Xavier Macaire Leads Upwind Battle Back To Lorient Brittany

Published on 24/08/2021

With the best part of 190 nautical miles of upwind sailing still to complete to the finish line in Lorient, Brittany, it is Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who leads the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro fleet this Tuesday afternoon.

After a spectacular night approach to the NW Spanish coast in 30kts of breeze and big seas and the rounding, at 08.20hrs this morning, of the Los Farallones buoy, 40 year old Macaire has today maintained the 2.4 miles margin that he built by – incredibly – sailing more than half a knot quicker than all of his rivals during the night.

This is going to be quite a long leg back to Lorient because we are going upwind. But it’s a great end of the stage that awaits us. It will be nice. I’m not saying I like it though, because it’s not very comfortable. It’s a bit hard to manage the boat in these conditions. It’s difficult to eat, we are soaked, it is really difficult on every level. I couldn’t let go too much last night, I’m a little tired, but overall, I’m doing well in these conditions. If all these things add up to allow me to be well placed, that’s great, I’ll take it.

Macaire won the first, 640 miles long leg of the last race in 2020, out to the Fastnet and back. In Saint Quay last year he finally broke the hoodoo which robbed him of two stage wins previously, including one potential race win. In 2015 after finishing first across the line into Dieppe he was judged to have sailed inside a forbidden zone some 18 miles from the finish and was penalised an hour by the jury. And, again, in 2016 the sailor who originates from the Mediterranean had a stage win taken from him because of an 18 minutes penalty for a broken seal on a fire extinguisher. From the perspective of bouncing back from these incidents alone, many would love to see Macaire finally win La Solitaire du Figaro on his 11th, and -he says – final attempt at the race. He has already scored two overall podiums, second in 2013 and third in 2016.

Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Performance) and Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT Environnement – Ruban rose) are scrapping over second place.

In the brisk wind conditions the gaps have now opened through the fleet with the tailenders such as David Paul (Just A Drop) now over 30 miles behind Macaire. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) remains the best placed of the international sailors in 17th place at eight miles behind Macaire. On here first ever long solo offshore the Italian-American rookie Francesca Clapcich on Fearless State Street Marathon Sailing is going strongly in 20th place – also around eight miles from the top of the fleet, but pushing hard in the thick of the main group of ‘bizuths’ or rookies. Top rookie is Gaston Morvan (Bretagne CMB Espoir) in ninth. Briton Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) will be conserving himself as best he can for the finish stretch into Lorient on Thursday morning where an opportunity may present itself to come back from his current 22nd place to find a more valuable first leg finish time, consider always this race is scored in cumulative time aggregated over all four legs so the most important aspect is always time delta behind the winner.

Pam Lee, Irish short handed racer who is preparateur for Roberts this race noted this morning, “The pack hit the layline for the Bouée Cardinale Ouest “Ouest Farallones” off the coast of Spain at about 2300 last night, with the most northerly boat Marc Mallerat - CTB, Controles Techniqie de Voile, the first to gybe, Jesse Fielding - Opportunity – State Street Marathon was close second to make the call. As the rest of the fleet headed south, the wind had already increased with a steady North Easterly but it will be a wet, bumpy climb 300 or so nautical miles back upwind to Lorient. There is still the prospect of a shut down on Thursday morning if they don’t keep up the pace, which could really stretch out the final hours of this leg. The big tactical decision for the long upwind will be which route to take through the three exclusion zones. Weather models were giving a number of different alternatives before the fleet left the dock. Undoubtedly the skippers will be searching for the key signs to help them make this big decisions.

Roundings at Los Faralllones.

1 / Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) : 8h20
2 / Pierre Leboucher (GUYOT Environnement – Ruban rose) : 8h30
3 / Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) : 8h37
4 / Fabien Delahaye (Groupe Gilbert) : 8h38
5 / Tom Laperche (Bretagne – CMB Performance) : 8h40
6 / Corentin Horeau (Mutuelle Bleue pour l’Institut Curie) : 8h45
7 / Martin Le Pape (Gardons la vue) : 8h45
8 / Elodie Bonafous (Bretagne – CMB Oceane) : 8h53
9 / Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) : 8h53
10 / Gaston Morvan (Bretagne – CMB Espoir) : 8h54 first rookie


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