La Solitaire: Leading French sailor holds off competitors

Sailors have well and truly passed the halfway point in Stage 2 of La Solitaire du Figaro, the course taking competitors from Lorient to Fécamp, where the winner will most likely be decided on early Wednesday morning.

Pierre Quiroga (Skipper MACIF 2019), the 28-year-old skipper originally from the Mediterranean who finished second on the first leg, led the fleet around the corner into the English Channel this afternoon, but his margin over Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Performance) was tiny – just a few hundred metres – as the pair made just over eight knots upwind. The leading five boats were within one mile of Quiroga with the overall leader, Xavier Macaire, in sixth place, just 1.2 miles behind. 

3 boats behind each other, sailing upwind.
The top five boats are all within one-nautical mile of each other. Pic – Alexis Courcoux

After a bad start on Sunday afternoon which – he admitted today – saw him next to last at the first mark, Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) was holding a solid eighth place after having rounded the Rochebonne plateau buoy – off Les Sables d’Olonne – in 12th. Roberts has made gains on the long, tight reach and close hauled stage up the west coast of Brittany but lost a little distance on the lead group. 

“I was almost last at the first buoy off Lorient. Now, I am pleased to be climbing back into the fleet slowly but surely, it’s pretty cool,” said Roberts. 

Ireland’s Tom Dolan was not so well placed this afternoon, 22nd on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan but the sailor who finished fifth overall last year remains in a good mood. 

“There is plenty of time to get back into the match,” Dolan shouted above the breeze. “There is all that rock hopping and tides in The Channel.”

A sailor passing a rock and a lighthouse in the background.
Sailors are predicted to start crossing the finish line in Fécamp by early Wednesday morning. Pic – Alexis Courcoux

The leaders were tucked in close to the coast at the point of Brittany, trying to hide from the outgoing tide. There could be some compression in the early evening if they are held up much, but the North Easterly breezes are set to remain until the finish which will be set close in to the small port town which is cut out of the high, white ‘falaises’ or cliffs made famous by the painting by Monet in 1881. 

“The first night was fast, especially getting down to the Rochebonne plateau which was done under a gennaker (big headsail. There were good average speeds, around 14, 15 knots and that is not every day that we see this in Figaro Beneteau 3.” 

There have been some technical problems in the fleet notably to Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT Environment – Ruban Rose) who had pilot problems. The skipper who was fifth on the first leg dropped to 23rd but had fought back to 18th this evening 4.9 miles off the lead but making a slightly slower speed than his rivals. Violette Dorange (Devenir) hit an object which caused the rudder to kick up and render a small crack on her hull with no water ingress reported. Martin Le Pape (Gardons La Vue) tore a spinnaker but was holding 14th, 3.4 miles off the lead. 

Spain’s Pep Costa (Cybele Vacances – Team Play to B) was going well in 25th, Francesca Clapcich the Italian-American skipper of Fearless State Street Marathon Sailing was 30th, 10.6 miles behind leader Quiroga.

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