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Fastnet Memories

Published on 01/09/2020

The famous Fastnet Rock lighthouse has been a mark of the course dozens of times over the 50 year history of La Solitaire, here are the memories of some of the elading French skippers.

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

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire)

“In 2001 in The Solitaire du Figaro, we set off from Saint-Quay-Portrieux to head for Dingle after rounding the Fastnet to port. I was well placed out to the West and it looked like I might round the Fastnet in the lead, but 100 miles from the lighthouse, the low-pressure system deepened and the Race Directors quite reasonably decided to cancel the leg and asked all the boats to head for Crosshaven to wait for the nasty weather to go by. We finally passed the Fastnet 36 hours later in delivery mode, once the weather had calmed down.”

Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Matériaux-Leucémie Espoir)

“The first thing that comes to mind is a double-handed attempt in the Fastnet Race on my Imoca Generali with Sébastien Audigane. One of the big maxis lost her keel and capsized in 30 knots of wind. We had very reduced visibility and were at full pelt like it is possible to do aboard an Imoca when you are sailing downwind to a mark and turn to round it upwind. It was a real battle aboard the boat with water everywhere. We heard the Mayday message from the crew of the maxi. It felt a bit like what the sailors went through in the 1979 race (when fifteen competitors were lost). . Apart from that, I can remember coming back down from Dingle under spinnaker in twenty knots in the sunshine. It was fantastic to speed along the Irish coast. I have never seen anything so beautiful.”

Alexis Loison (Région Normandie)

“I can remember a great battle with Nicolas Lunven in the Douarnenez-Fastnet-Douarnenez Race, which was a bit like this first leg. I was the first to round the Fastnet and was pleased. Then, last year, I took part in the Fastnet with Jean-Pierre Kelbert (owner of the JPK yard), who was rounding it for the first time. We could see the helicopter arriving to film us and I told him that was a good sign. It was in fact a very good sign (they won the race in IRC 3). I can also remember rounding it during a foggy night with the halo of the lighthouse. It was both magical and eerie.”

Frédéric Duthil (Technique Voile-Cabinet Bourhis Generali)

“My favourite memory is of my first Fastnet on a Mini in 2002, on a prototype with François Lebourdais. At that time we didn’t have many routing tools and very few weather charts. We got to the Fastnet in 45 knots of wind, which hadn’t been forecast back at the start. It was one of my first tricky sailing trips. We sailed upwind to get there and were soaked from head to toe. Something I’ll never forget, as since then, I have never seen such harsh conditions sailing there.”

Loïs Berrehar (Bretagne CMB Performance)

“This will be my sixth time around the Fastnet. The first time alone was in the first leg of the Solitaire du Figaro last year. It’s not something I wish to remember in terms of the rankings as I wasn’t doing great in the race, but it was fantastic to see: we rounded it late in the day with the sun still up. The Irish coast looked fantastic. As for sailing with a crew, I have a great memory of winning the Fastnet Race in 2015 in IRC Z on Bretagne Télécom with Nicolas Groleau. I was just 21 and it was my second time up there.”

Tanguy Le Turquais (Groupe Quéguiner-Innoveo)

“I don’t have many memories of the Fastnet, as I must have rounded it ten times or so when racing, but I’ve only managed to see it once. On the other occasions it was either dark or there was too much fog to see anything. So consequently what sticks in my mind is the Mini-Fastnet with Ambrogio Beccaria. We were the first to round the rock and just behind us, there was Clarisse (Crémer, his partner) with Erwan Le Draoulec. That was a nice moment rounding it with her just behind me and the weather was great. There were fishermen and seals around us and on top of that it was my 29th birthday.”

Robin Marais (Ma chance Moi aussi)

“I can remember rounding it aboard a Mini. We went around sailing downwind and just after us, the mist came down and you couldn’t see anything. It was quite magical. There was another time on a Class40 in 2015 with Cédric de Kervanoael. It was quite lively with thirty knots of wind. We couldn’t furl the gennaker, and we ended up bearing away from the route heading for the coast in the dark. We finally managed to furl the gennaker, but I took a hit there. I went down below to look at the charts and cut my hand on a splinter that was sticking out. There was blood everywhere in the boa

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