Published on 27/06/2019
The landmark edition of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, which finished on Wednesday 27 June in Dieppe, covered more than 2000 miles over the four stages. Even more than usual it was a war of attrition, not in the sense of boats and skippers breaking down and falling by the wayside, but falling victim to the vagaries of the unpredictable weather, the light winds, multiple transition zones and key tidal gates.
Seven is the magic number
If youlook at the top ten rankings at the end of any La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro the average number of participations is seven. Even with the introduction of the Figaro Beneteau 3 as the new weapon of choice this year, that same average remains true. This year it was Yoann Richomme (Hellowork-Groupe Télégramme) who proved most consistent across the four legs and was crowned the overall winner in Dieppe. This win was Richomme’s eighth participation. The time time he competed was in 2016, an edition he also won. For second placed Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola Equi Thé) it was his ninth race and for third placed Anthony Marchand (Groupe Royer-Secours Populaire) it was his eighth.
And it seems there was a certain maturity required too. This was not a race over which the young guns prevailed in the end. They had their moments in the sun, flashes of brilliance, but as Michel Desjoyeaux said: “It was too mentally draining an edition for talented young people to cope.” Nearly every skipper among the top ten or 15 sailors had at least one ‘shocker’ and you had to be able to hold you nerve. Take for example Gildas Mahé and Anthony Marchand, who finished on the overall podium despite a first stage which saw them ranked 31st and 34that almost 9 hours behind the leader. That will be remembered for many editions to come and will be a reminder to younger generations that it is not over until the final finish gun.
That said, there were stand out performances from some of the young blood. Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environment) was ninth overall and the 2012 470 Olympian did not take long to find the right rhythm on only his third participation. He was still on the podium at the start of the third stage after two very good legs, but it all came down about his ears at the Videcoq buoy early in the third stage. He was 30th back into Roscoff and 20th into Dieppe, but still finished ninth overall his best finish yet.
Benjamin Schwartz was perhaps most impressive, finishing sixth overall and first bizuth (rookie) on his first participation. It is 16 years since a rookie finished as high up the standings as Schwartz, in the Figaro 2 in 2003 when Marc Emig was fifth.
“Schwartz impressed everyone,” says Alexis Loison (Region Normandie) who has 14 participations under his belt and finished fifth this time. Eric Péron, winner of the last stage in Dieppe who sailed with Schwartz in the Sardinha Cup confirms: “He is not necessarily the best helmsman but he knows how to get the best from his pilot, he is precise, he goes fast and always in the right direction.”
Prize for consistency
This award goes to Yoann Richomme of course who finished the stages 1st, 2nd, 13thand 4threspectively. But behind the clear winner, we should stress the consistency shown by Corentin Douguet who just missed out on the podium by 3 minutes 50 seconds, after receiving a 15-minute penalty for losing his anchor off the Casquets in the tough third leg. 5th, 17th, 11thand 3rdwas a great scoreline for the sailor from Nantes who was taking part for the tenth time. No one apart from him believes he will not be back again next year to give it another go.
It is also hard to forget Martin Le Pape, who was in the top ten in three legs and must surely be deeply disappointed with being forced to retire between Kinsale and Roscoff after an ingress of water due to a leak in his ballast hatches, as that meant he missed out in the overall rankings. What is more important are the tributes his fellow-racers in this edition paid to the Macif 2017 skipper. “I managed to motivate myself after that tricky incident, which was so hard mentally to deal with and I’ll be the stronger for that,” concluded the sailor who will return next year in different colours after three seasons in those of Macif.
The Solitaire is cruel to some each year and this edition was no exception. Some of the favourites at the start in Nantes obtained disappointing results for various reasons. For Yann Eliès (St Michel), sixteenth overall, the punishment he received in the first leg cost him dearly throughout. We only really saw what the skipper is capable of achieving in the final leg. That was more or less the case too for Jérémie Beyou (Charal), who had two good legs, but was not consistent enough to finish above twentieth place overall. Among the big guns, it was in fact Armel Le Cléac’h who came off best, finishing tenth overall. He intends to return next year to do better. This idea of a second attempt is shared by Fabien Delahaye (Loubsol) reminding us of what happened to a certain Nicolas Lunven in 2016-2017.
As for the legends of ocean racing – Peyron, Gautier and Desjoyeaux - they gave something special to the line up this year. It was Desjoyeaux, the skipper of Lumibird, who did best. Always able to do something inspired, Desjoyeaux did well at the starts (first to the Radio France buoy in Kinsale). For the three times winner, 2019 was however “a crazy edition.” One things for sure: he gave it his all and got into the top ten in two legs, finishing twelfth in Dieppe and fully deserves our respect.
Podium positions for each Stage:
Leg 1: Nantes-Kinsale (550 mlles)
1 -Yoann Richomme. 2-Tom Laperche. 3- Pierre Leboucher
Leg 2: Kinsale-Roscoff (565 miles)
1- Adrien Hardy. 2- Yoann Richomme. 3- Xavier Macaire
Leg 3: Roscoff-Roscoff (410 miles)
1-Anthony Marchand. 2- Gildas Mahé. 3- Alexis Loison
Leg 4: Roscoff Dieppe (510 miles)
1- Eric Péron. 2-Armel Le Cléac’h. 3-Corentin Douguet.
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