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Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) lifted the overall title for the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro at the end of race prizegiving in Saint Nazaire, France today. It is Le Cléach’s third time of winning after successes in 2003 and 2010. With the fourth leg cancelled before starting on Saturday night due to the complete absence of wind, Le Cléac’h’s winning margin is 10 minutes and 43 seconds over Fred Duthil (Techniques Voiles/Cabinet Bourhis Generali) who took second after winning the third stage. And third overall is young French ace Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir). At just 23 years old Laperche is on just his second ever La Solitaire after debuting in 11th last year.

Top rookie this year is Kevin Bloch of the Team Vendée Formation group, finishing 12th overall.

And in fifth place, overall Ireland’s Tom Dolan received the VIVI Trophy for the best racer from outside of France.

“ I am delighted to see Tom win and delighted to see that in just the second year since the trophy was donated it really has become established as something that the sailors want to fight for and at the same time they are now getting some well-deserved recognition. ” Said Marcus Hutchinson, who with his wife Megan, donated the trophy last year.

“ And I am pleased to see it go to a fellow Irishman in Tom and he wins if not for being tenth or twelfth but for a great fifth place. He has been consistent this year and that is what La Solitaire is all about. This race so challenging and so complicated and he has worked hard. And it is nice, in a way, that he does not come from Dublin or Cork or one of the Irish sailing centres, his success says anyone can come and do this if they have the will and the determination, anything is possible. Tom has shown that. ”

Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) finished in tenth place overall (+2hrs 11mins behind the winner), pledging to come back next year to do better and to fight even harder.

“ I am happy with my top ten, that is always a good result in La Solitaire, I know I can do better and I know I can be better and so I am going to come back stronger and harder. I think our approach over the last couple of weeks has been spot on. I did not feel so quick early on in the season but I made the right moves towards the end. I am happy for Tom Dolan he has had an amazing race, he was solid. Tom did a brilliant job. ”

On his first La Solitaire du Figaro since his one and only experience in 2011 when he was 18th, Phil Sharp (OceansLab) finished up 13th overall (+2hrs 41mins) “ Mostly I am happy I have been improving on every leg, and improving a lot. It is amazing to be in the Top 13. I think overall the result on this race goes down to preparation. But for me the improvement is noticeable and there is a huge satisfaction in just learning to do it better, and some of that comes from just being out there seeing boats around you and picking up the pace with them. I have come on a long way.”
For a programme which only started just three weeks before the race started Jack Bouttell can be pleased which his 15th on Fromagerie Gillot (2hrs 43 mins). “ You always finish thinking you could have done a bit better but overall I am happy with where I finished, there are some good guys behind me and some good guys just ahead. I lacked a bit of speed at times. Would I come back? Yes and No. It is addictive. Look at leg 3 it was so long and hard, four days of hell, but you finish disappointed and cant wait to get out and improve. The sponsors Fromagerie Gillot have never been involved in sailing and they have really enjoyed it and got something good from it. ”

Having sailed so brilliantly until the latter stages of Stage 3 Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) deserved much better than the 17th place he finished in. To have been third going into what proved the last leg and not had a fourth leg to fight back on was doubly cruel to Goodchild who nonetheless established himself as one of the best Figaro sailors of the moment, sailing well across the wind range.

They said:
8th, Yann Eliès (Queguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir):

When you finish a Solitaire, do you say never again or bring on the next one?
Mostly there is a kind of hangover, because the race is over. It is something that is so good, that we get so addicted to that in the end, we kind of have the feeling of the kid who had a great weekend and has to come home Sunday evening because there is school the next day. It’s the same and it’s very hard.

At 50, is this La Solitaire still as great?
Yes, I think it is doing pretty well, thanks in particular to people like Francis Le Goff (the race director) who is there to watch over it and preserve the spirit. We have to continue to make stages of at least three nights at sea, especially as we have great support that allows us to make progress and to go well. The first stage we did more than 600 miles, it went quick. So don't lets go on without doing the 600 to 800 miles, the boat is made for that.

