Published on 05/09/2022
With just over 120 nautical miles to sail to the Farallones turning mark which lies just off the rugged north Spanish coast near to Gijon, the two leading title contenders on the third and final leg of the 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro continue to race sid- by-side, in clear sight of each other after over 30 hours of racing since the fleet left Royan on Sunday lunchtime.
The Normandy region’s Guillaume Pirouelle left the start line on Sunday carrying a 14 minutes aggregate lead over Brittany’s second placed Tom Laperche. This afternoon as the leading peloton race upwind towards the most southerly turning mark of the 640 nautical miles stage to Saint-Nazaire, rivals Pirouelle and Laperche remain no more than 100 metres apart, watching each other’s every move.
Last night when the Arcachon buoy – the first mark of the course - was reached Pirouelle collected his first Intermediate Sprint bonus of the race, gaining five minutes, Laperche getting three minutes in second. So close are these two adversaries racing on this race-deciding third leg it is not inconceivable that the net two minutes of bonus Pirouelle collected over his rival may yet prove decisive. They are that close.
With the lead group showing a lateral separation of over ten miles north to south late this afternoon the windward group in the new NW’ly breeze – Pirouelle and Laperche among them – seem to have got the new wind first and so moved forward on Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) who was leading through the early part of the day along with Spain’s Pep Costa (Team Play 2 B-TERRAVIA). They are now tenth and 12th respectively.
Pirouelle, a 28 year old former Olympic 470 campaigner, has largely kept Laperche behind him downwind yesterday night and this morning, and now upwind.
He reported today to the race media boat, “Since the start we’ve had more wind than expected, and the first night was faster and sportier under the big spinnaker. This allowed me to progress well. I got first in the Intermediate Sprint my first one out of the three in this Solitaire, it’s always good to take. In terms of the weather we have a front coming our way this afternoon. It’s not very active, but he’ll still back the wind. We should tack when we have more headers then head towards a small anticyclone which will also change the wind with a few tacks getting us down to the southwest wind which will allow us this fast downwind to Saint-Nazaire. Tom (Laperche) is racing just behind behind me and and I need to focus on resting a little looking at this big downwind final, which will be physically difficult. For the moment, the conditions are quite cool, the pilot is steering well, it allows us to sleep a little. If all goes well, we could pass Los Farallones tomorrow in the early afternoon. We are waiting for the South-West for the end of the ascent towards the Spanish mark. But it’s on the final leg downwind where it will be decided.
And so self-management, ensuring the solo skippers reach the Galician turning mark in the best possible shape, rested and with as much energy as possible, will be vital for the 270 miles final sprint to the line.
Veteran Fred Duthil (Le Journal de Entreprises) , third on the first stage, has had to abandon the race due to a back injury.
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