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Germany's 'surprised, relieved, lucky' Riechers takes fourth on Stage 1 of La Solitaire du Figaro

by La Solitaire du Figaro 25 Aug 2022 17:45 BST 25 August 2022
Jorg Riechers - Solitaire du Figaro Stage 1 © Alexis Courcoux

An opportunity presented to him as much because he was near the back of the fleet paid off handsomely for Jorg Riechers (Alva Yachts) as the 53 year old French based career solo and short handed sailor jumped from 32nd in the 34 boat fleet to finish fourth this on Stage 1 of the 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro, finishing into Port La Forêt this morning after starting Sunday off the mouth of the Loire estuary and turning a mark in the Celtic Sea.

A successful IMOCA round the world racer and top Mini 650 and Class 40 skipper on only his second ever La Solitaire du Figaro - some 15 years after his one and only attempt - Riechers made a choice to go hard west after having rounded the most northerly turning mark of the course in 30th place, seven miles behind leader Tom Laperche.

By getting west he became one of the first to break through the undulating frontal system which was slowing the leaders and into the good N'ly winds behind it, Riechers was then able to accelerate fast downwind under gennaker and pass all but the podium finishers, Stage 1 winner Fred Duthil (Le Journal des Enterprises), runner up Davy Beaudart (Nauty'mor) and third placed Philippe Hartz (Marine Nationale-Fondation de Mer).

As the best placed international skipper on Stage 1, Riechers wins the Vivi Trophy prize for the 559 miles leg, the first of three stages. The French based German admitted before the start that his participation is to help train for his IMOCA 60 which is being built for the 2023-2024 Vendée Globe and he was not seeking a particular overall position.

He laughed wryly on the pontoon this afternoon: "Am I surprised? Oh yes, very much! The thing is before the race I knew I had good speed and in this race I had good speed. Then I did the same mistake I have done for 17 years, taking on a scenario which I thought, "this is it, this will make me famous and it really didn't." Then later at the virtual mark when I saw there were just two or three boats behind me I did some real, conceptual thinking that was: ' when you are at the back you could more easily reach the cold front, and weatherwise everything good comes from the west'. And that was it. It paid big time. I am very surprised, very relieved and very lucky! But the result now adds a lot of pressure. Before I just said 'well it is training, training for the Vendée Globe and the IMOCA, no pressure, no result needed. And now this. I need to now to talk this through with my coach. If I can finish the second leg well, only then can I start worrying about a good, good place in La Solitaire du Figaro."

Just as there was disappointment today for many of the top seeds such as long time stage leader Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance), the standout favourite who has three La Solitaire podiums to his name and who has won all three of the early season solo races who finished up ninth 1hr and 49mins behind Duthil, so too the top ranked internationals were left licking their wounds despite not making mistakes and largely sailing fast and accurately within the leading peloton. At one stage with Laperche leading, Ireland's Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) spent was second and Brit Alan Roberts (Seacat Services).

While Dolan largely limited the damage and could not control or respond to the advances of those who took flyers to the west he was not displeased with 14th place, otherwise in among the usual top group of top contenders, Roberts was deeply unhappy to have slid to 26th 2hrs 26mins off the lead.

Dolan remarked, "I did say before the start that this would be a typical La Solitair du Figaro leg where we all worked our backsides off and we would all restart in the same place and that is what happened yesterday. It was incredible. We were all catching up with the front, so there was this big cloud line going towards France and we were at the same speed as it and so all the boats lined up, it was mad. It was crazy. After three days of hard work we all end up in the same place except for these boats which went west. I am happy enough with the result. I controlled the controllables as they say and sailed well enough. I had a bad phase this morning when I lost some places but I had good speed I think. It was cool to be up the front with the other Tom (Laperche) and watch him to see how he does stuff, how much he sleeps. I need to take more care of myself for sure. On the long reach when we were neck and neck for hours I was too excited, trimming and trimming and trimming. He did the right thing and said ' there is not a lot going to happen here and went and rested, eat. He seems to go quickly when he is resting. I need to look after myself better, I ran out of water again!"

Roberts, whose career best finish is ninth on the general classification, looked painfully upset: "It was a very tough end to the race and I had a dose of the slows last night. I don't know why. For sure I caught a fish on the keel and it took some time to get it off. I never seemed to managed to really get going after that, all the way down through the Raz du Sein and the Chenal du Four I was bleeding places, from the front of that pack to the back. I don't know why, I have been fast all season so far. I could do nothing. Right now I am very disappointed. It makes winning La Solitaire very hard."

Other internationals said:

13th Nils Palmieri (SUI, Teamwork): "I took the opportunity to go inside the TSS towards Land's End where the current was stronger and favourable than for the others, and I was able to set the spinnaker. But it did not last and I was caught up by the others. But I have speed."

27th Pep Costa (ESP, Play to B-Terravia): "That was a tough leg for me. All the time I was top ten top 12 and was super happy, I was fast and in the pack, I felt I was in the right place, playing it cool, but now here I am,, it is like so unrewarding to process at the moment. I really did not want to take risks but then there is a group of boats we never saw, that never crossed us in the whole leg and then they are in front by ten miles. I only found out at five this morning. I was so angry. I had to gybe and my jib sheet came untied and the spi got tangled with jib. It was not my best morning.

29th Kenny Rumball (IRL, Offshore Racing Academy): "It was tough. The start and the light stuff I did not get free. And then I caught back a few times but it was not enough. I had a lot of electrical problems after the TSS at Ushant and could not rely on my autopilot at all. I hand steered from Ushant and though I thought I would have ten to 15 knots I had 25 to 30! I am totally bollocksed.

31st David Paul, GBR Just a Drop: "It was better than last year's first leg (laughs, he had to ABD after catching a fishing net NDLR). It was good, I had a bit of a match with Kenny (Rumball) and Romen (Richard) so it was good to get a race, they were just in front and I had a scrap with them. It seemed like there were lots of different strategic options, boats coming in from different corners with different sails and I am wondering 'where did you come from?' But I learned loads and it was good fun. I got the worst ever start of my sailing career then had three good days and one bad final day. I had problems with my pilot, it went weird from about 1800hrs last night. I did a gybe when I was a sleep and that meant fishing with my kite, and I damaged the main in the cold front where I saw 35kts when I dropped the kite. Now, eat, sleep, weather, copy paste!

32nd Sanni Beucke (This Race Is Female): "It was amazing. I am even more in love with La Solitaire du Figaro and even more in love with my boat. And I am discovering that I am liking it when the races are so long as you have more chance to get in touch with the boat. That is maybe because I am new. But I do feel I improved my sailing dramatically on that leg. My feeling for the boat, little tweaks, are better. I made some nice gybes on the downwind. I am super happy with my race and I said at the start I am not looking at the results. It was hectic though, the drops in 25kts were hectic. But things did happen I don't care to talk about. In one gybe I ended up head to wind with me sitting to leeward almost in the water. But overall I feel I am slower than I should be, not just because I am new to this. So I have to work on that before the next leg these two days. I am tired but OK. I ate well and stored energy.

All the Stage 1 standings here

Note: Ireland's Conor Fogerty ( retired at around 0330hrs this morning due to a series of technical problems.

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