Young talent and top internationals for La Solitaire du Figaro

Nantes, France: The 53rd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro is set to start off Saint Michel Chef Chef, at the entrance to the Loire, on Sunday August 21 at 1540hrs local time, with 34 yachts taking part following a week of festivities.

Reflecting the strong interest in La Solitaire, among the 34 solo racers are nine rookies, five women and 10 international sailors.

There are no past overall winners among a fleet, which is set to compete over three long demanding legs, Nantes – Port-la-Forêt (644 nautical miles), Port-la-Forêt – Royan (635 miles) and Royan – Saint-Nazaire (700 miles). The outstanding favourite is Tom Laperche (Bretagne Region – CMB Performance).

Now very much the understudy of François Gabart and co-skipper on his Ultime, 25-year-old Laperche was third in 2021 and 2020. He leads the season championship the French Elite Offshore Racing Championship and is seen to be a step above his rivals.

He seems able to take just the right level of risk at just the right time to win races. Laperche has won all three solo races this season the Solo Maître Coq, Le Havre All Mer Cup and the Solo Guy Cotten and was third on the two-handed Sardinia Cup.

Also among the podium contenders should be Loïs Berrehar (skipper Macif 2021) a stage winner in 2020 and winner of the 2022 BPGO Trophy, along with his Macif cohort and skipper of Macif 2020’s, Erwan Le Draoulec.

Gaston Morvan (Région Bretagne – CMB Espoir) is also among the favourites. He made a strong debut on the circuit last year by finishing first rookie and seventh overall. And Corentin Horeau (Mutuelle Bleue), has also made a good start to the season after coming back to eighth last year after a five-year break.

Well capable and ready to step up to the podium are Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) and Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan). Roberts starts his ninth La Solitaire du Figaro and has a strong series of early season solo results. He is also consistently among the top group in racing in training, looking to better or match his career best fifth overall in 2020.

The Brit says, “This year I am going out thinking I can win the event or finish on the podium. I am going to sail the weather rather than the fleet. My bias is towards the weather than racing the fleet.

“On a three-leg race like this, there will be more skippers in contention on the last leg than a classic four stage Solitaire. I think we will see more people taking more aggressive options.”

Dolan, known in France as ‘the Flying Irishman’, is in a positive mood in Nantes despite a couple of setbacks during early season races.

While Dolan is on his fifth La Solitaire France’s Fred Duthil (Le Journal des Enterprises) already has 12 on the clock.

“I am really very attached to this race that really marks my sailing career from 2004 to 2013. It brings together everything I like: close-contact racing, one-design, a mix of racing and offshore, the physical and psychological difficulties that force you to find your absolute limits,” says the sailing sailmaker who has run the Technique Voile sailmaker since 2016.

Nine rookies this year reflect very diverse profiles, from ex Olympic classes racers to older skippers looking to test themselves.

And just as there were in 2021, five women are taking part, including Buecke Violette Dorange (Devenir) and Elodie Bonafous (Quéguiner – La Vie en Rose ). Tenth on the Figaro season standings, Bonafous says “It would be nice for a woman to get into the top ten.”

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