Now you are six triple winners, is the new lad up to the task?
Yes all things considered Armel is arguably the most talented of us. We must not forget that he was second in his first La Solitaire du Figaro (in 2002) and he has won the Vendée Globe on his third attempt and having been second twice before. He fully deserves this third win

What are the surprises for you on this 51st edition?
It's only half a surprise, but I like Tom Laperche, I think he's a future great champion, really. He is gold, to be so mature at that age and after two Solitaries to be third is rarely seen. I also want to talk about girls, these two kids (Elodie Bonafous and Violette Dorange) who dared to come to La Solitaire and who did not let themselves down. I hope they will make other girls want to come because we are going to need it in the years to come. And I want to see Robin Follin again, I found him good, nice, he was happy to dare as you saw with his passage on the other side of Ushant, to take this kind of option at his age, that means he has guts. I would like him to have his chance again with the opportunity to do some real preparation, because he has really struggled this year.

Published in Figaro

With not enough wind to run Stage 4 of La Solitaire du Figaro Ireland’s Tom Dolan secured an excellent fifth place overall on Smurfit Kappa. It is the best international overall placing in the historic French multi-stage offshore race series since 1997 when Switzerland’s Dominique Wavre placed second, and a remarkable result considering it is just Dolan’s third challenge and last year he was 33rd.

The 33-year-old who has lived in Concarneau, Brittany since 2009 but grew up on a farm in rural County Meath came into the gruelling four-stage race aiming to get into the top half of the fleet and to underline his potential to Irish sailing administrators considering the selection process for the 2024 Olympic Mixed Double Offshore category which comes in for the Paris games.

Having worked hard on his mental approach in the early season, Dolan made an excellent start by leading the 624 miles first stage across the Celtic Sea before Fastnet Rock. He lost four places on the approach to the light and more on the long run and reach to the finish, but the 10th place finish was a foundation to build on. He followed up with a solid 11th in the second stage and his career-best seventh on the last stage ensured he was fifth going into the last leg which could not be sailed.

“Right now I am so happy with the result. I came here with hopes of finishing in the top 15. I really wanted to do better than last year when I was 33rd, so to be able to come here and finish in fifth place is amazing. I am delighted.” Grinned Dolan on the dock, “ “To be honest the best thing that happened in terms of preparation was doing so badly in the Solo Maitre Coq race early in the season. I got a bit of a kicking and I realised the problem was in my head and did something about it.”

It is all in the head. I never put enough importance on mental preparation. It is a bit mad this sport. You can have nice sails and the smoothest hull, nice rudders and a fast boat but the head is the most important thing. I think.”

He explained, “I saw a psychologist and we worked on my confidence, making sure that I felt confident in the hard work I have done to get here and not being overawed by the world class sailors I am sailing against. Before when things went wrong I would fall apart. This time I just stuck to what I knew from my preparation and ran with what I thought myself not what other good guys were doing. And so this time my head was much clearer. I have always understood the weather and I feel like I have a good feel for it. And I worked hard at preparing and knowing what might happen and then trusting myself, at the same time not taking too many risks.”

“I hope people at home in Ireland that others can do this. I have worked hard and I hope also this might help give me a fair crack at selection for 2024.”

Dolan added, “ The best moments of the race were going towards the Fastnet Rock in first place or in the lead group anyway, that was fairly incredible. And then this evening when the leg was cancelled, it was all a bit strange to hope that there would be no wind. And so coming back in under engine realising I had done it was brilliant.

“ I have to say that I am here as the best ‘foreigner’ but really Sam Goodchild I have to say was better than me and just got unlucky on one stupid transition at Belle Ile. I should say the VIVI Trophy should be his. But, yes, in La Solitaire you have to be lucky too. I am going to get lots of sleep now and then take my girlfriend on holiday, but then I hear that I am sixth in the French offshore championship so that might have to wait!”

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) took fifth place overall in the La Solitare du Figaro Race tonight, the best finish on the General Classification overall by a non French skipper since 1997 when Switzerland’s Dominique Wavre finished runner up. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy.

Dolan finished 10th on the first stage, 11th on the second and seventh into Saint Nazaire at the end of the third stage. It is an excellent result for the 33-year-old on just his third La Solitaire. 

