Loison leads on the climb up Cherbourg Peninsula

Published on 17/06/2019

A complicated and difficult first night which opened Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro saw big changes right through the 46-strong fleet. At the Videcoq mark by Granville just after a beautiful dawn this morning, it was Alexis Loison (Region Normandie) who emerged with the lead, rounding at 05:22hrs local time with Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola-Equi'Thé) seven minutes later and three times overall winner Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) in third nine minutes astern.

Alexis Courcoux
Alexis Courcoux

As they raced northwards towards Alderney on the rising tide under spinnaker this morning, climbing the east coast of the Cherbourg peninsula, overall race leader Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Groupe Telegramme) was sixth at 1.4 nautical miles behind Cherbourg-based Loison.

Having made a good start, among the leading group early on this morning was Irishman Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) in 16th at 2.1 miles behind Loison as the top international competitor. Brit Will Harris (Hive Energy) is 21st alongside Justine Mettraux (TeamWork) in 25th.

Making decent progress under kite, leader Loison was averaging 7-knots at 0600hrs, and those at the front should not struggle to make the infamous raz de Blanchard on the tide. But a bubble of calm is ahead of them in the middle of the Channel which will slow the pacemakers right down and may allow a little compression within the fleet.

“I made the choice to stay offshore,” explained leader Loison early this morning. “The idea was most of all to not get stuck at Bréhat because there is a lot of current there and I did not want to come in and be pushing it but to make it help me a bit before the other guys even got to the bit at Minquiers where the tide was with us for half an hour and that worked out well. But even so there were boats inshore that I was not sure if I would cross ahead of.”

Looking ahead, Loison continued: “Now we have to climb north to Aurigny and there are choices to stay in to the coast or to go west, offshore. I have not made my choice yet but so much depends on timing. I will study the different options. It is always nice to sail on the Cotentin (Cherbourg peninsula). There are always things going on in this area. And you have to factor in the strong tides, even with a coefficient of 50 it always influences your routing, but at 83 it is more important because it then really influences your wind. I will try and see how the weather routings look, really following the barometer which lets us follow the evolution of the high pressure ridge to see if it moves. But that did not work so well on the first leg. But anyway let’s see, I downloaded a bunch of files before the start, so let us see if they will still work well.”

Interestingly for the race overall rankings, Pierre Leboucher who is second overall and who led in the early phases of the leg is now 21st and Armel Le Cleac’h 24th, both more than a mile behind current 2019 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro leader Richomme.

Stage overview so far

Because the fleet were slowed last night by light and changeable winds, the routings which the skippers left Roscoff yesterday afternoon with are delayed, the south-westerly breeze collapsing earlier than expected.

The fleet split off the Héaux de Bréhat as the wind died, with stage 2 winner Adrien Hardy leading one group inshore. Facing the ebb tide which at times was up to three knots with less than five knots of wind, it was frustratingly hard to make progress towards the mark. The fleet compressed at the bay of Saint Brieuc which allowed some those who had suffered an early loss to recover distance.

Around midnight the wind filled again as the sky cleared under a full moon. The inshore group were best placed to profit as the wind returned with Gildas Mahé and rookie Benjamin Schwartz leading the group as they accelerated to eight knots towards the Videcoq bouy on the rising tide. As they gybed in to the mark, it was Loison who emerged ahead of the pack.

Under big spinnaker on port gybe, they will now leave Jersey to port, racing to make the raz Blanchard where the tide turns again at 0900hrs to ebb against them.

“You can’t call that a night can you? With a moon like that that lit us up like the sun, it was lovely,” said tenth placed Tanguy Le Turquais (Groupe QuÈguiner-Kayak) early this morning. “I have started OK and did well at Brehat. I did quite well staying off but the guys who stayed right inshore came out a little better. And for now I am not bad. It was hard when the wind died at the start of the evening. I decided I wanted to be getting east as fast as I could and that let me get in front of the group who were in front of me.”

Track the fleet here ( follow their progress on Twitter here (

Rankings at the Le Videcoq buoy

1-Alexis Loison (Normandy Region) at 5h 22 ‘

2-Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola-Equi’Thé) at 5h 29 ‘

3-Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) at 5h 31 ‘

4-Anthony Marchand (Group> Royer-Secours Populaire) at 5h 32’

5-Eric Péron (French Touch) at 5h 32’ 30’


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