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La Solitaire du Figaro Stage 2 day 5: Dice are rolling into the final night

by La Solitaire du Figaro 31 Aug 2022 11:51 PDT 31 August 2022
53rd La Solitaire du Figaro stage 2 © Alexis Courcoux

With just over 100 nautical miles to the finish line of the 655 miles Stage 2 of La Solitaire du Figaro at 17.00hrs French time this late afternoon the leading group are tightly packed, the solo skippers doing all they can to sniff out the best of the breeze.

Light winds and a patchwork of calms have now prevailed for 24 hours since the leaders slowed first, punching first into contrary tidal current at the Occidental du Sein and the big, beautiful Audierne Bay. The chasing pack came down on the remaining breeze and after a beautiful, almost glassy evening yesterday by this morning there were less than five miles between first and 16th.

Three solo racers have largely profited inshore, closer to the Vendée coast. Ireland's Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) wriggled clear of 20 year old rookie Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED) around lunchtime, making between two and five knots through periods of the day, almost 20 miles further east than the main peloton and is the nominal leader.

Dolan and Bourgnon were still holding first and second places but their boatspeeds were a crawling 2.5 to 3kts each while their rivals offshore seemed to have the new breeze and were making more than seven knots. The inshore duo still had three miles in hand but it appears the breeze offshore, perhaps thermally enhanced, did not appear to have rolled in far enough for them to profit.

The top three French skippers in the peloton have been glued together since before the turning mark at the Channel Islands on Monday evening, Achille Nebout (Amarris-Primeo Energie) leading rookie Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie) and Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) being less than 0.2 of a mile apart as they hunt together as a pack.

The first boats are due into Royan, at the mouth of the Gironde estuary, Thursday morning after an exhausting leg which started Sunday afternoon from Port-la-Forêt, Brittany and has taken the 32 boat fleet to the Channel Islands, to Eddystone and now back down the Brittany and Vendée coasts.

A NW'ly breeze should in theory push in the late afternoon heading a bit to West-North-West at 5 to 10 knots and by evening the leaders should be sailing downwind, under a North-Westerly flow increasing to 8 to 13 knots, off the Charente coast. But the forecasters say this wind will weaken again back to 5-10kts with stormy showers close to the land but by morning this North-Westerly should be reasonably regular for the finish into Royan.

They said:

Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie)

"As always in Audierne Bay it was a bit of a lottery. Yesterday we were all stuck in the afternoon in the bay. This re-grouped the entire fleet.

Since then we have really been wriggling along in light airs, it is not easy. There is a stormy front that is blocking our way and is not easy to see it clearly. I try to move towards towards the finish we are not moving very quickly. I had managed to widen the gap out a little but on the Solitaire there are so many complete reversals of situations half way through a race. A lot of things can still happen. I was always pretty sure the fleet was going to regroup. And so there you have it a new start. I'm always in and among the top group and will do my best no matter the conditions. I have slept a little on the upwind to Désormes, and then I did not leave the helm all night downwind. But like many of us I suppose, I took a lot of pleasure on these gybes "

Tom Laperche (Région Bretagme-CMB Performance):

"We are very close to the axis of the low pressure and knowing when the wind is going to come in is not easy. I am staying calm and keeping it all in perspective. There are many miles still to go. I feel pretty good and that bodes well for being able to attack. When you look at the AIS there are boats in every direction. When you look there are areas where it is windy and others where it is not. The sky is getting dark. We expect storms in the next 24 hours, this race is far from over. Now you have to be careful about how the clouds grow. For now, it's a bit monotone. We have stratus and no cumulus thunderstorms at all. The visibility can also give clues, even if it is never easy to succeed in forecasting the squalls. There are a few boats in front, and others behind around me that I see at 5-8 miles, there is still good visibility. I think there are people a little further offshore but it doesn't worry me too much when the wind will come in. I would like to be inshore but I don't have wind to get there."

Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED):

"I was not good on the upwind and until now it has been hard to get back into it, even if I did enjoy the night under spinnaker in the Channel. I was able to catch up again in the calm of the bay at Audierne which I was largely expecting. And so we all regrouped, it is a new start and I dont really see my rivals, maybe they are further offshore. Anway to be back in the top group gives me some hope even if the Figaro is never over untl the finish line. There is a little path down this left side it is not easy. Anyway I hope the wind picks up soon. I think we are in the middle of the gradient and the thermal. And so at the moment there is not much rest on the agenda."

Inauguration of the race village in Royan Atlantique

Today was a special one in the history of La Solitaire du Figaro as it is the first time that the famous French offshore race visits Royan at the entrance to the Gironde estuary. It is a territory rich in history, with a carefully preserved natural heritage. Royan Atlantique has everything to welcome the 32 skippers in the most beautiful way possible: a lovely coast lined with limestone cliffs and fine sandy beaches, remarkable architecture and good port infrastructure. Royan Atlantique has, of course, a very strong link with the ocean. The area, which actively supports boating through support systems for practice, clubs and high-level athletes, has seen great champions flourish, including Charline Picon, windsurfing gold medalist at the Rio Olympics.

They said:

Alex Picot Project Manager OC SPORT Pen Duick: "We are extremely proud to see La Solitaire du Figaro stopover for the first time in its history here in Royan. These five days in the village will give the public the opportunity to discover the sailors who take part in this event, men and women in search of learning or victory, without a doubt the great sailors of tomorrow who will be found in other races. major cities and on all oceans. I would like to take advantage of this inauguration to express my sincere thanks to the race's partner communities, first and foremost the Royan Atlantique Agglomeration Community, which give us the possibility of organizing major events and events and which have enabled us to build this village and this Royan Atlantique stopover. Let's not wait 53 years to find ourselves again with the whole big family of La Solitaire du Figaro, here, in Royan".

Patrick MARENGO, Mayor of Royan and President of the Syndicat Mixte port estuaire Royan Océan La Palmyre: "For its 53rd edition, La Solitaire du Figaro is dropping anchor for the first time in Royan. We welcome you to this wonderful department of Charente-Maritime, as well as to our very beautiful city: Royan. This event, we all wished it ardently. It allows us to extend the summer season and enhances a magnificent maritime space, to which we are particularly attached. It is a real pleasure to see that Royan counts in the national maritime landscape. Its port of extreme quality, in the heart of the city, is a rare asset. The arrival of this stage of La Solitaire du Figaro highlights the energetic action of the Syndicat Mixte Ports Estuaire de Royan Océan La Palmyre, remarkably supported by the Departmental Council which I warmly thank as well as all the people who contributed to welcoming and carrying out this event. "

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