So who is going to win the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro Eric Bompard Cachemire?
Well there are plenty of past winners and some of them would have to be on the list for possible winner this year. First amongst those would be Yann Elies, last year’s winner. It took him 13 years to win his first Solitaire but interestingly he holds the second highest number ever of leg wins at seven, just two behind the all time legend Jean Le Cam who is no longer competing in this class. Yann is definitely on form and will be a serious contender. Next of the past winners is Jeremy Beyou, who has recent experience in the class, but is perhaps not as practiced as most. However, he like other multiple Figaro winner Michel Desjoyeaux who is also here, will be strong when it gets to be hard and could well win legs. Winning the Solitaire du Figaro is not about winning legs, it’s about being consistent and about being able to dig yourself out of difficult situations. Another multiple winner is Armel Le Cleac’h. He has just finished the Vendée Globe in second place and knows all about pacing himself. He hasn’t had much time in the boat this year and so may well not quite have enough of his old magic to make the difference, but he will also be a leg winning contender.
The 2013 Solitaire du Figaro line-up © Alexis Couroux
Nicolas Lunven who won the race in 2009 is always a seriously consistent sailor. As this event is scored on combined elapsed time and not points, being there or there abouts is something that Nicolas does well and could definitely make the difference in the end. And as a mark of respect for the most senior past winner I have to mention Gilles Le Baud, who won the event twice back in the 1970’s. He is not a contender this year, but rounds out the list of past winners by showing the rich history of this event and how it keeps on attracting amazing characters.
So of the outsiders, who is going to get near or on the top spot of the podium?
Well if anyone left Morgan Lagraviere of the list, they would be foolish. Morgan won everything last year except the Solitaire. Here he finished second and this was only his second ever participation. He is 26 and comes from the 49er world and I think is probably a favourite to get on the podium, maybe even the top spot. One of my other favourites is Thierry Chabigny who is on form this year and has a 12 event history with some great results - definitely a dark horse for me and one to watch. Also in this group of outsiders I would put Xavier Maquaire, who is an extremely talented sailor and has had a great season so far. He has matured dramatically and in just his third season in the class is ready to go to the next stage. Fabien Delahaye and his Macif stablemate Paul Meilhat are both also in this group. Fabien sailed the transatlantic singlehanded earlier this year and so may still be a bit fatigued, Paul however won the Solo Concarneau and sailed the Solo Arrimer in terrible conditions for the entire route without a pilot and finished 10th. There are others who could do it, this race is always about surprises and it has a funny way of rewarding the right person with the ultimate accolade.
The Rookies © Alexis Courcoux
If we look at the Rookie situation, that hugely important indicator of the next generation Jackson Bouttell and David Kenefick have been relatively consistent in the Rookie division of the last two events, although Jackson also picked up the win in Marseille in March. Claire Pruvot won the division in Concarneau last month and is definitely one to watch. However, perhaps the leader on paper in this division is Simon Troel, who although a Rookie in Solitaire terms has already clocked up more miles in competition in the Figaro than many of the more seasoned campaigners. Simon crewed for the late Mich Bout in the Transat AG2R, a double-handed transatlantic last year and then skippered the same boat in the single-handed event across the Atlantic earlier this year. On paper Simon is the one, in practice one would have to ask whether he has truly recovered from the transatlantic race and its three weeks alone on a boat in this years particularly tough race and whether he has the speed and finesse of some of the other young sailors tackling the greatest one-design singlehanded challenge around.