Please select your home edition
Edition
Gul 2020 LEADERBOARD

La Solitaire du Figaro Race Director Francis Le Goff: "I loved this leg"

by La Solitaire du Figaro 18 Sep 06:13 BST
La Solitaire du Figaro Race Director Francis Le Goff © Adrien François

Francis Le Goff is the Race Director for the Solitaire du Figaro for the fifth year in a row, after being the deputy to the previous director, Gilles Chiorri, for five years.

He knows all there is to know about the concept and the traditions of the race and the importance of ensuring a level playing field. It was down to him to draw up the race course, defining the length and difficulty of each leg. For this 51st edition, the Covid 19 crisis meant that there was not the usual trip to England, Spain or Ireland. In the end there were three long legs around the French coast and a shorter one to please the solo sailors. Francis enjoyed the third leg with its ups and downs for everyone and thanks to.

Surprise after surprise in this leg

"We had an incredible third leg. Not much wind, a maximum of 25 knots and weather that was hard to predict. I loved everything in this leg. Strategy was limited at the start by the TSS in the Dover Straits. That meant many of the sailors were able to show how well they could sail their boat. It became much more open after Dieppe, which was nice. I loved it. The racers attempted a lot of different things, adapting to the race course and the sea and wind conditions which kept changing. It was fascinating to watch and the suspense was there all the time in Seine Bay, as they passed Barfleur and the Hague headland, off the North coast of Brittany and in the final day, which was so unpredictable. In the end, it was the final decisions which determined the outcome."

"The 4-day format with three days of rest in between looks good to me, as it forces the sailors to manage their tiredness, sleep and rest more than in the two-day format. In the first leg, this year we headed off to the Fastnet, and it was a long and tricky leg matching the philosophy of the race. Three days ashore, four days at sea - that is a winning formula in my opinion respecting the history of the race. It favours strategic choices and helps the suspense build. We saw that in the third leg between Dunkirk and Saint-Nazaire..."

Young and old, equally impressive

"I was very impressed with Kevin Bloch (Team Vendée Formation). A breath of fresh air and what enthusiasm ! He was always up there with the frontrunners. He has very clear relations with the Race Directors, as if he had been there for decades, whereas in reality, he is just learning about all this. He never dramatises. Among the most accomplished sailors, Sam Goodchild (Leyton) performed well. The older guys that I have known for years are still impressive. I have a lot of admiration for Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Matériaux - Leucémie Espoir) and Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire). They have an incredible ability to build on what they know. They never believe they have it sewn up and tackle the race discreetly and with humility, as if they were just starting out. Armel is so discreet and exceptionally professional out on the water. He's amazing. Yann has returned to the Solitaire and at one point, it looked like he could win it. Elodie Bonafous (Bretagne CMB Océane) has also been amazing. She has been helping Marc Mallaret (CER Occitanie) and encouraged him to continue when he was feeling down. I love that attitude. There was so much going on and each racer surprised me with some astonishing decisions."

Weed...

"This leg will also be remembered for all the weed. There were fields of it out there! It was like the Sargasso Sea. It must be the time of year with the big spring tides. There was weed everywhere from the Sept Iles (seven islands off Northern Brittany) to Penmarc'h and the Glénan Islands. At night, you can't see it, but the sailors can feel that their boat is riding on something solid. The weed gets everywhere. Around the keel and rudders. You are really slowed down. I had hundreds of calls from the competitors warning me that they were going to sail backwards to try to get rid of it. That is an arrangement we put in place with the Figaro Bénéteau class and Christian Ponthieu, their technical director, to avoid them diving 87 times like they did last year. The sailors need to stay on their boat and not alongside. We have a system that allows them to go backwards. They just have to declare that to the Race Directors."

Complete uncertainty about the final outcome

"The fourth leg, the course for which is still to be defined due to the uncertain weather and time constraints because of the schedule planned ashore and the problem with the harbour gates. This means there is a lot of uncertainty about the final outcome. Armel only has a lead of 10 minutes. Fred Duthil (Technique Voile / Cabinet Bourhis Generali) knows these waters well and the weather and spring tides with the strong currents mean we can imagine some huge gaps developing. It is still all to play for after 1500 miles of racing."

Related Articles

OnCourse - Episode 7: Figaro Special
The proving ground for so many offshore rock stars in the making Ahead of the biggest solo race of them all we take a look at the recent Solitaire du Figaro, the proving ground for so many offshore rock stars in the making. We look at this year's race plus, we talk to some of the offshore legends at last year's Figaro. Posted on 14 Oct
Iarracht Maigeanta (Éire)
First all-female, doublehanded 'Round Ireland' record attempt This October, British skipper Cat Hunt and Pamela Lee, skipper of Irish RL Sailing Team will be sailing a Figaro Bénéteau III racing yacht around Ireland, in an attempt to set a first record for an all-female, doublehanded sailing circumnavigation. Posted on 7 Oct
Phil Sharp takes 13th in La Solitaire du Figaro
Drawn to an early close with the cancellation of the final stage After finishing in positions 26th, 16th and finally in 11th over the three stages, Phil Sharp completes La Solitaire du Figaro with a total elapsed time of 10 days, four hours, and eight minutes. Posted on 21 Sep
Roberts finishes 10th in La Solitaire du Figaro
Hampshire sailor pleased with his Leg 3 performance Alan Roberts (30), Hampshire sailor, finishes 10th overall in the 51st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro,- after Leg 4 was abandoned by the Race Committee at sunset on Saturday, 19th September due to the lack of wind. Posted on 21 Sep
Best Irish result ever for Tom Dolan
An excellent fifth place overall on Smurfit Kappa in La Solitaire du Figaro With not enough wind to run Stage 4 of La Solitaire du Figaro Ireland's Tom Dolan secured an excellent fifth place overall on Smurfit Kappa. Posted on 21 Sep
51st La Solitaire du Figaro overall
Title for Le Cléac'h, Tom Dolan lifts Vivi Trophy Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire) lifted the overall title for the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro at the end of race prize-giving in Saint Nazaire, France today. It is Le Cléach's third time of winning after successes in 2003 and 2010. Posted on 20 Sep
Armel Le Cléac'h wins 51st La Solitaire du Figaro
Ireland's Tom Dolan fifth With the fourth and final stage of La Solitaire du Figaro cancelled this evening due to the complete absence of wind, French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h wins the 51st edition. It is a third victory for the 43 year old skipper of Banque Populaire. Posted on 19 Sep
Light winds La Solitaire du Figaro title showdown?
The deciding stage is usually billed as a 24-hour sprint The final, deciding stage of the La Solitaire du Figaro is usually billed as a 24-hour sprint, quite literally designed to test who still can best draw on the remaining reserves of energy for one last day-long no holds barred battle to the finish line Posted on 19 Sep
Dolan scores career best on La Solitaire Stage 3
The best ever stage finish of his three La Solitaires to date The newfound more robust, cool headed approach continues to work for Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan who today finished seventh on Leg 3 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro, an epic four day 492 miles light winds slog from Dunkirk all the way down the Channel. Posted on 17 Sep
Fred Duthil wins La Solitaire du Figaro Stage 3
Le Cléac'h retains overall lead, Ireland's Dolan up to fifth overall Fred Duthil (Technique Voilse/Cabinet Bourhis Generali) scored an opportunist's victory on Wednesday evening when he took the winning gun for Stage 3 on the 51st La Solitaire de Figaro off Saint Nazaire. Posted on 17 Sep