After the first day and night at sea, and two key points of passage, the solo sailors are halfway to the finish of the fourth and decisive leg of La Solitaire du Figaro, that left Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday bound to Dieppe. Shortly after 4 am the overall race leader Jérémie Beyou climbed up again in the lead of the final leg with Fabien Delahaye and young rookie Morgan Lagravière practically “glued” to his stern. While the front of the fleet is tacking upwind towards the Four Channel to round the Brittany Point, the skipper of BPI is reported to have a half-mile advantage on Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham) second placed in the overall ranking. The two look more than determined to stay up in the leadership over the remaining 260 tricky miles to the finish. But their pursuers are all but giving up hope and tension runs high as the first 13 boats are all in a tiny 2 two and a half mile range.
Undoubtedly, the final stage of La Solitaire du Figaro so far has met the skippers’ expectations with 15 hours of demanding upwind sailing to Belle Ile followed by an equally stressful reaching spell with continuous sail changes. At approximately noon Monday, the first skippers faced the difficult passage of the raz de Sein against the tide, incredibly close to the Plate lighthouse. This coastal course split the fleet in different small groups. Jérémie Beyou is in command of a troupe of 12 sailors lined up over a stretch of less than 2.5 miles among which Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham), surprising first rookie Morgan Lagravière (Vendée), Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat), Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls), Adrien Hardy (Agir Recouvrement), Fred Rivet (Vendée 1)… another group made of 8 boats is following the leaders’ tracks, albeit with more lateral separation and another two miles behind the rest of the fleet is scattered over a broad area with skippers taking different options, like Nicolas Lunven (Générali) and Thierry Chabagny (Gédimat) who went for a far more offshore route.
According to the position report, Portuguese Francisco Lobato (ROFF) lies in 11th, less than two miles behind the leader and showing good speed, a good morale boost for the Lusitanian sailor who, up to now, had quite a disappointing race. Jersey’s Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) too, has been consistently sailing in the top group and is reported to be in 15th place, Conrad Humphreys (DMS) managed to climb back some places and is 28th while the youngest competing sailor Sam Goodchild fell back in the ranking and is 31st at 7 miles from the top while Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) who suffered some electronics problems is 36th at 7.3 miles. Late afternoon the fleet was heading to Ushant in a very variable and shifty NE. In theory the breeze should increase and veer left after Brittany Point and when the 44 skippers will have to set the course to the Channel Islands they will be faced with a last dilemma: go offshore to get the shift or not?