With the fourth and final stage of the race cancelled this evening due to the complete absence of wind, French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h wins the 51st edition. It is a third victory for the 43-year-old skipper of Banque Populaire, who already triumphed in 2003 and 2010. Frédéric Duthil (Technique Voile / Cabinet Bourhis Generali) and Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir) completed the podium.

Vendée Globe winner Le Cléac’h joins the elite group who have won the French multi stage race three times, Philippe Poupon, Jean Le Cam, Michel Desjoyeaux, Jérémie Beyou, Yann Eliès.

French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h wins the 51st editionFrench skipper Armel Le Cléac'h wins the 51st edition

It is a very special victory for the skipper of Banque Populaire, who, before the start of this 51st edition, made the race his "big objective of the season", and for which he has carefully prepared since January. 

He was fourth on the first stage round Fastnet and into Saint-Quay-Portrieux, he was the imperious winner of the second leg into Dunkirk – scoring his seventh stage victory on La Solitaire and then fourth on the very long third stage into Saint-Nazaire, after having been very deep in the pack. He made back more than ten miles to rescue his hopes of winning outright.

Friend and rival Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) said of Le Cléac’h Stage 2 win, “He gave us a sailing lesson. It reminds me the form and feeling he had when he won La Solitaire by winning three stages out of four in 2010. When he's like that, he's scary ”.

La Solitaire du Figaro race director Francis Le Goff added: “Armel didn’t come here to finish second, he doesn't care about being on the podium, he just wants to win. So when he feels there is a good option, he pushes it all the way. " 

Saint Nazaire which hosted the Stage 3 finish and Stage 4 has been good for Le Cléac’h. He won the 2003 race here by beating Alain Gautier by 13 seconds. With the hat-trick in his pocket he moves on to his future projects with added confidence, supporting Clarisse Crémer in preparing for the Vendée Globe under the Banque Populaire colours and seeing the build of the Ultim Banque Populaire XI, concluded next spring. 

Le Cléac’h said: “Winning this third Solitaire was the goal I had been chasing for two years so that's great. I join my friends with whom we almost started out together, Yann (Eliès) and Jérémie (Beyou), as well as the ‘grown ups’ Michel Desjoyeaux, Philippe Poupon and Jean Le Cam, they are all great sailors, I am happy to join this little closed club. This is my twelfth participation, I started my first Solitaire twenty years ago, and it has been a long course since then. I have not won every year, there have been 2003, 2010 and now 2020. I had to be patient to get this third one. I am so delighted, there was a great atmosphere on this Solitaire, a level of fun and a bit of madness, all the generations mingling with each other, with the experienced like me, Yann and Fred (Duthil) who made a nice second place, and behind the youngsters who will grow and get better and better, they are the champions of tomorrow. I'm glad I beat them again this year, but it will be more and more complicated in the years to come. We did more than 1,500 miles, three big stages all with lots of suspense, varied weather, we managed to race what was a very complete course, we went as far as Dunkirk, we went to the Fastnet, we finished here in Saint- Nazaire, it's such a great race the Solitaire, I'm happy to have put my name on in the book again and to have achieved my goal. I had given myself two years to win, coming back after having experienced a very difficult Route du Rhum. All the work that we did with the team paid off, we had to re-motivate ourselves, start again on a new project, that will really get into the best possible conditions for the rest of the project with Banque Populaire. I thank them again for their trust, because 2018 has been a very hard year, two years later I am dedicating this Solitaire to them as they have never won it , it's great! "

Published in Figaro
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County Meath's Tom Dolan will have his chance to seal Ireland's best ever La Solitaire du Figaro this evening after completing three stand-out legs to be in striking distance of a podium result.

The final, deciding stage of the La Solitaire du Figaro is usually billed as a 24-hour sprint, quite literally designed to test who still can best draw on the remaining reserves of energy for one last day-long no holds barred battle to the final finish line but this evening it may well be a drifting match according to the weather forecasts.

Looking at this light winds all or nothing scenario does not fill Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) with too much joy. The 33-year-old racer, on just his third La Solitaire, lies in an excellent fifth place overall, ready to challenge for the podium. He is within 28 minutes and 22 seconds of third-placed Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir) but resolves to carry on with his same low-risk approach and to not get overwrought by the challenge that faces him.

