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Lottery finish for Figaro Stage 3

Published on September 16th, 2020

Saint-Nazaire, France (September 16, 2020) – Hugely experienced on La Solitaire du Figaro but a relative novice in the Beneteau Figaro 3, Fred Duthil (Technique Voilse/Cabinet Bourhis Generali) scored an opportunist’s victory today when he took the winning gun for Stage 3 on the 51st La Solitaire de Figaro off Saint Nazaire.

At the end of an epic, extremely tiring 492 miles stage from Dunkirk, which was punctuated throughout by very light winds, strong tidal currents, and many changes in wind direction, Duthil – at 46 the oldest skipper in the 33 strong field – added the fourth stage win of his La Solitaire du Figaro career which spans 17 years and ten previous editions, and which have rewarded him with a second in 2007 and third in 2008 and 2009.

The changeable conditions allowed many skippers to make big recoveries from deep in the fleet, including both Duthil and series leader Armel Le Cléac’h.

At his lowest, Duthil was 33rd more than 12 miles behind the leaders. At 0900hrs this morning, approaching the Baie de Quiberon, he was 32nd and nine miles behind the established leading pair Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux) and Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton).

When, ahead of him the fleet slowed and split, he was one of three skippers who stayed south, offshore, sailing outside Belle Isle while the others were making between one and four knots in the glassy smooth calm where the thermal sea breeze and the gradient fought and cancelled each other out.

But with only sailed four times in the foiling monohoull before Stage 1, Duthil’s tactic delivered five to eight knots in the original gradient breeze. He made back good miles to cross the finish line at 17:45:43hrs French time, 14 minutes and 34 seconds ahead of second placed Marc Mallaret (CER Occitanie) who is provisionally first rookie, with Adrien Hardy (Ocean Attitude) third at 18:37:57hrs. All three went south of Belle Ile.

Duthil admitted he would never has chosen that same routing had he been with the lead group but had recalled the pre-start advice of his weather adviser Christian Dumard.

“It is an unexpected win,” said Duthill. “I was very afraid of the winds at the island in the early morning. But we had talked about it with Christian… I did well to listen to him! If I had ever been in front, I wouldn’t have done it. But there at the time it was worth trying.

“I believed in this option. I scanned the horizon through binoculars and knew I was ahead. I then stopped for a while and was worried it would not come back, but it held! This victory is unexpected. I had only sailed four days before departure on this boat loaned by Charles Caudrelier. I would never have bet on this victory!

“Everything looked very was complicated this afternoon as was the whole stage. The start of the race was difficult, full of uncertainties, calms and transitions. The night off North Brittany was horrible, with all that weed. After Ushant I was very tired and actually dozed off for an hour. But I thought to myself, you never know, there will be shots to play towards the end.

“From Penmarc’h, being behind, I said to myself that we had to go under (south of) Belle-Ile which came a bit on a whim. I had two great first stages and saw that I was not off the pace. I do not think of the general classifications, I am happy with this success.”

Twice overall winner Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) was on typically predatory form during the ‘bloodbath of Belle Isle’. He stayed focused and threaded his way through the islands to take fourth. With 1hr 2 mins and 57 seconds in hand over Duthil before the start, Le Cléac’h crossed the line at 18:37:57hrs.

The finish position has Le Cléac’h retaining the top spot on the General Classification by 10 minutes and 43 seconds over Duthil, with the Technique Voiles skipper now his top rival going into the fourth and final stage, the 185 mile decider which starts September 19.

Disappointment for Yann Eliès and Sam Goodchild
Yann Eliès and Britain’s Sam Goodchild were the hardest hit by the voracious calms which were largely unexpected. The two steady leaders were among the first to head inshore, Eliès baling out to fight to the finish in the pack, crossing two hours and six minutes behind the winner in 17th position, while Goodchild dropped to 29th nearly three hours after Duthil.

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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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