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Adieu to La Solitaire du Figaro

Fond Farewell to Dingle for 4th Leg Start

It came very close to running like clockwork in Dingle Bay yesterday, for the start of the fourth and final leg of this year’s Solitaire du Figaro. The promised wind settled in briskly yesterday morning, and even moderated to a more manageable 16 or 17 knots by the scheduled 1200 (local time) start, though the south-westerly direction kicked up enough of a sea to give the numerous spectator boats an authentic if slightly uncomfortable nautical experience.

After a general recall at the first attempt, the 52 boat fleet got away cleanly at 1214 precisely, and went flying down the Irish coast on their way to the next mark of the course, the Fastnet Rock.

The mood on the pontoons was one of quiet determination, particularly among the 15 skippers lying within one hour of accumulated time at the top of the overall rankings. With 511 miles of racing in front of them before the finish line in Dieppe, such negligible time differences leave the field very much open for the eventual victor. For Yann Elies (Generali), in second place overall, only 5 minutes and 59 seconds behind current leader Nicholas Lunven (CGPI), this is not the time to ease off: “I’m in the state of mind of a predator, hungry for prey – ultra-motivated. It’s just a case of giving it everything until the finish, keeping a bit of lucidity for the end even if physically you’re all in. That’s just the way it goes on the last leg of La Solitaire.” Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), in 8th place and nearly half an hour adrift is even more dramatic “This is going to be a leg for the butchers ! There will be blood with so many skippers so close. Those of us a bit behind have everything to play for. The leaders have everything to lose.”

Once away from the line, the best of the start seemed to go to Thierry Chabagny (Suzuki Automobiles) and Gildas Mahé (Banque Populaire) at the Committee Boat end, while at the pin Laurent Pellecuer ( and Jean-Pierre Nicol (Gavottes) were quickest. The fleet then made off under full mainsail and genoa to the windward mark, the traditional Radio France buoy, three miles upwind. Mahé and Chabigny held on to round first and second, fifty minutes into what is likely to be three and a half days of hard racing. The fleet are now enjoying one of their few opportunities this series to break out the spinnakers and enjoy some downwind sailing along the coast and on to the Fastnet.

Top 10 at Radio France buoy

1 – Gildas Mahé – Banque Populaire
2 – Thierry Chabagny – Suzuki Automobiles
3 – Aymeric Belloir – Cap 56
4 – Frédéric Duthil – Bbox Bouygues Telecom
5 – Jean-Paul Mouren – M@rseillentrprises
6 – Thomas Rouxel – Défi Mousquetaire
7 – Jean-Charles Monnet – 49°Nord
8 – Corentin Douguet – E.Leclerc mobile
9 – Nicolas Troussel – Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne
10 – Antoine Koch – Sopra Group

18 – Isabelle Joschke – Synergie
28 – Jonny Malbon – Artemis
45 – Nigel King – Nigel King Yachting

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