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Corentin Horeau has the edge in final hours of La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec

With just over 70 nautical miles to sail at 1800hrs this (Wednesday) evening the battle for the overall 2023 La Solitaire du Figaro title hangs in the balance. After starting the third and final 470 miles stage from Roscoff to Priac-sur-Mer with a lead of 8 minutes and 55 seconds over second placed Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire), Basile Bourgnon (Edenred) trails two miles directly behind Horeau as they beat back up the Vendée coast between Les Sables d’Olonne and Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.

Banque Populaire skipper Corentin Horeau, photo Alexi Courcoux

Whilst they are making around 5.8-6.4 kts upwind the theoretical time difference between the two is of the region of 20-25 minutes, giving the advantage to Horeau by a matter of ten or 11 minutes. Increasingly it is looking like Horeau the older, more experienced sailor – who was tipped pre-start as the outstanding favourite after finishing on the podium in all the preliminary French Elite championships – finally has the most coveted solo one design offshore title within his grasp, on his seventh attempt. The breeze is likely to ease over the duration of the evening and night, and will head them to ensure the last dozen miles will be directly upwind. But most forecasts do not predict a shut down.

In the middle of the afternoon Horeau spoke by VHF, saying, “For the general, I need to be as close as possible to Skipper Macif 2022 (Loïs B.) in terms of time, and I have already a small cushion on Edenred (Basile Bourgnon). But right now I am not thinking about it too much, but I try to act accordingly. I try to just sail as best as possible. But not knowing what the wind is going to do is super hard. I will do everything to win. You have to stay focused. I have eaten well and slept well the last two nights. I’m prepared and ready for the end.”

In third going into the final stage Loïs Berrehar was 32 minutes and 42 seconds behind Bourgnon and 23 minutes and 47 seconds behind Horeau. He is in seventh place but only a few hundred metres ahead of Horeau. This afternoon Berrehar said, “I would like to be more in front. But you have to stay focused, there's a lot going on the water. And I am staying opportunistic. My positioning suits me quite well. I'm not so bad at tackling the ending. The strategy for the podium? For me, it’s being in front of the other two, obviously. But otherwise I don't have any particular strategy, I try to make the right tacks, and just sail better than the others. We will know most at the last buoy. But I understand that we were going to have light wind conditions. I hope they won't be too light. You have to keep a cool head, and save energy for the end. Because we saw that clearly in the previous stage, this is where everything can be at stake. Surprisingly on Day 3 here I'm in pretty good shape. I think we should finish tonight if all goes well..."

Meanwhile leader on the water is Benoît Tuduri (CAPSO en Cavale). Racing back up the coast where he trains, indeed passing close to Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Ville where his Team Vendée Formation training group is based, Tuduri spoke today of the strategy – sticking close to the coast yesterday – which jumped him into the lead just before last night’s final turning mark.

“I know Vendée well, it’s where I train.” Said Tuduri, the rookie from Montpellier who crossed the finish line first into Kinsale but received a 30 minutes penalty. “That is an option that I had considered in my strategy with Corentin Douguet, who I work with on weather. It was quite interesting, and it worked. What is interesting about these stages, which are quite long, is that there are moves to be made.” Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) was lying sixth, 4.5 miles behind the leader and going well upwind, positioned slightly offshore of the boats round about him which could benefit him sailing a shorter distance to the last marks of the course. After a brutally disappointing finish into Roscoff Dolan would doubtless be pleased to finish sixth in among all the top sailors.

Dolan said on the VHF “The wind keeps moving. I'm not joking it goes between 7 and 12 knots, going left,and then right. The pilot no longer understands anything. It’s a battle! I got the weather forecast from the radio call. I think I am on the right side for the next shift. It's quite motivating. But this really hurts especially as I was in the group that spent five days at sea on the last leg. To put it politely, I'm a little fed up with it. On this 3rd stage, to summarize, I did good at the start, average in the middle, and at the end... we'll see. The wind is so variable. On a stage of Le Figaro, it’s fun; we hurt ourselves for four days, we all arrive grouped in the same place. And then we roll the dice… Insha’Allah!