Please select your home edition
Sunsail 2018 January Leaderboard
Boat Insurance from Noble Marine

Full racing risks
New for old cover
Product Feature
Zhik ZK Seaboot 900
Zhik ZK Seaboot 900

50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro Leg 4 - Day 1

by La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro 22 Jun 18:26 BST 22 June 2019

Three times overall La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès (St Michel) may, by conventional logic, have lost his chance of a fourth title as he lies 16th overall in the 2019 rankings, more than seven and a half hours behind the leader, but he made the best start to the fourth and final stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro which left Roscoff this afternoon bound for Dieppe via Wolf Rock off the southwest tip of England. In light breeze, Elies took command of the 47-strong fleet of solo skippers, proving his determination to finish on a high note. Briton Will Harris (HIve Energy) was fourth as the fleet bid farewell to the Bay of Morlaix.

In sixth place as the fleet left the Bay behind and headed offshore, was current overall leader Yoann Richomme, (Hellowork - Groupe Telegramme). In previous editions of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro a leading margin of more than one hour would have provided a comfortable buffer to the skipper in pole position. But the 50th anniversary of this famous and revered race has disproved any previously held rules of thumb.

Although Richomme started the final 500-mile leg from Roscoff to Dieppe today 1-hour 11-minutes ahead of second placed Gildas Mahé, (Breizh Colo/Equithé), Leg 3 saw Richomme's 11-hour advantage slashed after a tidal gate at Alderney split the fleet. Just three boats broke through before the tide turned against the fleet - Richomme was not one of them and paid the price. Yet the 2016 overall winner remained positive going into the final leg.

"This La Solitaire has not been a simple race," Richomme, a qualified naval architect who last year developed a super fast Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe winning Class40, explains. "Solo sailors who previously had the formula to win no longer have that, or at last not this year. Things have definitely changed. Of course there is the new boat, but also the courses, the weather has been challenging, and the need to be strong physically and mentally. We have ended up with strange patterns but I have done nothing particularly complicated. I went as straight as I could. And as soon as it was complicated I really focused on going fast towards the waypoint. That is not necessarily the right strategy but it has worked. I was successful whilst others found themselves in dead ends."

Before leaving the dock, second placed Mahé, who has been in the position of challenging for the podium previously in 2014 when he narrowly missed out to finish fourth, said: "The thing is not to dwell on that too much because you get stressed and it affects you. There will be lots of little plays all the way in the little areas of strong current. You have to stay focused to the end and it is then you can worry about the result.

"This will be a complicated leg with light winds along the English coast. And those who can, will push their options to the extremes. The game between Wolf Rock and Owers can have a real bearing on the overall. It can be important. I will try to race my own race, one hour and 11 minutes is a lot. There is no strategy to try and regain that so I will sail for the leg, not looking too much as the general classification."

From third place through to seventh, just 50 minutes separate French sailor Alexis Loison, (Region Normandie) from Benjamin Schwartz (Action Contre La Faim) marking a high stress area of the fleet.

Many others such as Armel le Cleac'h, Jeremie Beyou Michel Desjoyeaux, who had started the event among the favourites, had also fallen foul of the costly tidal gate and the fickle conditions that followed and were trailing the front runners by up to 10 hours. They will be hoping that the same theory would remain true for the final leg and provide an opportunity to get back into the frame.

The weather forecast for the next three days suggests that this could be a possibility. From the start, a decent east-south-east breeze is forecast to launch the fleet west to the first mark, Grand Basse de Portsail and remain in strength and direction for the cross channel reach to the second mark, Wolf Rock off Land's End.

But from there, as the breeze backs towards the northeast, it is forecast to drop significantly. With strong tides along the UK's south coast and the fleet bound for the Owers mark off Eastbourne before turning to Ouest Saint-Marcouf and onto the finish in Dieppe, there is the potential for tidal gates around key headlands to stir things up in the fleet.

This is also the point in the event where the cumulative effects of fatigue start to play an even greater part in the performance of individual skippers, with Kiwi first-time competitor Conrad Colman saying you can "see the fatigue in the eyes and souls of the skippers."

As usual, the focus for those at the front will be for overall victory, but the final leg is also important for those aiming for the new Vivi trophy, an award for the top international skipper. Here, Will Harris (GBR) (Hive Energy) had been the first non-French skipper to finish on Leg 2 & Leg 3, but a poor performance on the opening leg has hampered his overall time to place him third on the Vivi Trophy rankings.

