Armel Le Cléac’h wins 2020 Solitaire

Published on September 19th, 2020

Saint-Nazaire, France (September 19, 2020) – With the fourth and final stage of La Solitaire du Figaro cancelled this evening due to the complete absence of wind, French skipper Armel Le Cléac’h wins the 51st edition.

It is a third victory for the 43 year old skipper of Banque Populaire, who already triumphed in 2003 and 2010. Frédéric Duthil (Technique Voile / Cabinet Bourhis Generali) and Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir) completed the podium in second and third, respectively.

Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) takes fifth place, the best finish on the General Classification overall by a non French skipper since 1997 when Switzerland’s Dominique Wavre finished runner up. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy.

Dolan finished 10th on the first stage, 11th on the second ,and seventh into Saint Nazaire at the end of the third stage. It is an excellent result for the 33 year old on just his third La Solitaire. Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) took tenth overall.

Vendée Globe winner Le Cléac’h joins the elite group who have won the French multi stage race three times: Philippe Poupon, Jean Le Cam, Michel Desjoyeaux, Jérémie Beyou, Yann Eliès.

It is a very special victory for the skipper of Banque Populaire, who, before the start of this 51st edition, made the race his “big objective of the season”, and for which he has carefully prepared since January.

He was fourth on the first stage round Fastnet and into Saint-Quay-Portrieux, he was the imperious winner of the second leg into Dunkirk – scoring his seventh stage victory on La Solitaire and then fourth on the very long third stage into Saint-Nazaire, after having been very deep in the pack. He made back more than ten miles to rescue his hopes of winning outright.

Friend and rival Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) said of Le Cléac’h Stage 2 win, “He gave us a sailing lesson. It reminds me the form and feeling he had when he won La Solitaire by winning three stages out of four in 2010. When he’s like that, he’s scary.”

La Solitaire du Figaro race director Francis Le Goff added: “Armel didn’t come here to finish second, he doesn’t care about being on the podium, he just wants to win. So when he feels there is a good option, he pushes it all the way.”

Saint Nazaire, which hosted the Stage 3 finish and Stage 4, has been good for Le Cléac’h. He won the 2003 race here by beating Alain Gautier by 13 seconds. With the hat-trick in his pocket, he moves on to his future projects with added confidence, supporting Clarisse Crémer in preparing for the Vendée Globe under the Banque Populaire colours and seeing the build of the Ultim Banque Populaire XI, concluded next spring.

“Winning this third Solitaire was the goal I had been chasing for two years so that’s great,” Le Cléac’h said. “I join my friends with whom we almost started out together, Yann (Eliès) and Jérémie (Beyou), as well as the ‘grown ups’ Michel Desjoyeaux, Philippe Poupon and Jean Le Cam, they are all great sailors, I am happy to join this little closed club.

“This is my twelfth participation, I started my first Solitaire twenty years ago, and it has been a long course since then. I have not won every year, there have been 2003, 2010 and now 2020. I had to be patient to get this third one. I am so delighted, there was a great atmosphere on this Solitaire, a level of fun and a bit of madness, all the generations mingling with each other, with the experienced like me, Yann, and Fred (Duthil) who made a nice second place, and behind the youngsters who will grow and get better and better, they are the champions of tomorrow.

“I’m glad I beat them again this year, but it will be more and more complicated in the years to come. We did more than 1,500 miles, three big stages all with lots of suspense, varied weather, we managed to race what was a very complete course, we went as far as Dunkirk, we went to the Fastnet, we finished here in Saint- Nazaire, it’s such a great race the Solitaire, I’m happy to have put my name on in the book again and to have achieved my goal.

“I had given myself two years to win, coming back after having experienced a very difficult Route du Rhum. All the work that we did with the team paid off, we had to re-motivate ourselves, start again on a new project, that will really get into the best possible conditions for the rest of the project with Banque Populaire. I thank them again for their trust, because 2018 has been a very hard year, two years later I am dedicating this Solitaire to them as they have never won it , it’s great!”

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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 83 mile sprint (shortened from 183 miles due to light wind forecast) 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 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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