Solitaire du Figaro
Yann Eliès won the Solitaire 33 years after his father
Morgan Lagravière and Nicolas Lunven on the podium
mercredi 11 juillet 2012 –
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The race history already bears the Eliès name – it was 33 years ago that his father Patrick won the race with another dominant performance, leading all four stages of the 1979 edition – but Yann’s 2012 victory will only add to the legendary status of this toughest of solo races.
Having won the first stage with an 11-minute advantage over Morgan Lagravière (Vendée), Eliès held the overall lead throughout the race, but was tested hard by a talented trio that included Lagraviere, Fabien Delahaye (Skipper Macif 2012), and 2009 race victor Nicolas Lunven (Generali), with stage 2 winner Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) putting in another strong challenge.
Eliès started the final stage of the race from Saint Gilles Croix de Vie on the back foot, with a mid-fleet position as Lunven and Morvan set the early pace. However he is not a man to give up easily – he self-funded this season’s Figaro campaign until a sponsor could be found – and as the fleet departed the Vendée shores he steadily worked his way up into the top 10.
Those 13 years of experience told as he kept with the pace of the leaders throughout the first evening, biding his time until the Glenan archipelago when he was able to make serious gains, moving into the top five by Pointe de Penmarch. Each mark of the course proved an opportunity for Eliès to climb the rankings, taking fourth through the Raz du Sein, then third through Finistere, chasing Delahaye and Lagravière across the Channel.
Around 1.5 miles covered these top five skippers along the English coast, with Eliès stealing the lead as they passed Portland Bill just before midnight last night to show the way around Needles Fairway buoy. As the fleet re-crossed the Channel this morning there was no let up in pressure, with Eliès fending off several challengers including Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls), who had a storming final section of the race. However, by the final 20 miles of racing Eliès had secured a half mile advantage which he converted into a solid win by 3 minutes, 31 seconds from Morgan Lagravière – making last year’s top ‘Bizuth’ an impressive second overall with a deficit of 33 minutes from Eliès. Third home in the final stage was Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) with Nicolas Lunven (Generali) fourth, Lunven also gaining third in the race overall.
Amidst the elation, there was also sheer exhaustion – changeable weather conditions, busy shipping lanes and strong breezes making this third and final leg as physically tough as any in a race characterized by fearsome levels of sleep deprivation. Lagravière said he was as happy as the winner, but also cautioned : “It’s been a complicated race, there were ups and downs, good and bad conditions. Now I say that I will never come back on the Solitaire, it’s too hard, I don’t know if I will have energy enough to do it again.”
First rookie overall was Thomas Norman (Financière de l’Echiquier), despite a strong showing by Julien Villion (Seixo Promotion) who finished 9th in the third stage.
For the three British skippers the third stage also saw the best performance of the race, with Sam Goodchild (Artemis 23) starting the inshore section in third. Goodchild maintained a top 10 position for much of the 486-mile leg, racing among highly experienced French competitors on his second attempt at the race before slipping to 14th in the final few hours. Overall Goodchild finished in 24th, one place ahead of team mate Nick Cherry in 25th (Artemis 77) while the youngest sailor in the fleet, Henry Bomby (Artemis 37) finished in 31st. Portuguese sailor Francisco Lobato (Roff) was 27th, and Kristen Songe Molle (NOR, Kristin For Fulle Seil) 33rd.
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Solitaire du Figaro : Cherry takes the best start as Morvan leads out of grey rainy Paimpol