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Armel Le Cléac’h: “This is the one big goal of my season.”

Published on 29/08/2020

Armel Le Cléac’h, 43, is a twice winner of La Solitaire du Figaro (2003 and 2010) and as such is among several favourites for this 51st edition that starts on Sunday from the Baie-de-Saint-Brieuc. His seeding as a favourite is not something the Banque Populaire skipper takes much store by, seventh in the Solo Maître CoQ and third in the Drheam-Cup lends credence to his pre-race standing but he knows that on La Solitaire du Figaro a lot can happen between now and the finish in Saint -Nazaire. Armel what do you take from your Solitaire du Figaro 2019?

Alexis Courcoux/La Solitaire du Figaro
Alexis Courcoux/La Solitaire du Figaro

Quite a good memory, because it was a nice edition for the fiftieth, with nearly fifty participants, a new boat and four very eventful stages, so the ingredients were all good. But when I look back I did not really succeed in finding the ideal recipe. I did some good things and there were some others which proved more complicated but in the end my tenth place was below my ambitions. But it allowed me to gain experience and learn from it. It was also a return to the Solitaire after a few years away and I got back to the pleasures of this demanding race.

Are you coming back this year with different ambitions?

I would say it’s pretty much the same as last year, but I come back with a little more time and experience on the boat, gained from the races I have done this year, the Maitre CoQ and the Drheam-Cup and really also from just operating again in the the atmosphere of the Figaro circuit. To really be able to perform it’s always good to have on one or two or three seasons back to back then you are looking at the small details, fine adjustments and we have pushed against the sailors who have been going best on the water

In terms of sporting programmes you have only focused on this one goal this year, is that in your favour in this context?

It is especially in that the Figaro circuit has been going which is an asset, but it is true that this year, for me, this is the objective of the season. I have concentrated 100% on it. In reality it is the second major sailing event of the year in world sailing along with the Vendée Globe. That’s why I’m really happy that the race is taking place. Wew have a good field and the race is going to be as demanding as any other year. Now, I will just take is one stage at a time I will not set myself clear objectives, the goal will be to make as few mistakes as possible. I made them last year, some cost me dearly, now it is up to me to be more consistent.

What did you take from the pre-season races that reassure you?

In any case they gave me confidence in the work I did last winter with Erwan Le Roux (with whom he was due to race the Transat AG2R La Mondiale), I had learned a lot of things from him. And now having sailed near the front of these two races, really of being in the match all the time, even if, in the end, I did not win one, it allowed me to see that the speed is there. And in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t do the Solo Guy Cotten, because I wanted to keep some energy and take a little break with the family. We will see if this preparation proves effective. We are full on from the start doing four stages at breakneck intensity. And of course we know the outstanding aspect of this Solitaire du Figaro is that anything can happen right until the finish.

You can join the elite circle of triple winners of the race, is that a goal that you have in mind?

I’m not fixated on that third win, if it is meant to come it will, but that’s not my target at all, My goal is to sail well stage by stage and and make as few mistakes as possible, like the winner Yoann Richomme last year. We’ll do the count up at the end.

At the end we will finish this 51st edition into Saint-Nazaire where there are good memories for you. We’ll see. It is true that I did two stages to Saint-Nazaire and that each time brought very good memories. For my first Solitaire du Figaro in 2000 I finished second on the second stage into there behind Pascal Bidégorry and there had been a reversal behind us, which meant that I was promoted up onto the podium and so I finished second overall, it was great for a first time. And three years later that famous victory on the overall standings finishing 13 seconds ahead of Alain Gautier. But for me on this Solitaire, Saint-Nazaire is a long way off and I don’t think about that. I don’t really think about it, we will have two very complicated last stages, Dunkirk-Saint-Nazaire which is a big part of the jigsaw and then the sprint in big tidal coefficients which is very important which, depending on the weather, can redistribute the cards.

Does the first leg course of 642-miles to Fastnet inspire you?

It’s a crucial leg right from the start, a long stage of over 600 miles, just as we like it. It will be demanding and it can be decisive, especially as the finish in Saint-Quay can be complicated. I remember arriving here in 2001 with lots of current and little wind, it was “Jojo” (Sébastien Josse) who won with big gaps opening up at the finish. So watch out for this first stage, whatever I am really looking forward to it.

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