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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

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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

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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.

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Published in Figaro

The first night at sea of Leg 3 of La Solitaire du Figaro proved to be as demanding as expected, with the skippers fighting against high winds, cold weather, drizzling rain, fog and, especially, a very fastidious swell. Several blown spinnakers but the whole fleet is fastly sailing towards Ireland. After keeping the lead for more than 24 hours, Thomas Rouxel, has to lave first place to Armel Le Cleac'h. Yet, nothing is carved in stone as the first 26 boats are only 5 miles apart at 150 miles from the finish. Last night's Channel crossing from Portsal to Wolf Rock was wet and bumpy for the 44 skippers racing in the 41st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro. "Several skippers reported damages and breakages" said Jacques Caraes form the Race Management catamaran following the fleet's progress in the Celtic Sea. The big waves got the best of at least a dozen spinnakers.

Surely annoying but probably not so relevant for the rest of the race to Ireland because, in theory, the skippers will not need them to sail to Fastnet Rock and their final destination, Kinsale. The damage on Armel Tripon's Gedimat looks more serious, her hull pierced following a collision after the start in Brest. "On starboard tack there is a leak" reports Tripon, at the same time reassuring that the situation seems to be under control and keeps his spirits high. No doubt that shore teams, sail makers, riggers and builders will be busy over next week in Kinsale. For the sailors' joy the long, uncomfortable reaching in high winds up to 25 knots, grey and wet conditions came to an end early in the morning when the leaders rounded the Wolf Rock lighthouse and entered the Celtic sea. The first skipper to reach midpoint to the finish was a consistent Thomas Rouxel (Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne). The fleet later had to deal with a sudden 90° wind shift, provoked by the quick passage of a front, he wind from south westerly became north easterly. Sure enough there will be more of such variations to negotiate before seeing the famous Fastnet Rock, as confirmed by Meteo France's weather expert Sylvain Mondon: "the wind shifty and unstable, coming from the northern sector". No big news there, since before leaving Brest all the skippers declared that they very particularly wary of the Celtic Sea and its tactical tricks.

The tricky sea and hard tactical choices don't seem to be a major problem for Armel Le Cleach (Britair) who is reported to have got in the lead once again, overtaking Thomas Rouxel (Credit Mutuel de Bretagne) and preceding also Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) in third.

Yet the skippers are sailing in a very compact group, only 4.5 miles separate the leader from the 26th placed, Italian Pietro D'Alì (I.NOVA.3). Yet, another brilliant performance to register from Portuguese Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM), who's been in the leading pack since the start and now lies in 12th position only two miles behind Le Cleac'h and first in the newcomers special ranking. Franco/German Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) is 25th, Swiss Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) is 35th and Jonny Malbon (Artemis) is in 42th at ten miles from the top. As per the latest computer simulations the ETA for the leaders at the Fastnet could be tomorrow between 9 and 12 GMT while the leaders could be crossing the finish line at Old Head of Kinsale. Quotes from the skippers:Corentin Douguet (E.Leclerc Mobile)"The wind shifted by 90° all of a sudden, it nearly got me by surprise. I had to tack quickly and now we are on port. We were heading to target on starboard before and we are doing in now on the opposite tack! We are approaching the Fastnet faster than expected, We've been busy since the start, no waiting game and it should be like that to the Rock, a tight schedule. It's windy but the swell is more annoying, rough and the autopilot is not working 1005 in these conditions. You must steer.

Typical August day in the Celtic sea. I't getting better, the visibility is improving, until a hour ago you can't see anything. Still, I like to be here." Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air)"After Brittany Point, a long tack and after rounding Wolf Rock there was a huge wind shift, more than 100°, from SW to NE, the breeze is coming from everywhere... The night was all right, I was happy to have left Brest in a good position, I was afraid of getting stuck somehow in the gulf. The sea is confused, we have a long stretch upwind tacking to the Fastnet, it won't be easy to find the best track to Kinsale. I keep my fingers crossed." Yann Eliès (Generali Europ Assistance)"A front just passed, the wind shifted abruptly but the rain has stopped and it's good after a whole night spent under, literally, buckets of water! You couldn't see much out there. I tried to go West and a cargo ship made a u turn just in front of me, I was obliged to take down the spinnaker. I lost some ground, even if I'm always in the top pack. There are still options to be made: a ridge, wind shifts, all the upwind part to the Irish coast that's going to be fun..."

