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Is Youth Taking The Lead?

Published on 17/09/2021

At 29, Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) overall winner has been the most dominant force on this 52nd edition of the Solitaire du Figaro. Before the start he was not so much of a favourite compred with the older hands, Xavier Macaire, Gildas Mahé, Alexis Loison or Corentin Horeau. But maybe on the general classification there is a certain younger generation starting to prevail. Behind Pierre Quiroga, Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Performance) at just 24 years old was 3rd and surely has the potential to win whilst Gaston Morvan (Bretagne - CMB Espoir) also 24 years old was 7th on his very first La Solitaire du Figaro, top rookie.

Maybe this 52nd edition marks a turning point in the history of solo, one design offshore racing. The Figaro Bénéteau 3 has different requirements from its predecessor. The discomfort of life on board is total, bodies are constantly stressed and stained. It is wet and physical. Physical preparation prior to the four weeks of intense racing becomes increasingly specific. But that is not to say skippers of 40 or older are past it, but for sure experience is no longer a solid guarantee of success. The ultra talented under-25s are arriving in force all clamouring on a pathway to the real holy grail in France, the Vendée Globe. In that respect continued success at an early age on the proving ground of La Solitaire du Figaro is a resounding endorsement of not just raw sailing talent, but resilience, emotional intelligence, organisation and professionalism. Some of the big names on the circuit are moving on Martin Le Pape, Tanguy Le Turquais, Eric Peron, Damien Cloarec and Alexis Loison decide to stop after this Solitaire, as has Macaire. The new generation sees a young pool of talented, hard driving young women, challenging the young guys on equal terms, Elodie Bonafous (Bretagne - CMB Océane), 25, Violette Dorange (Devenir) 20, Estelle Greck (Respimer), 30, the American-Italian Francesca Clapcich (Fearless-State Street Marathon Sailing), 33 years old and Charlotte Yven (Team Vendée Formation), 24 years old.

The battle was fierce on this long, very long Solitaire: nearly 2,800 miles actually sailed. Self-knowledge and hard work counted (Xavier Macaire was a tough, talented opponent) but youth and talent created a surprise: Gaston Morvan took 7th place 15 minutes ahead of Corentin Horeau (Mutuelle Bleue - Institut Curie), and 20 minutes in front of Martin Le Pape (Gardons La Vue). Note the progress of a certain Erwan Le Draoulec (Skipper Macif 2020), also 24, 10th overall, after a 29th place in 2020 on his first Solitaire du Figaro. He relegates the very good and at 31 not exactly old Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) from 10th last year to 11th position. This year, for the first time since the creation of the race in 1970, a trophy will be given to the winner. Pierre Quiroga will therefore receive the Solitaire du Figaro 2021 trophy.

Rookies Rocking It

There were a very healthy number, 12 rookies (including 3 women) in Saint-Nazaire on the starting line on August 22, the most for a long time. And among these newcomers to the Figaro circuit, there are some who must be considered potential winners, Gaston Morvan who has grown up with the race as a constant backdrop to his life, his father Gildas Morvan (22 participations) has ensured the young Morvan is well schooled and Gaston fully embraces the arduous and devilishly demanding race format. First rookie, 7th on the general classification, the next generation is knocking on the door. And 25-year-old Alexis Thomas (La Charente Maritime) also demonstrated an ability to stay an right peloton as did the Spaniard, Pep Costa, 22, who shone on the last stage, for a long time in the wake of Pierre Quiroga and Tom Laperche and winning the Suzuki Comabativity Fighting Spirit prize for the leg.

Solid Internationals

First at the Fastnet, 3rd in the last stage and 16th overall, the Irishman Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan) is one of the best Figarists of the moment, fifth last year. And Englnd’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) also podium finish on stage 3 and took 11th place overall, winning the Vivi Trophy for the best international skipper.

Race and get involved

The city of Saint-Nazaire created the trophy for the skipper best championing a more inclusive society. The City will award this prize tomorrow evening to Robin Marais (Ma Chance à Moi) for the support of an association for the most vulnerable children and which hard to promote equal opportunities for all .

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