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Big Wednesday on Biscay will decide the 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro

by La Solitaire du Figaro 6 Sep 2022 10:49 PDT 6 September 2022
53rd La Solitaire du Figaro Stage 3 © Alexis Courcoux - Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie)

The destination of the 2022 La Solitaire du Figaro title hangs in the balance and will be decided over the course of one 270 nautical miles long, thrilling marathon downwind sprint across the Bay of Biscay from the Los Farallones mark on the north Spanish coast - where the leaders turned this evening - to Saint Nazaire, at the mouth of the Loire where the first skippers are expected around 1800hrs Wednesday afternoon.

After tacking at 1250hrs today on a near perfect lay line Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) was first around the Galician turning mark at 1650hrs - the southernmost point on this 640 nautical miles Stage 3, and indeed of this year's race.

Critically Laperche, who many considered the pre-La Solitaire favourite - was 29 minutes up on his title rival, Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie) who led the General Classification by 14 minutes going into this third and final stage of the race.

Conditions for the upwind approach to the Los Farallones mark were already rugged, with the wind gusting to 30kts at times and a building sea. The strong conditions are forecast to continue through tomorrow - certainly for a W'ly breeze in the high 20s - and so it will be an acid test of the ability to keep pushing hard and fast downwind when the body and mind are at the very limit of tiredness.

Most of the skippers who were spoken to in the previous 24 hours had spoken of banking as much rest as possible before this massive sleigh ride. Correspondingly Race Director Yann Chateau - who was on patrol at the turning mark on the guard boat - encouraged a safety first approach down the long run back across Biscay. But with everything to gain, skippers will push to the edge of reason on this last leg.

Having led earlier on this leg Ireland's Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) rounded 18th just ahead of Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services). Dolan was the fastest skipper on Leg 2's big breeze in the Channel when he made 11 places over two legs. Meantime Spain's Pep Costa (Team Play 2 B-Terravia) has sailed an exceptional leg so far - also leading earlier in the leg - but he was well placed tonight in ninth while Switzerland's Nils Palmieri (Teamwork) was second.

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