“I feel grand, my back is a bit sore but then I am sure everyone’s is at this stage. It looks like a very complicated stage, light winds, strong tides. I am a bit worried to be honest because you could lose everything you have done good on this last stage. But I will just do as much as I can in terms of the prep. I have a couple of ideas in terms of strategy but I will work like I have these first three legs and see how I go. It would be a dream to hold on to fifth. I am definitely so much more confident in the way I am approaching things and sailing well enough.” Said Dolan, “But I have not really looked to closely at the standings, I am not sure I will. I think better to go out and sail own race as best I can.”

According to the weather gurus who advise the solo skippers on the fine detail strategies and the sailors themselves, the decisive Stage 4 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro looks set to be a drifting match for the most part of the proposed 83 nautical miles passage out from Saint Nazaire to round the Ile de Yeu. In winds predicted to be between one and just over six knots use of the tidal currents (coeff 113) could decide the race.

"It's a short course, because there is no wind," says Francis Le Goff, the race director bluntly. In terms of contingencies there will be a buoy set 12 miles north of the island to allow intermediate times to be taken in case they cannot finish. And, after the 1915hrs Saturday evening start time, if the leaders have not yet passed the south of the Island by 1000hrs Sunday morning the race will be abandoned. The stage must be at least 50 miles long.

Le Goff asserts “La Solitaire du Figaro is not a coastal race, this stage must be at least 50 miles long to uphold the ethos of racing on the open sea. And similarly, if there is not sufficient wind on the water by 2030hrs the race will be cancelled as the rules do not allow a start in the dark.”

Having been postponed by more than 24 hours to allow the skippers enough rest because Stage 3 overran on time, the schedule requires the race to be decided by Sunday afternoon.

It is perhaps not the ideal scenario to settle the destination of this year’s La Solitaire title. But the tension between leader Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) and nearest challenger Fred Duthil (Technique Voile/Cabinet Bourhis Generali) was notable at today’s – virtual- weather briefing. Both in turn queried the finer details of the race planning.

Le Cléac’h is 10 minutes 43 seconds up on Duthil and victory in this edition was the sole focus of this year for the 44 year old two times overall winner whose La Solitaire career includes wins in 2003 and 2010 and is neatly punctuated by three consecutive Vendée Globe podiums, second in 2008 and 2012 and winning in 2016.

In contrast Duthil, at 46 the oldest sailor in the fleet, with three La Solitaire top threes to his name, came into this La Solitaire for the sheer fun of it, not having raced the Beneteau Figaro 3 before and having only sailed his borrowed boat four times before the start.

But his cheeky victory on Stage 3, allied to a solid 14th on the first leg at 14 minutes behind Le Cléac’h and eighth on Stage 2 48 minutes behind Le Cléac’h gives Duthil a fighting chance of lifting the overall title.

“Of course, this is the most complicated scenario for me, with very uncertain weather, little wind and a lot of current, I hope that this last stage can be contested under normal racing conditions”, confirms Armel Le Cléac'h who knows how small the winning overall margins can be having beaten Alain Gautier by just 13 seconds in 2003.

"I won’t be losing sleep, I have seen races like this before. As long as it stays as sport and we are all in the same boat, we will have to be good right until the end to get this victory. "

Frédéric Duthil is determined to mount a strong challenge. “Second, third, fourth, fifth, tenth in the standings, for me, that's not going to change my life. I have already made three podiums on La Solitaire, once second, twice third, a fourth would be great, but the past has taught me that you only want to be the winner. What interests me is trying to make up for those ten minutes and fight Armel. "

He continues, “Entering the last stage ten minutes behind the leader means that I'm no longer in a position to just tell myself that I'm going to sail for fun. I'm still going to sail for fun, but also to sail to win. I see that my speed is fine and so is the way I've been sailing from the start, so I am saying to myself: why not? I'm really leaving with a frame of mind to try to catch up.”

Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) is ready to fight to finish on a high note after the huge disappointment of being in the top three for most of Stage 3, leading into the final 30 miles before being caught in a calm which saw him drop from third to 17th overall.

