Champagne Departure 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro • Live Sail Die
Saint-Nazaire, on the French west coast about 40 miles west of Nantes, presented itself in perfect conditions for the start of the 52nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro. Light winds from the north-westerly sector of 10 to 12 knots and flat seas at the mouth of the Loire estuary allowed the 34 solo skippers to open the 627-mile stage downwind from the Gulf of Biscay to a turn mark near the Spanish NW coast at La Coruña and back to Lorient.
The stage started after a general recall in what France 3 commentator, Vendée Globe rider Clarissa Cremer called “champagne conditions”. Bright sunshine, moderate winds and blue skies gave the fleet a quick opening to the La Solitaire du Figaro buoy where the favorite Tom Laperche led the fleet to the open sea and the Rochebonne mark. Briton Alan Roberts and Irishman Tom Dolan were well placed.
Although the course is overall a long lee-wind to the windy corner of Galicia where heavy seas are likely to prevail, followed by a long return to the wind, it could be the tactical decisions and schedules of the best way to manage three exclusion zones – set up to prevent competitors from getting lost in a French Navy exercise – which shape the final podium. But most weather advisers and their skippers agree that stopping the breeze on Thursday afternoon might actually prove to be decisive.
“After all these four days and nights at sea, it could be Heartbreak Hotel in Lorient that some of these guys and girls could check in in Lorient.” Grimaces Marcel Van Triest, weather advisor for one of the largest racing groups in the fleet, who largely contributed to the winning strategies of Armel Cléac’h in 2020 and Yoanne Richomme in 2019.. As it seems right now, if the leaders can have arrived around 1:00 p.m. it is fine, but after that there is a big hole in the breeze that develops from the west, then three, four, five o’clock from the afternoon there will be almost nothing until seven or eight in the evening. It’s going to be pretty hard to take after doing all this browsing. “
“We have a huge high pressure fill from Norway with a big ridge towards the Azores, which means the wind will go right to become NNE but everything is downwind to the waypoint in Spain. From the start to the brand in Rochebonne, it’s quite simple. There might be a little jibe to get to the mark there. From there to Spain it can be a bit tricky because of the exclusion zone. From night to mid-morning, we can see differences in the way people get to the no-go zone. When to place your gybes is key and there can be some differences. By tomorrow morning everyone is heading west in the building breeze to find the layline at the mark. Van Triest described.
Big winds, big winners?
The windiest and bumpiest section of the course will be in and out of the West Farallonnes cardinal mark in La Coruña where the wind will be over 30 knots. Downwind this will be a maximum time of driving and maintaining the speed of the boat, while there will be time to recover and rest on the long return when there is not much going on. to lose and to gain. At the latitude of Les Sables d’Olonne, approximately 180 miles upwind, you must then choose to go south, north or between the prohibited zones. “The leaders may lengthen as we go through Gascony, but just at the end there might be the first boats coming in and the others have to wait for the wind. This step will not be completed until it is completed. And it’s La Solitaire so the main objective is not to lose the race on the first leg. Looking at the exclusion zones, looking down the middle seems the least risky option. But I’m sure people will try things out. It’s La Solitaire. My goal is to keep it simple, to come out at the end always in touch with the title. explains Alan Roberts, the British skipper of Seacat Services. “The key to this stage will be to be close to the front of the leading group at the turn of Spain.” The Irishman Tom Dolan, skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, says: “The elastic will stretch a lot. Upwind the boat does not accelerate much. The wind is turning left in the afternoon and the main thing is to jibe starboard at this time and not head into the exclusion zones at this time.
Go out to win
Xavier Macaire of Groupe SNEF, the French skipper who won stage 1 of this race last year, is one of the favorites to triumph this year and is in great shape after winning the Solo Guy Cotten, the last race on the circuit before this race. Solitaire du Figaro. Before leaving the wharf, he said “these areas don’t completely change course but you have to adapt. I do not see it as something to constrain us but it adds to the game. It is the main thing of our sport, we have to know how to adapt constantly, whether it is to the weather conditions or to the course which can change the day before. departure.
Asked about his ranking among the Macaire favorites, the leader of Team Vendée declared “given my start to the season, many give me the status of favorite and I want to be up to it. I want to win this. It’s true. I want to focus on what I do myself without looking too much at the competition, like I did on the Solo Guy Cotton, always trying to push my own limits, have good runs and always look ahead and to always be faster and more efficient.
Tom Laperche (CMB Bretagne Performance) finished third in 2020 on his second La Solitaire du Figaro and is widely expected in France as a likely winner. “It’s an elimination race. You have to be consistent and not lose it from the start. My goal is that no one is safe from a shock in this race. I know that we will have to take risks to be able to make the difference and win. I’m ready to do that, ”says Laperche, 24.
Into the unknown
Twelve rookies took the start today on a long stage which should prove to be a relatively simple introduction to the unique challenge of La Solitaire du Figaro. Among them, the Catalan Pep Costa (Cybele Vacations-Team Play 2 B) hopes to do well “I feel good. It’s such a big race but I did everything I could in terms of preparation. I’m very young compared to some of these guys. I think I’m doing well in training and my speed is good, but I’ll just try to take it as it comes. Said Costa, 22.