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19 August 2005, 11:30 am
On A Heading For Ireland
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La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro 2005

One of France's best know yacht races, La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro, which takes place every year, set off on Wednesday for the third leg, a 456 mile race from La Rochelle in France to the Irish port of Crosshaven in Cork.
The 45 skippers taking part in the race, from France, Italy, Germany, Australia and Great Britain are a combination of professional and semi professional sailors from all walks of life and of varying ages. Etienne SVILARICH (FRA) sailing on Sogeti is just 24 and competes for the first time whilst Jean Paul MOUREN (FRA) on M@rseilles Entreprises is 52 and races for the 19th time this year.

There are three women competing; Jeanne GRÉGOIRE (FRA) on Banque Populaire, who currently leads the fleet, Liz WARDLEY from Australia on Sojasun and British sailor Samantha DAVIES on Skandia.

The boats are all Bénéteau Figaro 2, a one design monotype that is about ten metres long. The identical boats are used over a variety of races that make up the Figaro season culminating in La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro race, referred to as 'La Reine des Courses', or the Queen of Races, by the French. La Solitaire is currently in its 36th edition thus rendering it one of France's oldest races. The competition level is extremely high, with entries from the world's top solo sailors; this year Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), twice winner of the race and winner of the notorious round the world non stop Vendée Globe race returns to fine tune his racing skills.

GRÉGOIRE co-leads the fleet with Kito DE PAVANT (FRA) on Bel Groupe and Laurent PELLECUER (FRA) on Cliptol Sport on the third leg of La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro race as the competitors beat upwind to Crosshaven. GRÉGOIRE, who is 28 and a professional sailor from Concarneau in France, is competing for the fourth time in the race, leading against some of the most experienced Figaro sailors.

The wind is currently blowing on the exact axis for the direct route to Crosshaven, in the Bay of Cork. The fleet is advancing in ten to twelve knots of northwesterly breeze, which was forecast to build gradually yesterday evening to 25 and gusting much more. The position reports vary according to which tack the sailors are on. Yesterday morning the Race Director, Christian GOUT, described the scene on the water, 'Laurent PELLECUER controls the more westerly group made up of Thales, Delta Dore, Skandia and Bostik. In the middle we can see Groupe Bel, Groupe Generali Assurances, Banque Populaire and Atao Audio System. Further to the East Pietro D'ALÍ [(ITA) overall leader on Nanni Diesel] has made up ground.'

It is worth noting that although the fleet is spread out, they are grouped in terms of distance to finish. The leading ten are within 1.5 miles of each other and the first 30 are spread over only five miles. Both Lionel PÉAN (FRA) on l'Esprit d'Equipe and Laurent NABART (FRA) helming Corsica who opted for an inshore easterly course were more than 18 miles behind the leaders on the last ranking.

Sabina Mollart-Rogerson (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Kito DE PAVANT on Bel Groupe:© Marmara-Vialeron/Le Figaro
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