Hard miles begin for Figaro Stage 3

Published on September 14th, 2020

(September 14, 2020) – Having led the 33 strong La Solitaire du Figaro fleet since the early hours of this morning, Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) has had to see his hard earned margin in Stage 3 evaporate in a fast failing breeze off the Baie de Morlaix this evening.

For the 30 year old solo racer who placed twice on the podium of warm-up Figaro races this season and who, on September 12, started the 492 miles Stage 3 from Dunkirk in third position overall, seeing the fleet fall in on his stern was not unexpected as the forecasted shut down in the light easterly breeze arrived.

Goodchild has sailed an outstanding leg so far, fast in all conditions, focused and making assured, relatively low risk moves. But now looking forward, the final 195 nautical miles, around the tip of Brittany, and south to the finish line at Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire, look set to be painfully slow.

“We are just coming up to the north Brittany coast,” said Goodchild as he raced side by side with Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who won Stage 1. “Forecast-wise now we only have what we get from MeteoConsult and that leaves some grey areas; they are not very precise. At the moment the idea is to get to coast quickly to be able to hide or anchor if we need from the strong tide.”

Goodchild added, “I took advantage of my investment to the SW yesterday and managed to round the Cap de la Hague in the lead with Xavier Macaire who was further out to sea. Achilles Nebout went off Alderney and Adrien Hardy sailed off towards Guernsey, but we may all get back together again depending on what happens to the weather.

“We’re waiting for the next weather forecast to see what is coming up. We’re expecting to come to a stop off Northern Brittany and we’ll see how things get going again. As usual, there is a lot of seaweed. There are a hundred miles to sail now with very little wind. Guernsey looks good from here. I have never been there but we’re sailing close to the rocks and enjoying the view. Conditions have been easy and pleasant so far.”

Sounding relaxed today, Goodchild has already shown considerable maturity and serenity so far and worked carefully with Corentin Douguet on a weather strategy, his friend and rival French skipper being forced out of the race with a damaged vertebrae in his back.

“Sam really has followed the game plan we developed beforehand to the letter,” commented Douguet. “Certain options taken by other skippers after passing Dieppe surprised me, but it is not in my philosophy to choose extreme routings when conditions are uncertain.

“We can still see guys like Eric Péron (French Touch) and Adrien Hardy (Ocean Attitude) who like to ‘bang the corners’. The crucial phases went well for Sam, who is having a very good season, but the remainder of the leg seems more complicated. It seems to me that the hardest part is yet to come.”

With overall leader Armel Le Cléac’h more than 12 miles or two hours behind in 24th today, these two sailors would top the General Classification, but this promises to be an exceptionally challenging, slow night as small, localized low pressure systems such away all of the breeze.

The six leading boats were compacted back to within one mile of each other. The favourable ebb current should work with them from 1800hrs this evening to help them pass the entrance to the Baie de Morlaix. This is probably the most familiar stretch of coastline for the Figaro racers but there will certainly be elements of good and bad luck come into play tonight.

The tide will help for the first part of the night but by Portsall, on the corner, the strong tides will be against them and anchoring may be required before Ushant.

“These small low pressure systems are lurking around the tip of Brittany,” explained Francis Le Goff, Race Director. “From tonight they will suck up all the wind, pretty much for whole of the night. In the end this leg is going to be around 96 hours of racing.” Le Goff, who anticipates the leaders to finish by September 16, has already postponed the start of the final leg.

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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 492 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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