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The 44 skippers taking part to Leg 3 of the Solitaire du Figaro left Brest today for a 349 miles long route bound for Kinsale.  The start was hampered by the bulk of the fleet clustering the pin end of the line, causing individual recalls and several protest flags to be raised.  Leaving the goulet de Brest prove to be as hard as expected with collisions, penalty turns and a boat actually hitting the rocks. Portuguese skipper, Francisco Lobato, rounded the Radio France mark in 5th position ahead of his fellow first time participants.

Skippers left the pontoons from 11.00 waving goodbye to shore teams, families, friends and supporters ready to embark on the 349 miles of pure competitive sailing to Kinsale, together with La Belle Poule, the French Naval tall ship who hoisted her full set of sails, offering an spectacular and rare show for the gathered public out to watch the start.

Even before the start procedure was given, the atmosphere was full of excitement and expectation. At the start several boats were over the line, some going back to take a penalty and re-start, but the situation was pretty confused and many skipper's decided to hoist the protest flag. At the weather mark, the bouée Seamobile, two boats collided and further penalty turns ensued.

At the Radio France mark, the much-appreciated first prize went to François Gabart on Skipper Macif 2010, who was followed by Thomas Rouxel on Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne and Sébastien Josse on Vendée. Young Portuguese newcomer to the Figaro, Francisco Lobato on ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM had an excellent start to then round the mark in fifth, first among the rookies. Other non French skippers were reported to be in the second half of the fleet: Swiss Bernrd Stamm in 29th, Italian Pietro D'Alì in 36th, Jonny Malbon in 39th and Franco/German Isabelle Joschke in 43rd.

Shortly after rounding the Radio France buoy, Gabart ran onto the rocks whilst sailing very close to shore.  He was forced to get off the boat and was then able to literally push the boat off the rocks without requesting outside assistance and immediately went back to racing.

Upon leaving Brest and the bay of Camaret, the fleet made course up to the Four Channel, which can prove to be a very complex stretch of the course, especially renown for the tough cross currents.  The Molène archipelago and the isle of Ushant will have to be left to port side, then the Portsall plateau leaving the cardinal mark west Grande Basse de Portsall to port side. The leaders could get there, according to the latest ETA tonight between 8 and 9 p.m.

The fleet will then begin the second part of the leg that will take the skippers across the Channel towards Wolf Rock, which must be left to port.  The fleet is expected to reach Wolf Rock around breakfast time Tuesday.

Kinsale will welcome the 2010 Solitaire du Figaro for the 19th time in the 41-year history of the classic summer race, the highest number of visits received by any venue to have hosted the race stops.

Quotes from the skippers in Brest, before leaving for Leg 3
Pietro D'Alì (I.NOVA.3)
"This is not going an easy leg but at least it's going to be fast. The latest weather report says there will be more wind that we thought, so it will probably less hard to get out of the gulf. The cold front will come later than expected, there is a chance that we will round Wolf Rock reaching and then a long upwind part to the Fastnet. The wind will be pretty instable after that, we will need all our focus tacking up to Kinsale. The finish is expected for Wednesday might, it's going to be pretty quick... You will have to stay in the leading group from the start, not to accumulate too much distance, as apparently there will be no stop and go this time. I feel all right, especially after a massage and a good dose of sleep, I'm ready to go for the third one. I hope I will have the chance to fight to be in the top ten."

Armel Le Cléac'h (Britair)
"Sure, it's the shortest one, but we will be busy anyway. Getting out the goulet de Brest (bottleneck harbour) this afternoon against the current won't be easy, then the long tack to Cornwall, speed needed there, and the Celtic sea to complicate things further. Not simple at all, we'll have to watch out. As in any other leg... you can loose ground and be left behind. The start is tricky but the rest as well, with many options to take. I'm a bit tired, that's true because you never recover 100% of your energies. We are midpoint now with a tricky leg to be dealt with. And it's not just all about speed, but there's also strategy, weather routing and we are under stress."