Instead, it is fellow British sailor Alan Roberts, (Seacat Services), who leads with a 1-hour 16-minute advantage over Swiss sailor Justine Mettraux, (Teamwork), who lies in second.

Before departing today, Roberts said: "The target of this leg is to finish, to stay in contact and to not try anything too radical and keep it simple. It's going to be tricky with the weather. I think there's going to big splits again in the fleet which means there could be people getting out ahead or groups dropping behind. It could be very tricky right up until the finish where we're going to have lots of thunderstorms over the land with no breeze, and then 100 metres away maybe 15 knots of wind. So I think we just need to keep it simple and take it as it comes."

Harris had a similar assessment of the Stage ahead: "This leg will be just as crazy as the rest. The routings say there's a chance we could see a 60-mile north-south split in the fleet sailing up the channel. I'm feeling pretty open about this one. I have to gain a good few hours to go up the general rankings so I'm open to taking a bit of risk if I see a suitable option."

The 50th Anniversary was always going to be a special affair, but the new boat, unusual weather conditions and an impressively strong field of entries, even by La Solitaire standards, has produced an exceptional event that looks set to continue right through to the finish.

Keep up to date on the tracker here.

Related Articles

Tom Dolan finishes 2019 Figaro season on a high
Irishman finishes his first season on a high note Tom Dolan, the Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa, finished his first season in the Beneteau Figaro 3 on something of a high note when he took fourth place on the last stage of the 12th Tour de Bretagne à la Voile. Posted on 16 Sep
2019 Tour de Bretagne à la Voile starts today
Tom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa ready Recognising a need to help aspiring young sailors get a toehold on the solo racing ladder, Ireland's Tom Dolan will be partnered aboard Smurfit Kappa on the imminent 2019 multi stage Tour de Bretagne à la Voile race Posted on 7 Sep
All aboard the bandwagon!
If I had a mini maxi, I reckon that is exactly what I would have to call it If I had a mini maxi, I reckon that is exactly what I would have to call it. Just because you'd get a cast of thousands on board, and subsequently have a grand old time. Now if I had a supermaxi, I think its name would have to be Gravy Train... Posted on 1 Sep
The Figaro circuit: The final necessary step?
Do you really have to be an Figaro expert before IMOCA? The 50th Solitaire Urgo-Le Figaro finished last Wednesday after a fourth and final leg won by Eric Péron, which confirmed Yoann Richomme's overall first place. Posted on 2 Jul
Number Crunching
A look at the 50th anniversary of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro The landmark edition of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, which finished on Wednesday 27 June in Dieppe, covered more than 2000 miles over the four stages. Even more than usual it was a war of attrition. Posted on 28 Jun
Richomme wins La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro
Fourth place in final stage is enough to win overall by 1 hour Crossing the finish line of the final Stage of the 50th anniversary La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro this afternoon in fourth place, after 500 miles from Roscoff to Dieppe via Wolf Rock and Owers, Yoann Richomme completed an impressive overall victory. Posted on 26 Jun
La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro Leg 4 day 5 update
Sprint to the Grand Final finish line The final hours of Stage 4, the Grand Final, are delivering a sprint finish worthy of the first La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro to be sailed in the new Beneteau Figaro 3. Posted on 26 Jun
La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro Leg 4 day 4
Last night nerves for the fleet? With an accumulated overall lead time of one hour and 11 minutes, and just 85 miles left to sail to the finish of the final leg on Stage 4 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, overall leader Yoann Richomme might reflect on the warnings of 'The Godfather'. Posted on 25 Jun
La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro Leg 4 day 4 update
Overhauled at Owers: Isle of Wight option pays for Peron and Richomme The passage of the Owers buoy in the middle of last night delivered yet another upset on the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro as hard won leads were washed away under a massive dark cloud and heavy rain. Posted on 25 Jun
La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro Leg 4 day 3
Where there is a Will, is there a way? With 40 nautical miles still to sail to the Owers turning mark off Portsmouth at 1500hrs BST this afternoon, racing within a gradually fading southwesterly breeze, it has been a long, laborious day fighting in the main pack. Posted on 24 Jun