Penalty time at La Solitaire Le Figaro while Eliès focuses on a bounce-back

With Roscoff in full fête mode, the Bay of Morlaix residents and visitors are fully embracing having the 50th La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro and local heroes such as Armel Le Cléac’h and Jérémie Beyou in town for 10 days.

The talk on the race dock in the port of Bloscon today was of the potential outcomes of the raft of protests and redress hearings which were up before the National Jury today.

The biggest concern was that a time penalty for Adrien Hardy would lose the solo skipper of Sans Nature pas de future his Stage 2 win after he was protested by the race committee for entering the forbidden Traffic Separation zone at Casquets off the Channel Islands.

However, Hardy’s win on the 535-nautical mile stage from Kinsale to Roscoff stands as he had to avoid a tug which was pulling a ship on a long hawser.

Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Le Telegramme) had six minutes trimmed off his substantial leading margin as a penalty for taking a sail on board after the final time limit in Kinsale. In fact, it was his preparateur who made the mistake bringing the sail on board after it was thought the sail had disappeared, perhaps stolen. The penalty imposed represents one minute for every mile of the Stage 2 course.

Brit Will Harris (Hive Energy), who finished 11th on Stage 2, was one of three skippers penalised for using bolts to replace small 5mm screws which were supposed to secure the foil hatch. In an earlier race, Harris suffered the same problem which affected several skippers on this windy Stage 2, causing three to retire.

He rectified the problem and notified fellow skippers and the wider Figaro Beneteau group to alert them to a safety issue. But because he, and the others, did not seek the approval of the Technical Committee, Harris, Eric Peron (French Touch) and Jérémie Béyou (Charal) were handed an arbitrary six minute penalty.

“It is a bit frustrating because I put the details in our WhatsApp group so everyone would know and do the same. The screws are so short they did not even tap in to the glass plate.

“I was lucky when it happened to me because I was below at the time. If you are not, then suddenly you have 100 litres of water in your boat. So from my point of view it was about safety not trying to gain any advantage. I see that the Jury has to be seen to be doing something because we did not seek the right approval, but it is annoying,” said Harris.

Correspondingly the three skippers Martin Le Pape (Skipper Macif 2017), Cécile Laguette (Eclisse) and Thomas Ruyant (Advens-Foundation of the Sea) all had their requests for redress denied. Their claims were because of what they considered a manufacturer’s defect, the same foil hatches blowing off and their boats filling with water.

Another five skippers have to add six minutes to their overall race time because they removed a stopper off the companionway hatch, forbidden by the Figaro Bénéteau class rules: Alexis Loison (Normandy Region), Justine Mettraux (TeamWork), Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa), Damien Cloarec (@damiencloarecskipper) and Arthur Le Vaillant (Leyton).

Rookie Benjamin Schwartz (Action Contre La Faim) will be given a placing for second stage after he had to retire from the leg due to a pre start port-starboard collision with Alain Gautier. He will receive the time average over his placings for the first and third legs. His boat is still under repair but will be ready for Sunday’s Stage 3 start.

Three-time overall winner, Yann Eliès (St Michel), is one of the favourites who has struggled to match his hopes and expectations. Despite underlining his potential during the pre-Solitaire events (he was the French cognoscenti’s outstanding favourite for this landmark edition), Eliès was 17th on that Stage 2, and 22nd on Stage 1, 3 hours 54 minutes behind the winner, and lies 13th, 6 hours 40 minutes behind Richomme.

Speaking about the strategic dilemmas imposed by this new boat and of his different strategies between Stage 1 and 2 he recalled: “You had to just go for it as you feel necessary, go attack under gennaker and then wait and see. That’s when I said ‘No last time you lost out because you let your intuition decide.’ This time you need to be more rational.

“Follow the routing. You can see that the Solitaire is not an easy race, because you can have all the skills in the world, but if at one particular moment, things don’t fall into place, in the end, it means something won’t work out. For the third leg, the format is going to be rather different, with what is more or less a coastal course, closer to what we like.

“The gaps are huge, which gives the impression that it will all stay like that. You need to do really well in one leg. But I don’t feel certain about anything. I’m not even thinking about making it to the final podium. Whether I come 13th or 8th in the final rankings in Dieppe is not that important. But I still want to win some legs.

“You have to get back in the game like Adrien (Hardy): I’m really pleased for him and Xavier (Macaire) who has also bounced back up.”

The penultimate leg of this years’ Solitaire URGO Le Figaro starts on Sunday 16th June and will see the fleet take on a 450-nautical mile lap of the channel, starting and finishing in the Bay of Morlaix.

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