Delpech leader of the fourth stage of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro
French rookie Jules Delpech (ORCOM) is the breakaway leader of the fourth stage of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro, taking a lone, solo route more than 25 miles to the east of the main body of the fleet as they negotiate the tricky descent of the Celtic Sea after rounding the mythical Fastnet rock in the small hours of this morning.
It was, appropriately, the race's only Irish skipper Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) who narrowly led around the iconic light as its welcome beam cut through a typically wet, inky darkness at 0240hrs (CET) this morning. He was only four minutes up on second placed Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) but the boost to Dolan's morale would have been significant.
But while Dolan and Macaire left the lighthouse and started off upwind on the 400 nautical miles leg back to Saint Nazaire, the pursuing group were able to stay west and progressively pick up the first of the new NW'ly breeze. Meantime Delpech went east early and, as much, benefits from his position closest to the direct, theoretical rhumb line passing close to Land's End. He has been two knots slower in less wind than his nearest rivals.
On his 29th birthday the overall General Classification leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) has been keeping his powder dry as much as possible, playing the percentages with the main peloton which has still been very slightly quicker than Macaire and Dolan, second and third respectively, holding four or five miles of theoretical advantage over Quiroga who is fourth this evening.
He joked earlier today, "What do I want for for my birthday? You'll have your own ideas I'm sure! But I am going to try and hang in here like a big guy, but this last stage is not easy."
Racing under big spinnakers in light breezes and sloppy, confused seas – caused by the conflicting influence of a variety of different weather systems – the balance is very fine, between sailing more miles in the west but getting more wind pressure or sailing the more direct route favoured by Dolan and Macaire who re-oriented themselves during this morning to keep a loose check on their adversaries to their right.
Fabien Delahaye, in fifth and one of the more westerly skippers, explained this afternoon,
"It was a very damp, unpleasant night but now I am downwind under spinnaker in the sun, I am drying my clothes and I have eaten. This route is the lesser of many evils even if it is not optimal. I was abeam of Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) and now he is five miles behind now. There is for sure more wind pressure in the west. I went round the Fastnet with TeamWork (Nils Palmieri) and he's stuck next to me. Since we came through the front, we have been moving along the edge of the ridge and the wind is stable. The pilot steers well, I have taken a few naps. I take advantage of it for the moment, because I do not know how long it will stay that way. There is a lumpy, crossed swell which is getting bigger and bigger. It comes from the cyclone that passed across the Atlantic and it's giving us this westerly swell off that strong wind. These waves comes from there which is weird because it's not very windy. Right from the start we have been supposed to have had less wind all the time. And in fact it's all happened quicker everywhere. We still have another 24 hours to see what happens in this slightly variable north-west wind between north and west. It will be more disturbed when approaching the French coast. "
Latest predictions have the first finishers crossing the line between Thursday evening and early Friday morning.
The race returns back to the Loire-Atlantique
After three weeks on the road the race village of La Solitaire du Figaro returns to Saint Nazaire, to the maritime coasts of the of Loire-Atlantique who are a major partner of the event.
The race village opens its doors tomorrow Wednesday near the Saint Nazaire submarine base. Among the sponsors booths and exhibitions are Suzuki marine et automobile, 727 Sailbags - Official Store, Champagne Charles Collin, Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm or the Brasserie de Bretagne.
Sailing, the future of maritime transport.
Ocean racing is a particularly innovative technological world. Flying foiling boats, rigid wing sails, canting masts, these technologies are now finding applications in the world of maritime transport.
Chantiers de l'Atlantique in Saint Nazaire have been working for several years on hybrid propulsion solutions and have just presented Solid Sail, a rigid sail largely inspired by ocean racing. Composed of composite panels, foldable, this sail, which can exceed 1,000m², will be able to propel the future cruise liners of Chantiers de l'Atlantique (Silenseas project). The panels will be linked to each other by dyneema strips and the sail will be hoisted by electric winches.
A first prototype of this innovative rig (38 meters of air draft and 550m² of sails) is being installed on the site of the build yard at the mouth of the Loire, to be tested there. The first seagoing units could see the light of day by 2025.