A decision to go west on Leg 2 of La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro pays dividends for Nicolas Troussel 16/8/06

Frenchman Nicolas Troussel has won the second leg of La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro which puts him into the overall lead by a massive margin.

Troussel and the only other competitor to have finished so far – Thierry Chabagny – sailed an impressive tactical course well out to the west from Santander in Northern Spain to Saint Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in the Vendee leaving the remaining 42 Figaros fighting it out for the minor placings. The rest of the fleet have passed the Birvideaux lighthouse just north of Belle-ile and are due to arrive throughout the day.

Troussel (Financo) crossed the finish line at 05h37m35s this morning after 62 hours 18 minutes and 35 seconds of sailing at average speed of 5.04 knots. The 314-mile course for 42 of the sailors consisted for the most part of a vast calm area in the Bay of Biscay and incredibly rewarding one for Troussel and Chabagny who chose the western option.

Troussel is a sailor highly regarded by fellow competitors, quiet and unassuming, he best known for his exploits in the Transat BPE with his friend and race partner Armel Le Cléac’h. This is the sixth time he takes part and the first time he wins a leg on what is considered to be one of the toughest events of the Figaro series.

A happy and tired Troussel just after the finish this morning commented: “I must say I am surprised and feeling a little like I did when I arrived into St Barts when we won. It really is quite something to come in so far ahead of the others, we all know each other well, train together all winter and they are all quite a long way behind.”

Chatting about his decision to head west away from the pack Troussel said: “I had really looked at the forecasts before the start and planned to try and be as far west of the others, but did not have any of the position reports on the first day and did not know where they were so just went ahead alone on my course.

“I did cross Thierry Chabagny on the first night and then we lost sight of each other. I am happy for him too. I am surprised that everyone chose to go east, that there were not more of us to try this option. I could see that there could be something out west and it’s what happened. At the same time, the advantage of being alone is that you do not have keep a watch and control the others. I could do as I felt.”

Chabagny on finishing second added: “I only come in second, that is the problem?Nicolas and I were best friends up until today, but now it is over, it is going to be a fight! On a more serious note, we are friends in life and I can accept coming in second behind him?I really fought hard tooth and nail for this place and together with Nicolas we did not falter.

“I had this in mind before the start of the race. An hour after the start I knew that Nico and I were heading off to look for something west where the others would not go. We found gold and it worked. You had to take this decision of the first day of the race, but I must admit that on Monday night I was worried. We could not pick the others up on the VHF and I had no weather or position updates.

“It was all or nothing, but then where there is risk there is pleasure. What is important for me is to have finished well having followed my option through to the end. At our training school they teach us to win bit by bit. This proves that the Figaro is not always a race about speed; it is also a race where you need to know how to think differently from the others.”

The fleet will remain in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie until Friday, when they will head off to Dingle in South West Ireland for the third leg (545 miles long).