Jean-Paul Mouren (Marseillentreprises)
"I'm convinced it's going to be a good leg, as the previous ones. It will probably be less sunny when we'll get to Ireland; I have my umbrella ready... My wish? You know, choosing the right option or the wrong one takes exactly the same energy, so I will try and be on the right track, be at one with the weather.  That's what you need to do, be on the same wavelength with nature, or it's going to be all wrong."

François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010)
"We had two good ones, I must admit I'm biased because all went well for me. And for this one, we have all the right ingredients: light wind and current, then reaching under spinnaker or genoa; the Celtic Sea is going to be interesting too because there is a small secondary low pressure and there will surely be wind shifts to consider. Then another ridge and another front. A full plate for the game to be fun. I'm happy to get going because I feel all right, the boat is ready and I guess I got the rhythm. I need to go on sailing like I did on the previous two legs: look for maximum speed and try to be at the right place at the right moment."

Marc Emig (
"I need to learn to sail in the rain! More seriously, I wish to be able to stay in the top group, not to give up when things go wrong, be back in the match and get to Kinsale in a good mood with the longest possible lead. Then I will still have the last leg to try a coup and go up some 5 or 6 places."

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

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Published in Figaro

The 44 skippers get ready for Leg 3 of the Solitaire du Figaro in a surprisingly sunny and warm Brest while hundreds of supporters crowd the race village and the pontoons. Tomorrow at 14.00 they will leave Brittany for a challenging new leg up to the Channel, the Celtic Sea, the famous Fastnet Rock and the stunning village of Kinsale, where they return after a 13 years long absence. 349 miles of close and demanding racing, in strong currents, choppy seas and stiff breeze. Plus some accurate strategy towards the finish. The game is not over and many are hunting for glory.

Skippers and shore teams are giving the final touches to the 44 Figaro II that tomorrow at 14.00 will leave Brest for 349 miles of pure competition to Kinsale.

After leaving Brest and the bay of Camaret, the fleet will sail back up the Four channel which may prove difficult due to weak winds, swell and cross currents. The Molène archipelago and the isle of Ushant will have to be left to port side, the Four channel will be left off the reefs of the Portsall plateau leaving the cardinal mark west Grande Basse de Portsall to port side.

The second part of the leg will take the fleet across the Channel, approximately 90 miles to the Cornish coast, marked by Wolf Rock to be left imperatively to port side. The direct route will take the 44 skippers to sail between the Scilly Isles and Land's End. The 165-mile long sail up the Celtic sea will take the fleet to round the mythical Fastnet lighthouse, which will have to be left to starboard before heading East. The last stretch of around 45 nautical miles will surely be very hard for the tired sailors who will have to make use of their last energies to get to Kinsale, finish of leg 3, where the race has not returned to since its 28th edition in 1997. If this leg is the shortest, it certainly will not be the easiest. The passage along the coast of Finistère and the long and complex route from the Fastnet to Kinsale will no doubt be the hardest parts of this leg to negotiate.

According to the latest weather bulletin issued by Meteo France expert Sylvain Mondon the skippers will have to deal with a first part relatively good as far as wind is concerned, with a south westerly breeze of 10/14 knots that will accompany them to the Scilly. The wind will later strengthen due to a front hovering over the area and the sea state will be particularly hard to tackle.

Apart form the French stars such as Le Cleac'h, Gabart, Rouxel, Beyou or the best placed female skipper Jeanne Gregoire and the first rookie Anthony Marchand, the international skippers are also ready to fight for a "personal best" in Leg 3 or to take their revenge after somehow disappointing performances. So far the top spot among the non-French goes to expert Swiss Bernard Stamm (who is is also third placed in the newcomers special ranking, racing his first Solitaire ever) in 18th, French/German Isabelle Joschke is 28th, Italian Pietro D'Alì is 31st, Portoguese Francisco Lobato is 38th and unlucky Briton Jonny Malbon, who suffered an autopilot failure in Leg 2 and was forced to steer for three days, is in last position but ready to strike back.

