After a long wait for the wind to settle in the bay of the Forest in Concarneau, France, the 43 competitors of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro crossed the start of the final stage of this the 48th edition. At 15:07 this afternoon, over an hour later than the intended start time, due to light breeze and a general recall the fleet began the 525-mile stage. Jumping the line and being recalled for a second time it was Gildas Mahe (Action Contre La Faim) and Alexis Loison (Custopol) who were forced to return to clear themselves.
Off the start line the fleet split into two packs, one on the right led by Sébastien Simon (Brittany Crédit Mutuel Performance) and Jérémie Beyou (Charal), on the left lead by Vincent Biarnès (Guyot Environnement). At the passing mark it was these three that led with Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Espoir CEM-CS), followed closely by Nicolas Lunven (Generali). The fleet heading southeast to round the Radio France Buoy before heading west navigating around the Glenans Archipelago and onwards to the west coast of Brittany. The first 24 hours of racing along the coast of Brittany via Chaussée de Sein and the Channel du Four are promising to be nervous times for the solo sailors who are going to be contending with very weak winds and strong currents.
Stage 4 promises to be a true La Solitaire leg demanding, tactical proficiency needing to negotiating the snakes and ladders conditions and course. Between a leg along the Breton coasts, two crossings of the English Channel and 200 miles to run down the English coast, the route is complicated and varied. That's what the Figarists love! “It's a very complicated stage ahead, especially the start with very low wind.” Confided Nicolas Lunven (Generali) a few minutes before leaving the pontoon in Concarneau. At the head of the provisional general classification with 24 minutes advance of Adrien Hardy, the Generali skipper isn’t counting his chickens just yet. “This final stage could well create gaps and hold surprises in the final leg along the Alabaster Coast!”
Making their way to the turning mark of the Radio France Buoy the fleet are averaging just 2 knots of boat speed and being heavily influenced by the current. Leading the fleet at the 17:00 rankings Charlie Dalin (Macif 2015) drifting along at 1.5 knots is closely followed by Damien Cloarec (Saferail) who are half a mile ahead of the main pack, with little breeze the fleet will fight the current to round the Radio France turning mark. Once round the mark it could be a case of the rich getting richer as they take the westerly current towards the Brittany coast where the sailors will hope for at least some wind.
With the fleet still so closely compacted after only 2hrs of sailing the leaderboard has not yet fully played out. For now, Mary Rook (Inspire +) sits in 10th position at half a knot of boat speed on the 17:00 rankings whilst Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is back in 15th battling with the masters Nico Lunven and Adrien Hardy, just behind them on the rankings but in a more favorable easterly position Hugh Brayshaw (The Offshore Academy) is in 18th 1 position behind another master Yann Elies. Justine Mattreaux who so far in this competition has always been in the top third of the rankings sits in 30th position but in the next few hours the standings could look very different.
Nicolas Lunven, 1st in the general classification
“It's a very complicated stage ahead, especially the start with very weak wind. From the start to the Portsall buoy, there will be little wind and much current. It can’t be worse than what the models predict! In fact, we do not know… I don’t have a definite strategy, but key ideas that I hope to achieve. I will watch my opponents, but we can’t score everyone in these weather conditions. You have to go sailing and not play chess too much.”
Sébastien Simon, Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Perfro, 4th at 1h 04 of the leader.
“As long as the South-West wind forecast on Wednesday does not come in, it's simple, there's nothing. It's going to be hard for the nerves, but at the same time there's going to be a lot of play. So I'm ready to play. I'll take what's on at the moment and try to get the boat moving fast. I approach this step as if it were the first. I have a lot to gain and little to lose. I am at heart to make a nice step, I need this and arrive by not regretting anything. “
Erwan Tabarly, Armor Lux, 35th at 8:48 of the leader
“It's uncertain, we'll have very little wind at first. So it is difficult to estimate our rate of progression. A day or a day and a half at the Occidentale de Sein? It is difficult to project into the future. So the phenomena happen differently and it is delicate to establish a strategy. In these little airs, the smallest laugh can double the speed of the boats. So it is very difficult. When you're a leader, it's sure that it's stressful. For those who are behind, it's not very funny either, but it opens the doors. For those who want to shine, it's not bad. This is my goal, get in the lead in Dieppe if possible “