La Solitaire: Quiroga is poised to win overall

French rookie Jules Delpech (ORCOM) is the breakaway leader of the fourth stage of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro, taking a lone, solo route more than 25 miles to the east of the main body of the fleet as they negotiate the tricky descent of the Celtic Sea after rounding the mythical Fastnet Rock in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Jules Delpech on a spinnaker reach (blue kite).
Jules Delpech overtook Tom Dolan after rounding the Fastnet Rock. Pic – Alexis Courcoux/La Solitaire

It was, appropriately, the race’s only Irish skipper Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) who narrowly led around the iconic light as its welcome beam cut through a typically wet, inky darkness at 0240hrs (CET) this morning. He was only four minutes up on second placed Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF), but the boost to Dolan’s morale would have been significant. 

Xavier Macaire leaning over the bow sprit, where the foiling kite sits.
Xavier Macaire is looking to make time on General Classification leader Pierre Quiroga. Pic – Alexis Courcoux/La Solitaire

But while Dolan and Macaire left the lighthouse and started off upwind on the 400 nautical miles leg back to Saint Nazaire, the pursuing group were able to stay west and progressively pick up the first of the new North Westerly breeze. Meantime Delpech went east early and, as much, benefits from his position closest to the direct, theoretical rhumb line passing close to Land’s End. He has been two knots slower in less wind than his nearest rivals. 

On his 29th birthday the overall General Classification leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) has been keeping his powder dry as much as possible, playing the percentages with the main peloton which has still been very slightly quicker than Macaire and Dolan, second and third respectively, holding four or five miles of theoretical advantage over Quiroga who is fourth this evening. 

Quiroga joked earlier today, “What do I want for my birthday? You’ll have your own ideas I’m sure! But I am going to try and hang in here like a big guy, but this last stage is not easy.”

The fleet have big decisions to make – either sail more miles in the west but get more wind pressure or sail the more direct route favoured by Dolan and Macaire who re-oriented themselves during this morning to keep a loose check on their adversaries to their right.  

Fabien Delahaye, in fifth and one of the more westerly skippers, said, “It was a very damp, unpleasant night but now I am downwind under spinnaker in the sun, I am drying my clothes and I have eaten. This route is the lesser of many evils even if it is not optimal. I was abeam of Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) and now he is five miles behind now. There is for sure more wind pressure in the west. I went round the Fastnet with TeamWork (Nils Palmieri) and he’s stuck next to me.

Fabien Delahaye sailing downwind with a white kite.
Fabien Delahaye is coming fifth in Stage 4. Pic – Alexis Courcoux/La Solitaire

“Since we came through the front, we have been moving along the edge of the ridge and the wind is stable. The pilot steers well, I have taken a few naps. I take advantage of it for the moment, because I do not know how long it will stay that way. There is a lumpy, crossed swell which is getting bigger and bigger. It comes from the cyclone that passed across the Atlantic and it’s giving us this westerly swell off that strong wind. These waves comes from there which is weird because it’s not very windy.

“Right from the start we were supposed to have had less wind all the time. And in fact it’s all happened quicker everywhere. We still have another 24 hours to see what happens in this slightly variable north-west wind between north and west. It will be more disturbed when approaching the French coast. “

Gildas Mahé standing on the boom of his boat, while on a spinnaker reach.
Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) dropped back to 10th place. Pic – Alexis Courcoux/La Solitaire

Latest predictions have the first finishers crossing the line between Thursday evening and early Friday morning. 

All information:

M.O.S.S Australia
Jeanneau Sun Fast
Multihull Group
Coursemaster Autopilot
Jeanneau Sun Fast
Multihull Group