He said “It is so annoying to come so close to getting a really good result and then falling at the last hurdle. But that is sailing. That is La Solitaire and why you come back to La Solitaire again and again. You come back to do better than last time.” Said Goodchild, “I have been on good form generally so hopefully I can re-find that form for this last leg. “There is such a small window to get this leg in. The positive side is if you are trying to protect a position then it could be quite stressful. Unfortunately, now I am not doing trying to do that. I might sail a little more freely than on the last leg where I knew the weather was unstable and light and so I did not take too many risks and go into corners.”

Like others, Goodchild found the last leg extremely tiring and that may have affected his decision making towards the end. “I don’t think I have been that tired before. And them with the frustration and the adrenalin mix of the final 24 hours of that leg, there was not much sleep. But right now when I look back with hindsight I can’t see or say what I would have done differently. We were going straight for the finish line and the plan was not to get too close to the island. But we sailed into a hole and everyone sailed round us. I hung on for a bit too long when Yann chose to cut his losses earlier. But basically everyone sailed round us. But it is history. I will just have to do the Figaro again. It is great racing, there is nothing like it, in one design like this there is no hiding place and no excuses.”

Stage 4 is due to start 1915hrs local time Saturday.

Rankings https://www.lasolitaire.com/rankings/live
Tracker: https://lasolitaire.geovoile.com/2020/tracker/

Published in Figaro

The newfound more robust, cool-headed approach continues to work for Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan who today finished seventh on Leg 3 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro, an epic four day 492 miles light winds slog from Dunkirk all the way down the Channel, around the Brittany peninsula finishing off Saint Nazaire on the Loire estuary this evening.

As Afloat reported earlier, The best ever finish of his three La Solitaires to date sees the 33-year-old skipper of Smurfit Kappa rising to fifth overall in the 33 strong fleet 1 hour and 29 minutes behind overall leader French skipper Armel Le Cléac’h but only 28 minutes shy of the podium.

No non-French skipper has finished on the overall podium since 1988 when Swiss skipper Laurent Bourgnon won. The best international finish overall recently was Britain’s Alan Roberts’ ninth in 2015, Ireland’s Damian Foxall was tenth overall in 1998 when he won the last leg.

The stage which started last Saturday afternoon from Dunkirk was raced mainly in light winds and passed through three major tidal gates where big gaps were opened up in the 33 boat fleet.

The final 30 miles today along the south Brittany coast were complicated and saw major upsets as the winds died completely. French ace Fred Duthil lead a breakaway trio offshore, outside Belle Ile island where they found more consistent breeze, they were able to pull back some eight miles of initial deficit to take the top three places.

Dolan was at one time leading the main peloton but was quietly delighted with his seventh place, adding to his 10th and 11th on Stages 1 and 2.

He wins the VIVI Trophy award for the best non-French skipper on the leg.

Dolan who was 32nd overall last year said: “To be honest with you I am a bit surprised because I really have not been doing anything different in the way I sail the boat, I trim the sails the same way and everything else but I really have made an effort to get my head sorted and so I don’t lose the plot a bit the way I maybe used to. And I really don’t focus on the other boats I just concentrate on my speed and trim and don’t get wound up where I am. But fifth overall, I better get some sleep before the last leg.”

He adds, “I am really enjoying the sailing much more too. That was a very hard leg, really very typical of what we had last year lots going on and very little time to sleep and recover. I had a bit of sleep on the first night but really very little since, but you really get very tired.”

Standings

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Ireland's Tom Dolan has finished the third leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro race in seventh overall, a result that will almost guarantee him a top five overall going into the final leg of the French solo marathon.

Dolan sailed back from as low as 21st place a day ago on the leg from Dunkirk and sailed into Saint-Nazaire this evening in fifth overall. For a time it looked like he may drop back as rivals such as Goodchild and Macaire finished but it looks certain now that Dolan will hold fifth overall with one leg left to race.

It's a deserved result for the Meath man who has kept to his promise of delivering a top result with some consistent sailing in this, his third Figaro Race.

32 miles away from his arrival in Saint-Nazaire after plenty of rebounds and surprises, the Flying Irishman, as he is is known among competitors, was as high as fifth on the most technical stage of La Solitaire du Figaro but the snakes and ladders continued and he dropped two places on his route to the line.

Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) kept his head through the final hours crossing seventh, the best finish of his La Solitaire du Figaro career. Tenth on the first stage, 11th on the second, Dolan is up to fifth overall, just reward for his good all-round speed, tenacity and consistent, minimal risk choices. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy award for the best overseas, non-French skipper to finish.

Dolan said: “ To be honest with you I am a bit surprised because I really have not been doing anything different in the way I sail the boat, I trim the sails the same way and everything else but I really have made an effort to get my head sorted and so I don’t lose the plot a bit the way I may be used to. And I really don’t focus on the other boats I just concentrate on my speed and trim and don’t get wound up where I am. But fifth overall, I better get some sleep before the last leg! ”

Published in Figaro

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is delivering on his pre-race promise of consistent sailing and is now up to 13th place and less than four miles behind the leader. It's an impressive performance from the County Meath sailor to add to his 10th and 11th places scored in the first two legs of La Solitaire du Figaro, making it the best offshore result so far from any Irish Figaro competitor.

Dublin Rookie Kenny Rumball in his first edition of the French marathon race lies 27th in the 33-boat fleet. Tracker here

Approaching the Chaussée de Sein mark late this Tuesday afternoon, with some 125 nautical miles still to sail to the finish line off Saint Nazaire, three times La Solitaire du Figaro winner Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) was holding a very slender lead over Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton). Racing through the strong currents off Ushant on the north-west corner of Brittany with only very, very light winds Goodchild continues to hold his own as he matches Eliès who he pipped to second place at the Stage 2 finish into Dunkirk. Were Eliès to cross first he would draw level with his long term rival Le Cléac’h on seven stage wins

But while the British solo racer continued his carefully measured approach through a day which was marked by a significant bounce back by General Classification Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire).

Just when observers in his native France were voicing concerns that the twice La Solitaire champion had spent all of his overall lead of 37 minutes – and maybe more as he lay 24th and some ten miles behind the pacemakers - Le Cléac’h, The Jackal, again proved his willingness to take risks.

Cutting the corner at Ushant, passing down inside the small islands of the Ile de Quemenes and Ile Molene Stage 2 winner Le Cléac’h steadily clawed back five or six miles back on the leaders. Momentarily up to second, his actual placing is of no consequence. Of more significance, the move brings him to within three miles of the two leaders, in theory just about restoring his overall lead.

It is the third time in as many legs that Le Cléac’h has been bold enough to split from the fleet. Each time he has gained. On the first leg, just as today, it got the Vendée Globe winner back into contact with the leading vanguard, while on the second leg’s first night it proved to be his winning move.

But with light, offshore north-easterly breezes set to remain at around nine knots or less until the finish line where the leaders are expected tomorrow morning, anything can still happen. Another small low-pressure centre looks set to develop tonight centred over Lorient which will again upset the wind fields and make for lighter breezes. There appears to be more wind pressure offshore but at the expense of sailing a longer distance, and the breeze seems set to head and drop near the line.

But with the worst of the tidal gates, and the rocky, technical, tidal Raz de Sein behind them this evening and it is largely a straight line gennaker reach to the Loire Atlantique line where the winners should cross tomorrow morning. After 370 miles of racing since leaving Dunkirk on Saturday evening there are just two miles separating the top ten solo skippers, and 28 of the 33 skippers within 10 miles of the lead.

For Goodchild, the battle over these final hours to the line is mainly with Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who is second overall at 6 minutes and 29 seconds ahead of him when they left Dunkirk. The British skipper in turn had 6 minutes over Eliès who is fourth overall and Goodchild has 7 minutes and 15 seconds over Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir).

Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is nicely positioned now in eighth, 1.8 miles behind the pacemaker but within reach of the podium, just half a mile behind his compatriot Goodchild. Phil Sharp (OceansLab) is 13th alongside Ireland’s Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) both 3.8 miles behind the leader.

Tracker here

Published in Figaro

Having led the 33 strong La Solitaire du Figaro fleet since the early hours of this morning Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) has had to see his hard-earned margin evaporate in a fast failing breeze off the Baie de Morlaix this evening. The two Irish sailors in leg three are currently placed 19th (Tom Dolan) and (Kenny Rumball) 30th. Tracker here.

