Holding a lead of 2.3 nautical miles with 120 miles to make to the finish line of Stage 1 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro on the Baie de Saint-Brieuc, a seemingly confident, composed Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) may be on the threshold of his first ever leg win of his decade of Figaro racing.
If Macaire’s margin was under threat yesterday night when he led around the Fastnet Rock he has modulated his return leg, fast spinnaker reaching, well. The 39-year-old who races out of Saint Gilles Crox de Vie with the Team Vendée Formation, has sailed a textbook race, not least showing ample speed during what has largely proven a drag race back across the Celtic Sea.
Passing the Scillies today he was slowed and saw his margin cut to just over one mile, but the French Solo Offshore Champion of 2015 had doubled that in recent hours.
Known as Le Marcassin (the boar) for his ability to push hard under the big spinnaker in big winds, Macaire has Alexis Loison (Région Normandie), 36, – who won Stage 1 into Plymouth in 2014 – in second and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), 43, in third. Age and experience seems to have prevailed thus far, Loison has 14 participations and Le Cléac’h 11. Lois Berrehar (Bretagne CMB Performance), 26 and Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir), 23 are the best of the young guns in seventh and eighth who may yet come good tonight.
The best of the internationals is Briton Sam Goodchild (Leyton) in eighth poised four miles behind the leader, Swiss rookie Nils Palmieri (TeamWork) is tenth while Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) is half a mile back in 11th.
Increasingly there seems the chance of a relatively straightforward and quick re-entry into the Baie de Saint-Brieuc. According to forecasters the breeze will build to 18kts for a finish which is expected to be some time after 0500hrs Thursday morning. The good news for the chasing pack is that an increase in the SW’ly breeze will mount from the west and so compress the fleet
Indeed weather routings this afternoon even suggest the top 30 boats might yet finish within one hour, which might partially salve the tattered nerves of some of the top hopes who had found themselves deep in the fleet with big deltas as a result of the combination of bad choices made during the first night’s very light winds and an out and back course which has largely been devoid of tactical options.
The last night will doubtless prove who can sustain their performance through the fog of fatigue and increasing stress as the finish line approaches. At 642 nautical miles this has been a very long three and a half day test of speed, stamina and personal management. And in the very essence of La Solitaire du Figaro, there are really just 48 hours to recover before Stage 2 to Dunkirk via Wolf Rock.