The 4th and final leg of La Solitaire du Figaro, the world championship of singlehanded offshore racing, was both the shortest and most tense.
Between 20-25 knots of following wind set the fleet of Beneteau Figaro Solo one designs well on their way from Falmouth towards the Isle of Wight. Fierce to hold his overall lead, Pascal Bidegorry on Europ Assistance rounded the marker buoy off Falmouth and the Isle of Wight in first position, and continued to dominate the fleet across the Channel to the finish line off Cherbourg. The wind died off near the finish and with the strong currents renowned in that area, the positions were still shuffling around. However, Bidegorry remained sure and left his rivals stuck in the bay off Cherbourg to finish first ahead of solo veteran and three time winner Philippe Poupon on board Fleury Michon and Christophe de Pavant on Adibou.
In the race’s final rankings, Pascal Bidegorry held the number one spot all the way from the second to fourth leg. He accumulated 285 hours 7 minutes and 20 seconds, and alead of just under 4 hours from his next opponent – no mean feat in this hotly contested event where there are at least 15 other pretenders to the throne snapping at your heels. One of these was second placed and first ‘Rookie’ (first time in the Figaro) Armel Le Cleach, who put in a remarkable performance for his first ever Solitaire. He only just topped the overall time of third placed veteran skipper Gildas Morvan by just 8 minutes – a regatta rather than offshore style result after 4 legs and 288 hours of racing!
The rest of the top ten finished within just an hour of each other. The rigorous amount of training these skippers do over the winter and in the run up Grand Prix regattas greatly reflects on their overall performance in this race, the climax of their calendar. First woman in the fleet, recent Transat AG2R winner Karine Fauconnier on board Sergio Tacchini Itineris, had to settle with 8th place in the rankings, a slip of 2 places from last year, proving how competitive both the old and new skippers are in Figaro one-design racing.
Top international skipper was Brit Marcus Hutchinson sailing VirtualSpectator Impac’t Jour J who finished a creditable 19th in leg 4 to push his overall ranking up to 28th in the end, marking a consistent performance in a race where places rise and fall vicariously. It’s time that matters though, and he should be pleased that he only suffered a 9 hour and 54 minute gap from Bidegorry, considering that he has not been able to train at all for the race whilst working in New Zealand as press officer for the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Italian Alberto Spina repeated last year1s performance with a finish in the lower part of the fleet; 17 hours and 3 minutes after the leader. Another Figaro rookie skipper, Canadian Roberta Holden, had a baptism by fire in her first ever high-profile Figaro race, with her ankle injury in leg 1 and then being forced to abandon the race in leg 2 from a broken forestay. She overcame these setbacks and put in her best performance in the 600 miler 3rd leg. Overall she came 47th, with a gap of 44 hours and 21 minutes between her and the leader. We hope their determination to contend with the best French singlehanded sailors will inspire other international skippers to pursue a Figaro campaign in the future.
1. BIDEGORRY Pascal Europ Assistance arr. on 19/08/00 at 0049hrs 57 mins in36hrs 08’57’ ‘
2. POUPON Philippe Fleury Michon 25 mins 49 secs
3. de PAVANT Christophe Adibou 46 mins 18 secs
19. HUTCHINSON Marcus VirtualSpectator Impac’t Jour J 1hr 40’31”
37. SPINA Alberto Monaco Marine Group 3hrs 00’34
47. HOLDEN Roberta Domaine de Régusse 3hrs 56’16”
General Rankings for the 31st OSolitaire du Figaro1:
1 BIDEGORRY Pascal Europ Assistance in 285hrs07’20