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An exciting 52nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro. Now heading for 2022!

by Andi Robertson 21 Sep 2021 05:48 PDT

'Where legends are born!' is the strapline of La Solitaire du Figaro. One reason that legendary sailors are made and crowned on the La Solitaire du Figaro is the magnitude of the challenge. Another is the universally high level of highly trained and dedicated talent. On both counts the 52nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro scored highly. It was one of the longest courses ever with nearly 2,500 miles of sailing over 14 days and 16 hours of racing - for the winner.

The uncompromising courses were varied - long, open offshores, shorter intense coastal challenges round notoriously rocky and tidal passages, speed tests and tactical trials. And the winds were varied, from light upwind and VMG running, to a full on Bay of Biscay downhill charge in big waves to the NW of Spain. All these elements made the 52nd edition one of the toughest yet, but a race with a unique flavour and atmosphere.

And so it crowned a new legend in the making, Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif). At 29 he is full of youthful vigour but since 2020, matured into a winner. The measure of his victory is the most accurately reflected in the quality of his nearest rivals. At 40 and with 11 La Solitaire du Figaros on his resume, Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) has come painfully close to winning three times, and this was his second time as runner up. And at just 24 Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Performance) is considered one of France's most outstanding young talents for the future. And this race also revealed emerging talents, eager to come and do battle, to prove their worth, their passion, their daring and their ambition. Beyond the sheer sporting aspects, La Solitaire du Figaro always unveils stories of men and women who pretty much normalise their incredible solo sailing achievements.

The first stage was dominated the all conquering Xavier Macaire who once more showed his skill downwind in big breeze and speed upwind but also marked by the misfortune that befell David Paul, who became entangled in a fishing net and was forced to abandon this stage. The first episode set the tone for an exceptional edition.

The second stage between Lorient and Fécamp is a long coastal passage along the Breton coast and Channel coasts. It was not the longest but almost certainly the most challenging of the stages allowing little sleep, continuous vigilance and precise navigational skill and risk management. Pierre Quiroga achieved the first, primary goal that he had set himself on this, his sixth appearance, winning a stage. In contrast there was immense disappointment for Macaire who finished two hours behind having suffered a failure of his electronic navigational systems and having to dive to remove a fish pot entangled on his appendages.

The third stage is marked by twists and turns, stretches and compressions. The gaps extend and reduce. Quiroga is on great form, retaking the lead three times and taking first gun into Roscoff where the sailors have only three days to recover before the massive final leg, 685 miles almost one third of the whole course. Racing round Fastnet Rock it is Tom Dolan, the Irish skipper who leads round the mythical landmark on his home waters but Pierre Leboucher who won into Saint Nazaire. But, having accumulated a good time margin over his two stages out of four Pierre Quiroga is crowned winner of the 52nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro.

Stopovers of choice

Saint-Nazaire, Lorient, Fécamp, Roscoff, then Saint-Nazaire again. For a full month the Solitaire du Figaro crisscrossed the French, English, Irish and ever the Welsh coasts and received a warm welcome in each stopover port.

A virtual success

While the 34 skippers gave their best on the waters during this 52nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro, the virtual race organized by Virtual Regatta was also hotly contested and enjoyed unprecedented enthusiasm. Over 35,000 players per stage, nearly 60,000 unique player in total, that is nearly twice the number of the 2020 edition.

A passion shared by all the partners

Offshore races are made up of adventures, fascinating stories supported and shared by their essential partners: Loire-Atlantique, major partner of the race, the territories, cities and host institutions of the stopovers, the official partners of the race (The Pays de la Loire region, Bénéteau, Suzuki and Medaviz), the media (in particular the loyal partners that are Le Figaro, of course, but also Le Télégramme group, Radio France via France Info and the France Bleu network, France Télévisions and Ouest France), technical partners and official suppliers (727 Sailbags, Brasserie de Bretagne, Chantiers de l'Atlantique, Kooi, the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm, Virtual Regatta and the Charles Collin house). "We would like to sincerely thank all the partners who invested themselves alongside us in bringing this 52nd edition to life and making this historic race grow. This success was made possible thanks to their commitment and loyalty. Together, we are already looking to the next edition, the start and finish of which will take place in Loire-Atlantique, "said Joseph Bizard, General Manager of OC Sport Pen Duick.

See you in 2022!

The official prize-giving evening which took place yesterday, Saturday 18 September at the Pornichet racecourse. It was the occasion to announce the start and finish city of the 53rd edition. Nantes Métropole will welcome sailors and the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet for a week of preparation before the Grand Départ. The finish into the charming seaside resort of Piriac-sur-Mer.

They said:

Michel Ménard, President of the Loire-Atlantique Department
"A hectic and unforgettable Solitaire du Figaro has just ended in Saint-Nazaire. Bravo to the sailors who have shown tactics and tenacity to regain the Loire-Atlantique. A huge public experienced this legendary race and visited the village, a link between sporting excellence and a great popular festival. Next year, the Loire will be in the spotlight with the Atlantic! And all of our partners are there to welcome future legends."

Hervé Favre, President of OC Sport Pen Duick
"For its 52nd edition, La Solitaire du Figaro once again gathered an exciting line-up, with a large number of rookies. Proof - if needed - that La Solitaire continues to attract the great sailors of tomorrow. Physically grueling, technically demanding, the only race in time on the circuit, La Solitaire is known to be one of the most difficult events to win sportingly and the 2021 edition will have kept all its promises! On land, this race is a leading event, made possible by the passion and commitment of our private and institutional partners. In particular, I would like to express our warm thanks to the Loire Atlantique Department, our major partner, as well as to the stopover towns which have done us the honour of welcoming and celebrating these great sailors alongside us."

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