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La Solitaire du Figaro - Bye, bye Bordeaux

by Marie Le Berrigaud Perochon on 1 Jun 2013
Régates d’exhibition à Bordeaux - 2013 La Solitaire du Figaro © Alexis Courcoux
At the La Solitaire du Figaro, Friday was the last night in Bordeaux for the Solitaire fleet. The curtain will fall on a great pre-start week with a party organized by the authorities to celebrate the race. Tomorrow, the 41 solo sailors have an important meeting to attend with the Prologue Bordeaux-Pauillac/Eric Bompard cachemire. Just a simple parade or a good chance to show off one's strength, the Prologue will most of all be an opportunity to say goodbye in style to the town and its people. Things will get more serious in Pauillac on Sunday…

Since their arrival last May 24th on the Garonne, the La Solitaire du Figaro-Eric Bompard cachemire 41 skippers had the chance to savour Bordeaux unique taste. As a first time host star city in the race history, Bordeaux proved to be an exceptional host. The local authorities have made any possible effort to make the skippers, the organizers and the public alike to feel at home. This Friday, the magnifient Palais de La Bourse will welcome all of them or a big party that will end with a spectacular fireworks show that will put an end to an exceptional week in the historical city centre and on the riversides.

Yes, that is right. Tomorrow at 14:15 the Figaros Bénéteau and their skippers will leave the pontoons on quay Richelieu bound to new waters and feats. The Prologue Bordeaux-Pauillac /Eric Bompard cachemire will represent the perfect occasion to say goodbye. The unusual course will be approximately 4,5 miles long and the fleet will sail in the area between Pont de Pierre and mark 71 past the Pont d'Aquitaine.

This parade of sails that will last one hour, will award no points, but will certainly represent a chance for the most serious contenders to make their intentions clear, even if the Figaro sailor's bible considers a win in the prologue as bad luck for those aspiring to the overall victory. The most superstitious skipper will thus carefully avoid to cross the line in first as did Yann Eliès (Groupe Quéguiner - Leucémie espoir) in 2012. Weather wise the fleet should have pretty light conditions with a north-westerly of around 12 knots in the morning, getting to a fresher 20/25 knots in the afternoon and even some sunny sports: all that it takes to get into the game and to guarantee a good show. Once crossed the finish line, the boats will be delivered to Paulliac, from where the first leg of this year's Solitaire will start on Sunday at 13:00 local time.

With only 48 hours to go to the starting signal, the air in Bordeaux is charged with tension as the skippers are getting more and more into the racing mood, attending several weather briefings and going to see the osteopaths from GMF Assistance for a last check. 'I am glad the team is in pretty good shape' said Artemis Academy team manager Marcus Hutchinson. 'The boats are technically ready, the guys are well briefed, they are obviously looking forward to tomorrow and the leg start with some anxiety, but wouldn't describe them as stressed. And the presence of their families and friends is a big help'. Phisically and mentally, all the 41 contenders are focused and willing to get going, to head to Porto on Sunday in the best possible shape.

Amaiur Alfaro (Région Aquitaine – Ateliers de France): 'It's fantastic to re-discover Bordeaux, it changed so much over the last years. The hospitality has been great and the reception last Friday was enthusiastic, no matter the rain. The Prologue looks set to be magic too with 41 boats racing on the Garonne, I guess that everyone will try to put on a good show for the people of Bordeaux, without breaking anything, of course…'

Xavier Macaire, Skipper Hérault: 'You can feel that the skippers are starting to get anxious. There asre small but important signs: the start is coming. It's fun, it makes the tension rise a bit, but it's the right atmosphere. The Prologue is a funny and social moment, but one doesn't want to lose focus on the real race. It's more a sail parade and I chose to focus on what is important, the boat, the weather…'

Paul Meilhat, Skipper Macif 2012: 'It proved to be a very good idea to organize the pre-start week in a big town, there is the crowd, the sponsors are happy and it's different for us too. The run tests were also a brilliant idea and I hope that the organizers will keep them in the future. Now I'm 'programmed' and set on Sunday, it is crucial to get into Paulliac with a boat in good shape. If we realize it gets a bit risky, we will be careful'.

Ed Hill, Artemis 37: 'Getting out of the Gironde river will be one of the hardest parts of the course. Forty-one boats racing up 35 miles of fairly narrow river in shifty winds and unknown currents will be interesting, but perhaps luckily for us, the Gironde is a relatively unknown stretch of water to most of the fleet.'

Julien Villion, Seixo Habitat: 'This last week in Bordeaux was good, it was an excellent idea to come here! There were such crowds in the village and my sponsor is from here. The people are very nice, it it positive to start from a big town because you can go out, relax, have a walk in the city centre and chill out'.

Schedule, Saturday, June 1st

14:15: Boats dock out
15:15: Starting signal of the prologue Eric Bompard cachemire Bordeaux – Pauillac. Race course approximately 4,5 nm in the area between Pont de Pierre and mark 71 past the Pont d'Aquitaine
16:00: ETA

After crossing the finishing line, the boats will sail single-handed to Pauillac (approx. 20 nm)
19:00: Boats' ETA in Pauillac and welcome party
20:30: The last boats reach the dock in La Solitaire

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