Solitaire du Figaro 2013 - Yann Elies and his Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir crossed the finish line off Dieppe at 20:05:09 to take second on the fourth and final leg from Roscoff, but overall honours in the Solitaire du Figaro.
Yann Elies, skipper du Figaro Groupe Queguiner, vainqueur de la Solitaire du Figaro-Eric Bompard cachemire
On cumulative elapsed time, Elies won by 26 minutes and 30 seconds from Xavier Macaire (Skipper Herault) and was 33 minutes six seconds ahead of leg three winner Morgan Lagraviere (Vendee) in third. Over the last 24 hours both Macaire and Lagraviere had been in a position to take overall victory in this year's race.
Significantly after he won last year, Elies is the only back to back winner in the race's recent history, (the only other person ever to have scored consecutive victories being Guy Cornu in 1975/6). He also joins the elite club of double Solitaire winners including fellow competitors in this race Armel le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire), Jeremie Beyou (Maitre CoQ) and Gilles le Baud (Carnac Thalasso & SPA), plus in past years Cornu, Nicolas Troussel, Jean Marie Vidal, and Gilles Gahinet. Only Jean le Cam, Michel Desjoyeaux and Philippe Poupon, are the super-elite to have won the race three times.
For Elies, 39, this is his 14th participation in La Solitaire du Figaro, his first having been back in 1997. Aside from his being a regular fixture in this event, Elies is also a two time winner of the Jules Verne Trophy on both occasions with Bruno Peyron, first on board Orange 1 in 2002 and then with Orange two in 2005. In 2000 he competed in The Race aboard the Cam Lewis-skippered Team Adventure maxi-catamaran. However he is perhaps best known for competing in 2008 Vendee Globe when he had to be rescued from his yacht Generali by the Australian navy aft breaking his femur. He is also a second generation Figaro sailor – his father Patrick won the predecessor to La Solitaire, the Course de l'Aurore, in 1979.
Elies started this year's Solitaire du Figaro in emphatic fashion. On leg one he survived the big conditions at Cape Finisterre and by heading offshore managed to find breeze when the wind shut down on the course for the final run down the west coast of Spain and Portugal. His victory into Porto gave him a 44 minute four second advantage over second placed Fred Duthil (Sepalumic). His overall lead grew to 57 minutes 6 seconds after finishing fifth into Gijon on leg two.
Morgan Lagraviere, skipper du Figaro Vendee, 3eme de la Solitaire du Figaro-Eric Bompard cachemire
But on leg three Elies' fortunes turned on their head. First he chose the wrong side of the course en route to Ile d'Yeu that left him mid-fleet. But worse was to befall him when, as the wind piped up off Belle Ile, Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir's forestay came tumbling to the deck. This might have been game over, but anticipating the wind freeing up Elies limped on to finish 21st into Roscoff, leaving him third overall, still in the fight, 32 minutes 28 seconds behind the new overall leader Fred Duthil, with leg three winner Morgan Lagraviere (Vendee) just two minutes 32 seconds ahead of him.
In leg four any three of these skippers, plus fourth placed Xavier Macaire (Skipper Herault), a further eight minutes and seven seconds back from Elies, were in with a chance of claiming overall victory. First Duthil fell by the wayside on the long big wind run down the south coast of the UK last night, at one point dropping back to 28 miles from the leader. Lagraviere looked to be in good shape rounding Wolf Rock in first place, but lost his advantage by diving inshore before Start Point. Macaire was leading from Start Point until one third of the way back across the Channel. But ultimately overall victory belonged to Elies. He match raced and was eventually overtaken by Adrien Hardy coming into the Antifer mark off Le Havre, but he had done enough and victory was his.
Xavier Macaire, skipper du Figaro Skipper Herault, 3eme de la 4eme etape de la Solitaire du Figaro-Eric Bompard cachemire
On his arrival a jubilant but tired Elies commented: 'It's incredible. Xavier and Adrien were two warriors and put up a really good fight. Ultimately Xavier could not play the final because of the problems he had with his water ballast. To win the Solitaire in two consecutive years - it is a dream. Few people have done that. Even in Roscoff I did not believe, it was possible, at least not 100%. For once, I got off to a good start and that changed everything, it seemed to click and it just went perfectly.'
Adrien Hardy arrived in Cascais less than three minutes ahead of Elies to win leg four.
'I'm really happy because it was really hard with a fight throughout, a very tough competition! I've managed to keep a bit of energy even though I have been very, very tired. I am very happy to win this leg because it has been the most difficult of this Solitaire.'