Kinsale will welcome the 2010 Solitaire du Figaro for the 19th time in the 41-year history of the race. Kinsale still is the location to have hosted the highest number of legs of the race. No doubt the skippers will be eager to discover or rediscover this charming village, which has so strongly marked the life of the event.

Quotes from the skippers in Brest, at midpoint in the 2010 Solitaire

Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat)

"From a racing standpoint it's an average performance, I'm 18th, at mid fleet. I still make so many different mistakes, I guess I'm still far from the leaders' level but it does not come as a surprise. I find what I came looking for and I'm pretty satisfied, all considered. In the second leg I made a huge strategical error after Penmarch, that could have been even more costly. I didn't in the first leg, just had some speed issues and lost ground. I'm enjoying this close racing very much, it's funny to have always someone next to you. It's useful to keep learning, I'll try to keep the faults to a minumim and go up in the general ranking.

I would like to do more but the schedule for the 60' is already quite intense, the Figaro is not for amateurs , it's also physically very demanding, it's fun but hard."

Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire)

"You have to suffer, in the Solitaire. Hurt yourself on the first leg is ok... but in the second one I really had to push to the limits to get closer to the top. This is what I did, worked hard, slept very little but still tried to think on the long term. And the leg was shorter. Everyone tells me that I'm in top form but I feel as usual, maybe I'm a bit sad because I miss my little one a lot (Jeanne had to skip last year's Solitaire to give birth to a baby girl ed. note) when I'm ashore. I could go home for a while and see her. I feel ok and my position suits me all right, five minutes from the fourth (Jérémie Beyou) but I only have a 30 minutes lead on the 14th, need to be on the lookout."

Romain Attanasio (Savéol)

"The third leg looks promising: at least we will have wind! But I'm wary, the shortest could be the trickiest. You will have to take a good start, deal with the contrary current, be in the leading group to the Scilly, then choose the right option in the Celtic Sea, tacking upwind. And watch out for the last 50 miles along the Irish coast, I hope we won't meet all together again in front of the finish line like it happened in Dingle. Experience show us that anything can happen up there. I find this year the technical level of the so called rookies is incredibly high. In the past being in the Top Ten was a big success, today being among the first half of the fleet is a feat! It takes twelve months for the young sailors to learn what we acquired in ten years!"

Reminder of the key dates:


Suzuki Prologue: Sunday 25th July

Start of the 1st leg: Tuesday 27th July

- GIJON (515 miles)

Start of the 2nd leg: Tuesday 3rd August

- BREST (385 miles)

Start of the 3rd leg: Monday 9th August

- KINSALE (349 miles)

Expected arrival of the boats: Wednesday 11th August

Start of the 4th leg: Monday 16th August


Expected arrival of the boats: Thursday 19th August

Closing Parade: Sunday 22nd August

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

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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."

"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
A group of nine teenagers from the Kinsale area is embarking on a Round Ireland Challenge in aid of the world's largest charity hospital ship.
The keen sailors, most of whom have just finished their exams, will be sailing a 39ft yacht round the coast of Ireland over six days in August, to raise money for the international charity, Mercy Ships. The charity provides free medical and humanitarian aid to the poorest countries in Africa via its 500ft hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. It is the first time any of the youngsters have undertaken such a challenge and their training starts this week at the Kinsale Yacht Club, where they will familiarise themselves with the yacht Sonas kindly supplied to them for the challenge by its owner David Ross

Ben Fusco, 19, from Kinsale, said, "We are all keen sailors and wanted to combine our love of sailing with doing something for charity. There are lots of great maritime related charities out there but when we heard about the work of Mercy Ships, we were taken by the idea that a ship provides free medical care to some of the poorest people in the world.

"Hearing that thousands of people every year are given free medical care by volunteers on the ship was inspiring and we knew we had to do something special to raise money for them – hence our Round Ireland Challenge.

More on the forum thread started by Ben Fusco HERE.

Published in Offshore
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