Le Cléach leads Figaro Stage 2

Published on September 7th, 2020

(September 7, 2020) – Two-time La Solitaire du Figaro champion Armel Le Cléach (Banque Populaire) holds the lead over the 35 solo racers during day two of the 51st edition’s second stage.

Prepared to hold further to the east, to leeward of his rivals on last night’s beat from the north Brittany coast 100 miles to Eddystone Lighthouse, Le Cléac’h’s slightly gutsy move was rewarded with a small jump on the pack which this afternoon he has increased to a very useful 3.3 miles over a very compact group of pursuers.

Transitioning an occluded front, it may be Le Cléac’h was prepared to press his luck, but more likely he saw less cloud coming toward him and so was confident the front had evaporated and was therefore confident in his break away from the peloton.

Early on Stage 1 to the Fastnet and back, Le Cléac’h chased his hunches and had strayed away from the pack and initially paid a heavy toll in miles to the leader. But a remarkable comeback got him to fourth at the finish, 10 minutes and 20 seconds behind stage winner Xavier Macaire.

It not only got him into contention but also underlined that the 44 year old has ample speed and is very much a title contender.

With a new Ultime in build, the Vendée Globe title in his back pocket and the solid support of the French bank, Le Cléac’h has nothing to prove to the sailing world, or his peers.

That said, as the 35 strong fleet rolled downwind in a strengthening WSW’ly wind heading for the Antifer – 100 miles ahead of Le Cléac’h’s bow at 1700hrs French time this afternoon – the remainder of the 404 miles passage from the Baie-de-Saint Brieuc to Dunkirk is going to be very much a speed and stamina test in just over 20kts of following wind, leaving Le Cléac’h in a very strong position.

As for Stage 1 winner Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF), he lies in 16th, 7.2 nm off the lead.

After his tenth place on the first stage, Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) has delivered on his promise to keep focused, not do anything rash and sail the fleet. He had a very solid windward leg to round Eddystone in 11th but in the very light conditions to Start Point off Plymouth timed his gybes well to use the last of the tide and then get relief inshore whilst missing the worst of the lee of the point.

And he has shown enough downwind speed as he sits fifth, 3.9 miles behind Le Cléac’h and in good company with Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement) beside him in fourth and the two boats in front of them less than half a mile ahead. All of the leaders were making 9.5-10kts.

Sam Goodchild (Leyton) has also made a strong opening to Stage 2 and was tenth but took a two mile gybe to the north to reposition himself for the long leg to Antifer and had dropped to sixteenth.

The 30 year old British skipper, a native of Devon and Cornwall, reported after Eddystone this morning, “My cross channel was good but I tacked a little bit early and lost three or four places. Armel went big east and it came good for him. He has an advantage for sure.

“I got some sleep, about an hour and a half, and we can see Plymouth which is nice, nice to see England where I have not been for a long time, nice to see home, even if we would need to do two weeks quarantine if we stepped ashore!”

At approaching the half way point of the leg, with the winds due remain moderate to fresh for the remainder of the passage to Dunkirk, the pacemakers should reach Dunkirk tomorrow around 2000-2100hrs.

Said Stage 1 winner Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) at Eddystone: “It is going slowly but surely, there is not much wind, the fleet is a bit scattered. I managed to get back not too far from the lead pack, I’m pretty happy. We rolled up the Eddystone Lighthouse brought the fleet together a bit because we found ourselves pushing the current once we got past it. There is a lot of weed and so you spend a lot of time removing it from your rudders and the keel. The objective is to hit the west-southwest wind and position yourself well to use it best you have to be in the lead when the boats start to accelerate.”

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The four-leg solo 1830 nm race in the latest generation foil-equipped one design Figaro Bénéteau 3 is a fiercely competitive proving ground for solo sailors. Analysis of the race course by the Race Director:

Leg 1: a 642 mile voyage to the Fastnet and back (August 30 to September 2)

“The only waypoint in this first long leg will be the Fastnet Rock, which they will have to leave to starboard. It is going to be very open for the solo sailors from the start, with everyone attempting to find the right tactics and avoid the traps in the Channel and Celtic Sea,” explained Francis Le Goff. Once they have left Saint-Brieuc Bay, the skippers will head for Ireland while avoiding the rocks around the Isles of Scilly and respecting the various shipping lanes (TSS) to the West of Cornwall on the way out and back. Anything is possible. They can go inside or outside the islands, so we can look forward to an exciting tactical game…


Leg 2: 404 miles to Dunkirk via the English coast (September 6 to 8)

Originally to be 497 miles to Dunkirk via the English coast, a light wind forecast shortened the northernmost turning mark to Eddystone off Plymouth and not Wolf Rock off Lands End as programmed. From the start, it will be a 120 nautical miles leg to Eddystone lighthouse followed by a long, fast 160 miles downwind run east up the channel to a mark, Antifer, off Le Havre then continuing 100 miles more on a downwind procession to Dunkirk, the fleet increasingly funneled into a narrow lane, gybing several times down a course bounded by high land to the south and the forbidden shipping lane to their left. The leaders are expected in Dunkirk after about two and a half days at sea.


Leg 3: a 504 mile coastal leg from Dunkirk to Saint-Nazaire (September 12 to 15)

There are going to be some great sights along the way in this third leg with a wide range of backdrops. The Opal, Alabaster, Mother-of-pearl coasts of Normandy and the Pink Granite coast and craggy cliffs at the tip of Brittany, the Megalithic Coast of Southern Brittany, the Love Coast and Jade Coast of the Loire Estauary area. So many brilliant things to see, yet the leg is full of hurdles: tricky headlands and capes, tidal currents, islands and rocks, fishermen… 500 miles of high-tension sailing, with one eye on the charts, and the other on the sails with some sleepless nights ahead.


Leg 4: a 24 hour and 183 mile sprint between the islands for the Grand Finale (September 19 to 20)

After three hard, testing stages, the solo sailors will have to draw deeply on their reserves for for 24 hours of racing, a loop which should take them between the Ile d’Yeu and Belle-Île via the Ile de Groix before seeing them return to the Loire-Atlantique to crown the big winner of this 51st edition which promises to be full of twists and turns.


Source: La Solitaire du Figaro

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