For the 30-year-old Brit solo racer who placed twice on the podium of warm-up Figaro races this season and who, on Sunday, started the 492 miles Stage 3 from Dunkirk in third position overall, seeing the fleet fall in on his stern was not unexpected as the forecasted shut down in the light easterly breeze arrived.

Goodchild has sailed an outstanding leg so far, fast in all conditions, focused and making assured, relatively low-risk moves. But the final 195 nautical miles, around the tip of Brittany, and south to the finish line at Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire look set to be painfully slow. “We are just coming up to the north Brittany coast. Forecast-wise now we only have what we get from MeteoConsult and that leaves some grey areas, they are not very precise. At the moment the idea is to get to coast quickly to be able to hide or anchor if we need from the strong tide.” Reported Goodchild today as he raced side by side with Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who won Stage 1.

The Leyton skipper added, “I took advantage of my investment to the SW yesterday and managed to round the Cap de la Hague in the lead with Xavier Macaire who was further out to sea. Achilles Nebout went off Alderney and Adrien Hardy sailed off towards Guernsey, but we may all get back together again depending on what happens to the weather. We’re waiting for the next weather forecast to see what is coming up. We’re expecting to come to a stop off Northern Brittany and we’ll see how things get going again. As usual, there is a lot of seaweed. There are a hundred miles to sail now with very little wind. Guernsey looks good from here. I have never been there but we’re sailing close to the rocks and enjoying the view. Conditions have been easy and pleasant so far.”

Sounding relaxed today Sam Goodchild has already shown considerable maturity and serenity so far and worked carefully with Corentin Douguet on a weather strategy, his friend and rival French skipper being forced out of the race with a damaged vertebrae in his back. “Sam really has followed the game plan we developed beforehand to the letter.” Commented Douguet, “ He is sailing very quickly, always making the right decisions, without ever taking any risks and so far the conditions have been to his advantage. Certain options taken by skippers after passing Dieppe surprised me, but it is not in my philosophy to choose extreme routings when conditions are uncertain. We can still see guys like Eric Péron (French Touch) and Adrien Hardy (Ocean Attitude), who like to "bang the corners". The crucial phases went well for Sam, who is having a very good season. But the remainder of the leg seems more complicated. It seems to me that the hardest part is yet to come.”

With Armel Le Cléac’h more than 12 miles, or two hours behind, in 24th today these two sailors would top the General Classification, but this promises to be an exceptionally challenging, slow night as small, localised low pressure systems such away all of the breeze.
Macaire, who took a narrow lead back from Goodchild this evening, a matter of 150 metres of so, said today, “The sun is out, so it is fairly pleasant today. It’s nice to be out at the front of the fleet. We have got away from the pack behind. The wind is going to drop off this evening and during the night. So a lot could happen. The pack could catch up. I don’t know what to expect. It looks like it is going to be a long one. We knew what was going to happen back at the start with several areas of calm ahead of us. We have just been through one on this second day of racing. And there’s a second one late this afternoon or this evening. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. I have a rough idea of what lies ahead, but I can’t say for the moment what my strategy will be. That will depend on how the wind shifts. We may be close to the coast or further off. We’ve certainly got plenty to amuse ourselves with”

The six leading boats were compacted back to within one mile of each other. The favourable ebb current should work with them from 1800hrs this evening to help them pass the entrance to the Baie de Morlaix. This is probably the most familiar stretch of coastline for the Figaro racers but there will certainly be elements of good and bad luck come into play tonight. The tide will help for the first part of the night but by Portsall, on the corner, the strong tides will be against them and anchoring may be required before Ushant.

“These small low pressure systems are lurking around the tip of Brittany ” explained Francis Le Goff, Race Director. "From tonight they will suck up all the wind, pretty much for whole of the night. In the end this leg is going to be around 96 hours of racing," said Race Director Le Goff, holding on to the idea of a finish time in Saint Nazaire on Wednesday afternoon. He has already postponed the start of the final leg.

Among the notable recoveries in the light airs Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) was back up to eighth at three miles behind the leaders and Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) was in 12th 4,3 miles behind his compatriot Goodchild.

Tracker here.

