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23 August 2007, 02:39 am
DESJOYEAUX, The King Of Solo
Image of Michel DESJOYEAUX
Michel DESJOYEAUX in Les Sables d'Olonne

La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro 2007
Les Sables d'Olonne, France

Crowds gathered in Les Sables d'Olonne on Tuesday to celebrate the wins of Frédéric DUTHIL (FRA), winner of the fourth and final leg La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro, and Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), crowned "Solo King" and overall winner of the 38th edition of the race.
France's Gérald VENIARD (Scutum) finished third on the final leg, but the third spot on the overall podium goes to the winner of the third leg, another Frenchman Corentin DOUGUET (E. Leclerc/Bouygues Telecom).

Sepaking about his third Solitaire victory, DESJOYEAUX said, 'What has made winning this race different and in interesting on each leg is the particularly high level of the competition. There are previous editions where you had the impression that nothing was happening; on this one things were happening all the time.'

He continued, 'There was never a moment of boredom. There is nothing worse, as says Jean-Paul MOUREN, than a one leg reach at a furious pace driving the boat. We did not have any of that this year. This comes from the conditions but also from the high standard and even level of the competition. All the boats perform well and all the competitors are able to take good initiatives, not just follow. That is what I came looking for: the fight, the confrontation.'

The 2007 edition of the race will be remembered for the extremely demanding conditions encountered over the course the whole race and in particular very strong winds and rough seas over the last two legs. The level of the competitors is so high in this competition that even in such gruelling conditions as those experienced on the last leg, most of the boats continued to in race mode, with as much sail area up. This was a baptism of fire for many of the newcomers who had never sailed in conditions like these.

Experience counts and looking at the top three to finish DESJOYEAUX, competes for the tenth time, DUTHIL for the fourth and DOUGUET for the second. Each year these solo sailors return and each year new ones are enticed to join this truly exhilarating race. DUTHIL won the first leg, came second on the third leg, eighth on the fourth and went on to win the last. DESJOYEAUX has three third places and one first overall. It is the ultimate race to test your abilities on.

The 14-strong rookie fleet may be new to the Figaro circuit, but are certainly not inexperienced sailors. The young and talented Nicolas LUNVEN (Bostik) held his own to take the overall Rookie Ranking and finished 18th overall on the race followed 33 minutes and 5 seconds later by Vincnent BIARNES (Côtes d'Armor). Frédéric RIVET (Novotel Caen) took third place, 42 minutes behind.

The growing fleet of international entries in La Solitaire this year proves how popularity for it is growing. Liz WARDLEY (Sojasun) from Papa New Guinea has competed for the fourth consecutive time this year. Pietro D'ALI (Kappa) stormed the scene in 2005 by winning a leg, a first for an Italian sailor and returns this year with his own boat. Pedro DA CRUZ (Baiko) moved to France years ago and has spent the much of his life sailing boats, but returned this year for the second time to compete in what is considered to be one of France's toughest solo sailing events. Two British sailors, Nigel KING (Nigel King Yachting) and James BIRD (GFI Group) together with Paul Ó RIAIN (City Jet) from Dublin, Ireland have also tried their luck this year.

For WARDLEY, it was a tough first year, but one that has paid off. 'I definitely could not have done it without coming to France and learning the language,' she explained, 'I think it is really important to train in France, because looking in from the outside I think that it is actually really easy to underestimate just how hard these guys push on the water, like on the last leg, it would be quite easy to think that everyone would have their storm jib up and be sitting it out below deck, but in fact everyone is up there with the main sail right up to the top of the mast just sending it off! From an outsider looking in, you would not expect that and I think it is important to come and spend some time in France and do a full complete season to realize where you lie.'

Both KING and BIRD suffered set backs, but continue and plan to return whilst Ó RIAIN completed all four stages of the race remarkably on what has been a particularly tough Solitaire.

Sabina Mollart-Rogerson (As Amended By ISAF)
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