, who won the first leg on home waters, showed an impressive consistency finishing seventh, second and third in the following legs and only 35 minutes separates him in the overall ranking from the winner.
And the bronze goes to...
Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat), who finished 4th in Dieppe, had to wait until his closest rivals in the overall time accumulated rankings finished, to find out that he had the third place this season. Both Nicolas Lunven (Generali) and Thomas Rouxel (Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance) finished their Solitaire du Figaro 2011 participation with average performance, 24th and 22nd respectively to relinquish the third spot to a deserving Tabarly. Erwan Tabarly concludes with a mere 5 minutes lead on Lunven and Rouxel.
The new kids on the block
This 42nd edition of la Solitaire du Figaro was also marked by the presence in the top part of the scoreboard of a number of newcomers to the race: rookies such as Xavier Macarie (Starter Active Bridge) finished 4th in Caen, Morgan Lagravière (Vendée) 12th in Dun Laoghaire, 9th in Les Sables d'Olonne, 7th in Dieppe. An impressive performance that rewarded the 24-years-old skipper from the Vendée region, not only with the overall victory in the rookie class, but also with a remarkable 8th place in the general ranking. Second place goes to Xavier Macaire (Sterter Active Bridge), 8 minutes and 33 seconds behind while Jersey based Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) managed to finish in third overall by only four seconds after more than 260 hours at sea!
Jérémie Beyou (BPI), overall winner of the Solitaire 2011 with three leg wins
"I feel a bit guilty, Paul (Meilhat) sailed really well on this last leg and he deserved to win. How do you win a Solitaire? It's not only a matter of performances, it's also about willpower, you have to train, get organised, question yourself, never give up and you need luck too. It may sound obvious but it's a combination of all these factors. And this year I had everything that I needed. I've been thinking about coming back to win since 2009, and I've done everything I could."
On how he managed to keep his nerves, and his margin: "After the third leg, I told myself that I could make it again: I knew that Fabien (Delahaye) was a bit faster than me downwind, but I didn't panic. I tried to remain self-confident. Because I know my strong and weak points and thats how I manage not to be anxious of my adversaries."
About joining the double winners' club: "Right, with Nicolas Troussel and Armel Le Cléach', now we're three from the bay of Morlaix. We've always done everything together, but it's amazing anyway."
When asked if he will come back on the Solitaire Beyou commented: "I don't know the answer. Maybe yes, but not just to be there. And physically it's very tough, true I won three legs but I'm exhausted."
What the winner likes most about the race: "The constant fight, the level of the competition. But there's more, when you finish there's such a special atmosphere, you feel at home, people are smiling at you and it's nice to meet the others ashore. The organisers have made a fantastic job and it's not only the sailors that make this race so special..."
Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen-Ouistreham) – 3rd in Dieppe and second overall
"First, seventh, second, third: I'm over the moon with my performance over the four legs and to jump on the second step of the podium is great. These are good results, but the Solitaire victory is calculated on total time and Jérémie (Beyou) never let me go. At times it was me at times him to be in front, but we've never been more than half a mile apart. We made the same choices, he was keeping a constant watch on me, and now and then we could even talk to each other. It was an amazing leg and I'm happy to have lived it with him! Two years ago I was fighting with Paul (Meilhat) for the rookie win and we were finishing in Dieppe, you can say that this is like a nice remake of the same movie. You have to be consistent and being there with the best ones on all the legs. There is a bunch of new kids to keep an eye on: Morgan Lagravière, Phil Sharp among the rookies, but also Anthony Marchand, Thomas Rouxel, Paul Meilhat... they come from everywhere! "
Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) – 3rd overall and 4th in leg three
"A fourth place in this last leg, I could have done better! I would have loved to finish with a win because I knew I could make it, but I'm on the third step of the podium and that's brilliant. It's been a long time that I have been up in the top ten, but I could not get on the podium, so that's great. I still have to go up two places but it's true that Jérémie (Beyou) was untouchable and Fabien (Delahaye) sailed very well. I set my watch to see if I was going to be third overall, Thomas Rouxel was too far behind but Nicolas Lunven was only 27 minutes back. Not that much. On this last leg it was impossible to relax, it all came down to detail, the good boat handling... This year's format is very interesting, because you had plenty of little options to take all the time. We've been sailing round the rocks, with and against the current, wind shifting, coastal effects: enough to keep you busy. I hope one day I will win this race and I hope not to be 60 when I will!"