Published in Figaro

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Rookie Kenny Rumball is currently as high as 15th place and staying very much in touch with the fleet in the opening hours of Stage 3 of La Solitaire du Figaro tonight while Ireland's top-ranked Tom Dolan is at at the back of the pack after this afternoon's start but such positions are most likely temporary.

Racing in very light and variable easterly winds, progress this Sunday afternoon has been as slow for the 33 solo skippers racing on Stage 3 from Dunkirk to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuary.

With the fleet spread almost side-by-side along a north-south line 25 nautical miles long, gains and losses appear mostly temporary. The choice of staying offshore in the stronger ebb current and better breeze seemed to have paid a very welcome dividend for three times winner Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) and Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) who came back to take the top positions in the middle of the afternoon but with the fleet racing side by side off Le Havre at 1600hrs this afternoon that gain appeared to evaporate again and there was nothing in it as the fleet race slowly westwards towards the headlands of the Cherbourg peninsula, Barfleur and then Cap de La Hague at some 45 miles ahead of them across the Baie de la Sein

“This is how we expected this stage to be.” Commented Race Director Francis Le Goff this afternoon, “Now the combination of light weather and the tides of the Cotentin (Cherbourg) will now push the sailors to make big choices. The seas are like a lake meantime, but a lake with a lot of seaweed.”

Le Goff, who accompanies the fleet on one of the three guardboats, considers there is a good chance for the leaders to still catch the last of the favourable current at Barfleur and the Cap de la Hague on the east of the peninsula but they may then be stopped at the Raz de Blanchard at Alderney, a tidal gate which proved crucial during last year’s race.

Meantime the focus is to stay on the pace with the group and try to keep rested and hydrated in the strong sunshine, looking ahead to a long second night at sea which should see the wind shift more to the north-east as the fleet start to escape a sticky ridge of high pressure centred in the east of the Channel.

Roberts and Eliès continue to take the offshore track and may well continue to profit, the French skipper who was third on Stage 2 is looking to back up that decent finish with another top five, whilst the British skipper Roberts is seeking his first top ten finish of a La Solitaire du Figaro on which he was tipped among the top favourites.

Meantime in terms of distance to the next waypoint there are just five nautical miles between first and 30th place but that picture will almost certainly be very different come Monday morning. Patience and focus will be key requirements tonight.

Published in Figaro

Tom Dolan is hoping the same measured, steady approach that has served him well on the first two stages of La Solitaire du Figaro will work just as well on Stage 3, a challenging 504 miles leg from Dunkirk in the very northeast of France, round the Brittany peninsula to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuary.

The 33-year-old Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa has logged a tenth and an 11th and lies 11th overall, one hour and 11 minutes behind leader Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire). On a very tightly packed leaderboard he is just 33 minutes off second place after an aggregate of six days of racing, and a few seconds away from the top 10.

In Dunkirk today in the pleasant September sunshine Dolan was not letting the prospect of a very challenging third leg upset his mindset. The stage will include two of the most famous, rocky, tidal races in France, the Raz Blanchard at Alderney and the Raz de Sein off the tip of Brittany. Winds are once again expected to be light to moderate for the duration of the four-day stage which starts at 1600hrs local time. This race is immediately followed by Stage 4, a 24 hours 180 miles final sprint.

Stage 3 is a challenging 504 miles leg from Dunkirk in the very northeast of France, round the Brittany peninsula to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuaryStage 3 is a challenging 504 miles leg from Dunkirk in the very northeast of France, round the Brittany peninsula to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuary

“I am thinking like most people that this third stage will be crucial in terms of the final classification of the race. Even if I have done well enough these first two legs I go into this one just looking to try and do the same again, I stay focused, humble and not let things run away with me.” He said, “This is not an easy leg, we are in anticyclonic weather system with the ridge of high pressure to go through with light winds, again, then downwind in the light, then the tidal gates. I think people will get away the gaps will open and close like elastic. I just want to stick with my plan and keep pace with the fleet.”

Winds are set to be light on Sunday and timings on the headlands on a classic race down the Channel can be key, as will be making a good start off the line Saturday afternoon.

“We will be racing against the current, short tacking to start with and it will always be good to be in the top group. But I don’t really want to think too much about the result or what might be, I'll try to do my own race without looking too much at others at the AIS (radar). We'll see when we get there ".

Published in Figaro
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