Alan Roberts is top Brit and Will Harris crowned Rookie champion as the 2016 Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro concludes
The 47th edition of the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro concluded in La Rochelle today with celebrations in the British camp.
After four legs between Deauville, Cowes, Paimpol and La Rochelle, totalling almost 1,500 nautical miles of tough solo racing, Alan Roberts sailing Alan Roberts Racing posted this year’s top British result in 16th, with 2016 winning Rookie Will Harris less than an hour behind in 17th.
The final 130-mile race around the Ile d’Yeu was a nail-biter from start to finish. Lasting just 20 hours, as the 39-boat fleet battled strong tides, light winds and a blazing sun. After 1,365 miles, the race was decided in the final 100.
Gildas Morvan on Cercle Vert claimed his sixth leg win racing his 21st Solitaire. The skipper finished 15th overall just one position ahead of Roberts and two ahead of Harris.
It was a bittersweet end for the Skipper Macif front-runners. For the majority of the last stage Charlie Dalin held the initiative over his teammate Yoann Richomme and a first Solitaire win looked to be on the cards for the skipper. But in the final hour, the breeze dropped away for Dalin while Richomme managed to keep going.
Despite finishing three places ahead of Richomme, the time difference wasn’t enough and it was Richomme who claimed his first and well-deserved Solitaire win on his seventh attempt. The 32-year-old from Lorient clinched the overall 2016 Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro by just five minutes and 10 seconds after hundreds of miles of racing.
Meanwhile, half an hour after the stage-winner, top-British competitor Roberts arrived on the dock in the sunshine in La Rochelle, surrounded by his teammates and cheered into the harbour by the crowds. But he was disappointed the race was over.
“I’m kind of sad to see the Solitaire coming to an end,” he said. “I live to go racing and now its over. I don’t really like finishing racing and coming ashore.”
Of his overall performance, the skipper said: “I was down on speed during this Solitaire and I feel that my result was a bit governed by the first leg. I just never really sparkled in speed department like I felt I had in other years, but I had some really good comebacks to finish every leg."
“I understand a lot more and have an additional experience of the Solitaire under my belt - I feel like a better sailor,” he concluded. Roberts is sure to be back for another year."
Next on the British podium was an elated Harris. Setting out to win the Rookie division, the 22-year-old skipper made his ambition a reality.
“After thousands of miles I can’t believe it all came down to the final two,” he said, celebrating on the dock with a magnum of Pol Roger Champagne while draped in a Union Jack. “Pierre (Quiroga) pushed me so hard over that final leg, I was always looking over my shoulder. The race was amazing, such a great thing to be a part of.”
Just five minutes behind Harris in the rankings was Redshift skipper Nick Cherry. Cherry completes the top-three British results in 18th place on his fifth Solitaire. Greeted by his mum, Anne, the skipper was happy with the consistency of his sailing, but frustrated at his overall result and is already looking forward to his next crack of the whip.
“I’m comfortable with my final position, even if a bit disappointed at not being further forward,” he said. “It’s not just the racing you go through, there is also all the winter training and preparation – it’s those long nights at sea in January that are the most difficult. Racing is always a pleasure, no matter what.”
He continued: “I just want to get a result. It’s frustrating to have come here five times and not really have had a strong result yet. But it’s a hard race and not everyone can do well, so I’m still motivated to keep on trying.”
Next on the leaderboard was Chatham skipper Sam Matson. After a disappointing start to the race following breakages, the skipper pulled it out of the bag on Leg 2, securing his best result of the race in 12th. After a further two legs, Matson finished 21st overall on his third Solitaire.
Four places behind Matson in 25th was Robin Elsey on Artemis 43. Despite sustaining some impressive damage to the underside of his Figaro after hitting a rock on Leg 2, Elsey put in a consistent performance across all four legs.
Racing his second Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro, #SeaChange skipper Andrew Baker finished the race 26th overall, while British Rookies Mary Rook was 32nd, with Hugh Brayshaw 35th.
Every skipper who took part in the race achieved something significant today, completing a gruelling solo offshore marathon that only a select few will ever be good enough to start. Regardless of the result, all eight of the British sailors, the 29 French, the one Swiss and one Turkish sailor can be proud of what they have achieved.