Figaro – Rookie Pirouelle takes Stage 2 win Into Royan

French rookie Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie) crossed the finish line off Royan at the mouth of the Gironde estuary at 06:28:26hrs (CEST/FRANCE) in this morning’s breaking dawn to claim victory on the 655 nautical Stage 2 of the 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro. After Davy Beaudart (Nauty’mor) won the first stage into Port La Forêt, Pirouelle’s is the second consecutive stage win by a rookie skipper.

Pirouelle sailed a perfect mix of fast, controlled off-the-wind surfing between Monday and Tuesday, in the big breezes which prevailed for two Channel crossings, sailing in winds of 30kts and 2m seas from a Channel Islands mark to Eddystone before turning south back down the Brittany and Vendée coasts where the breeze dropped away to leave the fleet with a challenging final 170 miles navigating a network of calms and light airs. He was fifth at the Channel Islands mark and fourth at Eddystone before breaking clear of the peloton yesterday night after the latitude of La Rochelle. Pirouelle was sixth on the first stage.

Before choosing to pursue a career offshore racing, winning the Normandy region talent trials to take over the helm of their Figaro Beneteau 3, Pirouelle, now 28, was one of France’s leading Olympic 470 class helms – including a title as 2015 470 Junior World Champion – before going on to win the Tour Voile in Diam 24s steering for the Beijaflore team.

He was apprenticed last year through the regional support programme to veteran Alexis Loison – who originally scouted the talented young Norman small boat sailor to ask him to consider trying out for the offshore programme. After sailing as co-skipper with Loison last year – including a Transatlanric – Pirouelle’s first season solo immediately highlighted his potential this Spring when he took second in the early season Solo Maitre Coq finishing second to Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) and then third in the solo All Mer Cup on his home waters,

A native of Le Havre who is a qualified engineer, Pirouelle shows every sign of following in the wake of Charlie Dalin, who is from the same town and club and is now the dominant IMOCA skipper of the moment, even if as an Optimist fanatical child Pirouelle said ‘never’ when asked if he fancied becoming a Vendée Globe skipper.

At the finish line this morning he was followed 3 minutes and 19 seconds later by Achille Nebout on Amarris Primeo Énergie. Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Performance) took the final place on the podium finishing 15 minutes and 48 seconds behind the winner.

Finishing in fifth place, Ireland’s Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was the first non-French sailor to finish. Dolan led the race during yesterday afternoon and into last night after making a bold move inshore. He was on terms with Pirouelle for a long time but dropped places in the early hours to finish fifth. Improving from his 12th on the first stage, the Irish sailor who has a career best of fifth on La Solitaire, will have moved up the general classification.

Guillaume Pirouelle said after finishing:

“I’m really pleased and know deep down now that I’m capable of achieving something special, but actually getting there is another thing. I was well placed since the start. We can see that in each leg there are lots of changes in leadership. They catch up from behind. It’s always a bit complicated, but I kept at it until the end and I’m going to have to do that again in the third leg. It’s in my character to want to control what is happening. I don’t like it when people move in from everywhere, but preventing the others from doing what they do is something you can’t achieve. In fact, on the AIS, I couldn’t see what was going on behind me. They all went for their own strategies like in the first leg, except this time, we managed to stay in front, so I’m pleased about that.”
He continued, “I’m someone who thinks a lot and I try to avoid making the same mistakes twice, even if that isn’t easy in our sport, but that is the goal. Two wins for rookies is a good thing. Now we have the third leg to look forward to.I think I slept less than in the first leg. Conditions were stronger, but more random too. As for whether I’m tired, when you finish, it’s always fine. It hits you a few hours later and I think I’m burned out. But we have three days to recover, which is not going to be too many.”

Of his inshore breakaway from the fleet Dolan said, “Basically it wasn’t planned for me to to take that option I just wanted to be upwind of the fleet. I had seen on the files that there was more wind to the north, well I had the impression. During the night, the fleet broke up and I lost everyone a bit. I ended up with 2 or 3 boats, I told myself that I was going to stay on this plan and stay with the North-East wind. Overall the leg was a tough one. In strong winds, I spent 14 hours sitting at the helm, it was a bit hard. But I had anticipated well, I had slept well on the upwind leg. When it came, I had my pockets full of protein bars and bottled water and off we went! It was mental, under small spinnaker, incredible. That was the most intense part, it was awesome! I was a little on edge, I hadn’t had a long day at the helm like that since the Mini I think. But it was so cool. Otherwise, it was good The boat goes so fast that it is super stable. Once planning it goes by itself. There was water everywhere, I took some videos. It was crazy! Luckily things calmed down a bit when you arrived near Eddystone, because there are still a lot of rocks, you arrive at 20 knots, it’s pretty hot….But it calmed down for the maneuver!”

“ Sailing alongside Erwan (6th placed Le Draoulec, Skipper MACIF 2020) it was fun because we fought in the strong wind together, we were both side by side and we still found ourselves side by side at the finish. We did years of Mini 6.50 together so it was nice to be stuck with him. Especially since I’m in front this time!”

Dolan concluded, “I was dead, exhausted, like everyone I think. We never had a break, we had 12 hours of fighting and then straight into the dead calm so it was maneuvering, changing sails, strategy. And apparently I was first for a long time, I didn’t know, I didn’t have the classification, I found out this morning during the safety session. It’s good to hear that after six hours of mental anguish I was out leading”.

Leg 2 provisional:

  1. Guillaume PIROUELLE – Région Normandie 6:28’26, 3d 17hrs 28mis 26secs.
  2. Achille NEBOUT – Amarris Primeo Énergie 6:31’45 3d 17hrs 31mis 45sec, + 3mins 19secs.
  3. Tom LAPERCHE – Bretagne CMB Performance – 6:44’14 3d 17hrs 44mins 14sec Time behind the winner: 15mins 48sec.
  4. Benoît MARIETTE – Génération Senioriales – 6h 52’10, + 23mins 44 secs.
  5. Tom DOLAN – IRL, Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan – 7:19’33, + 51 mins 07 secs.

How to follow the race
The English version of the website https://lasolitaire.com/en/

The tracking:
http://lasolitaire.geovoile.com/2022/tracker/?lg=en

There is a English Twitter feed @SolitaireENG

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