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Third time lucky for Roberts leading the Solitaire fleet out of Paimpol

Artemis waves

Following his premature start to the second leg of the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro, tonight British skipper Alan Roberts aboard Alan Roberts Racing proved it’s three times a charm as he leads the fleet in the penultimate 410-mile leg from Paimpol to La Rochelle. 

Both Roberts and Redshift skipper Nick Cherry set themselves up well at the startline in Brittany, Roberts winning the race to the windward mark, followed by fellow Brit Cherry in second. 

Racing a short inshore course before starting the main offshore leg to La Rochelle via the fringes of the Bay of Biscay, Roberts was again the first boat at the final inshore mark - the coveted Radio France buoy. Leg 2 winner and overall leader Yoann Richomme racing Skipper Macif 2014 was just behind in second, with Cherry in third as the fleet headed for the horizon. 

Now at the halfway stage, Roberts used the three-day lay over in Paimpol to recharge his batteries and was ready for action out on the course: “I was absolutely knackered at the start of the last leg from Cowes,” he explained. “I blew the start and I couldn’t make any right decisions along the south coast.

“I feel a lot better ahead of Leg 3 and I’ve had a lot of rest. I’ve worked hard to get a lot of rest. I’ve also done some running to keep the blood pumping. I’ve eaten well and I managed to get rehydrated,” he said.

Asked about his ranking on the overall leaderboard (17th), Roberts commented: “Ultimately I’m disappointed in my position and the time gap between my position and the top-10 (five hours). On the other hand I’m quite happy because I have the speed to keep up with the frontrunners. I definitely feel like I’m a better sailor than I was before.”

Ahead of the start of Leg 3, Cherry described what a cruel mistress the Solitaire can be. Despite now taking his fifth run at the prestigious solo race, Legs 1 and 2 took the 31-year-old to levels of frustration and exhaustion he’s never experienced before. 

“I can’t really say it’s been a cracker so far,” he said. “I’ve felt more tired than I’ve ever been before and in those moments have been to places I’ve never been before – which was extreme exhaustion. 

“I slept for 17 straight hours on my first night in Paimpol,” he continued. “I’ve slept very well since we’ve been here and I’m feeling ready for Leg 3.  My overall result is sort of done now, but I’m still gunning for some good leg results. Both legs so far have been pretty relentless, good solid Figaro legs.”

Going into Leg 3, overall Rookie leader Will Harris was feeling pumped. Fully motivated and ready to defend his title, the Artemis 77 skipper is looking to maintain his 30-minute lead and keep second placed Rookie Pierre Quiroga racing Skipper Espoir CEM at bay. 

“Physically I’d say I’m at 80%, but my mental state gets stronger and stronger with every leg,” Harris reported. “I’ll probably have Pierre in the back of my mind the whole time and I’ll probably have an eye for his name on the AIS, but at the same time I’m trying to learn from sailing with and against the whole fleet.”

Of the Leg 3 course, Harris explained: “Although the route is quite simple, the rocks on the way are going to be the biggest challenge. The course is again very coastal, going round Ushant and through the very tidal Raz de Sein.

“Everyone is pretty tired at this point, and we’re looking at 18 hours with no sleep to get us going. The jagged rocks of the Brittany coastline combined with fatigue, darkness and 15-to-20 knots upwind, with boats tacking between each other and rocåks, will be difficult,” he concluded.

After a run-in with a rock en route to Paimpol, Robin Elsey’s Figaro Artemis 43 is back in action thanks to the hard work of the Artemis Offshore Academy shore team, and is now back to top speed. 

Thirty-nine boats set off from Paimpol at 1900 local time this evening. The fleet is expected to complete the passage to La Rochelle on Tuesday.

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