La Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire – Currently fourth overall, Gwénolé Gahinet crossed the start line of the fourth and final stage this Sunday at 1700hrs (French time).
Gahinet, the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten hopes to at least keep his place in the overall rankings and will try to push up into a podium place during the 470-mile leg from Torbay, England to Dieppe in Normandy, France, where the winner of this 46th edition will be decided.
A shortened course for the grand final
With the sunshine and 15 knots of wind, the weather was smiling on the sailors this afternoon in Torbay for the start of the last leg of La Solitaire du Figaro to Dieppe. After these ideal conditions, however, a lack of the wind in The Channel means the race director decided to reduce the final leg from 600 to 470 nautical miles. Therefore, the competitors will not tack around Lundy Island but must still go around a buoy to the southeast of the ‘Wave Hub’, which will mark the most northern point of the leg, before skirting the English coast again until the Owers mark to the east of the Isle of Wight. Finally, after crossing the Channel, the competitors will have to round a buoy at Cape Antifer before crossing the finish line in Dieppe.
Diverse leg, mixed feelings
Gahinet is ready to strike in this last leg, but uncertainty was the dominant feeling of the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten as he left the pontoon. “With the coastal weather, it has the same features as the last leg,” he said. “There will be many stretches that could generate very large gaps at the finish. We don’t really know what sauce we’ll be eating.” With parts in a weather front, current, thermal wind along the English coast, and above all, a large area of high pressure when crossing the English Channel, this leg looks diverse and give the 39 soloists no rest. “We’ll have some upwind and downwind but overall it’s a leg that promises light winds,” the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten said. “Fortunately, we were able to rest for four days because we’ll have to be completely focused. The slightest mistake will be fatal, it will have to be a perfect stage.”
Anything is possible, nothing is impossible…
After his great fourth place at the finish of the third leg in Torbay, Gahinet knows he is capable of competing with the best. “It motivates me, but I’m sure some competitors will take some risks, so I’m telling myself that anything is possible,” he said. Though Gahinet is currently fourth in the overall rankings, Jérémie Beyou (Maître Coq), in fifth, is only 4 minutes and 51 seconds behind him. Meanwhile, Xavier Macaire (Skipper Hérault), in third, is one hour and four minutes ahead of the figaro Safran-Guy Cotten. “The overall podium can change on this kind of leg that favours large potential gaps,” Gahinet said. “So, I’m trying to prioritise objectives: have a great stage, maintain my overall place and then, why not aim for a podium place in Dieppe. Nothing is impossible, it would be the fulfilment of a great Solitaire.”
For the record, in Friday’s exhibition race in Torbay, the English Artemis Offshore Academy offered the winner a free registration for La Solitaire du Figaro 2016. “And I won it, I seem to be on a good roll at the moment,” Gahinet said.