Figaro course is shortened

With the course now shortened by 85 miles to 559 nautical miles because of intermittent periods of light winds, the leaders on Stage 1 of the 2002 La Solitaire du Figaro should round a virtual waypoint at the mouth of the Bristol channel late this Tuesday night where they will turn for the finish line in Port-la-Forêt, Brittany some 230 miles to the south.

The stage winners are expected some time on Thursday morning, the course being shortened to ensure that all 34 competing solo racers get sufficient time to recover before Sunday’s re-start for Stage 2.

Pre-race favourite Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) who has two overall podium finishes already has slightly extended his lead, moving out to be 2.7 nautical miles ahead of Ireleand’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) who in turn is just over one mile ahead of audacious French rookie Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED). The 20-year-old, whose Swiss dad Laurent won the 1988 La Solitaire on his first attempt, made a big move to the west last night and gained 19 places, stealing third from Brit Alan Roberts (Seacat Services). Roberts is in a tightly spaced group alongside Corentin Horeau (Mutuelle Bleue) both tussling over fourth and fifth place.

Laperche led at Bishop Rock, 16 minutes up on Dolan and 27 minutes ahead of Bourgnon.

Speaking just before Bishop Rock this morning before the Scillies, Roberts had pledged to stay conservative, “It is certainly good to be up near the front of the fleet. There is a long way still to go. So now I am just looking to play the race course and take the options I can to move forwards but making sure I don’t make any mistakes. So now it will be conservative sailing to the finish line. Conditions at the moment 10-12 knots under spinnaker. It was a really difficult night with an agitated sea and it was really dark so it was nearly impossible to helm when you have no boat in front, it is a little easier with a boat in front of you. It is good. I had a good bit of sleep yesterday on the approach to the Chaussée de Sein and now looking to Bishop.”

Bourgnon, the youngest skipper on this 53rd edition of the race, was delighted with his option, taking advantage of the inevitable ‘herd mentality’ to be expected on the first leg of the three stage race: “Yesterday there was a decision to be made how to position ourselves for the Scillies TSS. I felt that the wind was not coming in from the left as expected. And so I told myself it was worth the risk. I went out all on my own which is never very reassuring. I did not really know what the outcome would be but it was worth the punt. I am pretty satisfied even as Jeanne (Grégoire, director of the Pôle Finistère Course au Large) says ‘rookies will try anything’ Now I need to try and maintain the position.”

While the winds remain quite light they are due to build overnight with a southerly building to 15-18kts through the night with stronger gusts.

Catalan solo racer Pep Costa (Team Play to B-Terravia) remains firmly in the top 10 in ninth, five miles behind the leaders, Swiss skipper Nils Palmieri (Teamwork) is 17th, Germany’s Jorg Riechers (Alva Yachts) is 27th on his first La Solitaire since his one and only effort in 2005.

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