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27 August 2002, 09:16 am
Leg Four Underway
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Vincent Riou (FRA)© Vialeron/Marmara

La Solitaire du Figaro

And they're off on the fourth and final leg of the Single-handed Figaro. For the ultimate course as far as Cherbourg-Octeville which must finally separate the candidates for all the honours at the end of an already very rounded edition, high in intensity.
On the pontoons of Gijon, on Sunday morning, the air is electric. The leg which emerges ahead of the bows, the longest one to date, promises to host its share of new developments and big swings in situation. Extremely motivated skippers and long stretches of upwind sailing : it's going to be a hot 465 miles!

All of them want it. The victory leg will go to whoever can take the finest of conquests and all the laurels in their stride. They have to believe in it, dream about it. They have made plans about the happiest epilogues in their soloist heads and have no intention of skimping on anything to go up into the ranks of the latest round winner in the status as new Figaro maestro, quite rightly basking in the victory of the solo race. Everyone is prepared to " go full bore " up to Cherbourg-Octeville !

In the programme on this high stake leg : tacking on the ascent via the Bay of Biscay and all the traps in the Channel. The wind on the nose to please the specialists of laborious ascents and high speed races. Professionals up close, upwind! There are a good handful of them and they figure in the top twelve in the general rankings, a good hour separating them in total. Not a great deal! Still closer together, the first eight, are huddled into 38 little minutes between first and last. A mere drop in the ocean faced with the 465 miles left to cover during a leg where all the options are laid wide open! On Spanish soil, we can already guess the attacks and the offensives that are being hatched on the horizon of the large Bay of Biscay. " Good visibility " on the ensuing route : everyone " on the cleats ! "… more than ever !

On the pontoons of the port of Gijon, mutterings are rife. Declarations of good intentions all over the place. All lifting the veil high before setting sail. " I am injured (9th in the general rankings), but certainly not dead. I'm going to try to make the life of the top eight as difficult as possible. For sure, we have the advantage of having a great forecast for attacking and getting back into shape, says Eric Drouglazet (David Olivier), holder of the firm temperament title etched into the granite of Brittany. And it's the same story for Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore) who freely states that he is leaving to " win the solo race ". " I'm fully canvassed. I'm happy to be going sailing in good conditions with a fine objective. I love going upwind, I'd even go so far as to say that it's a favourite point of sail for me, warns the rising star of the circuit. Atmosphere! And that's without taking the others into account… Gilles Chiorri (32 01 from Météo Consult), hasn't stopped assessing the stakes in the high risk course which emerge at sea from the Atlantic coasts and around the pebbles, islands and other nasties in the Channel : " It's true that this leg comes under a prime scenario. Rarely have we seen so many candidates neck and neck at the start of the last leg. So yes, we are under a huge amount of pressure, but so much the better! I think we'll see things a bit more clearly at Ushant, where the first group should start to get away. "

So there we have the hunters who obviously haven't stopped sharpening and polishing up their weapons under the shadow of the cramped general rankings. And the hunted in all this, what's the general concensus? Kito de Pavant (Malice) wears it like a charm : " I prefer to be first than last. Inevitably, I'm a little tense because this will be pretty tough. We're going to have a difficult leg, with some very serious contenders very close to one another. But I'm highly motivated to defend myself. I intend to go hard in the right places. I've dreamt of victory in the Single-handed for years. There's going to be a battle, but I'll rendez-vous in Cherbourg… before the others! "

Decidedly in a rush to get going, the soloists continually jumped the start despite the meteorological torpor served on the day of the great start. After two general recalls, Gilles Sabin, president of the Race Committee, didn't hesitate in hoisting the black flag. On easing the fervour of the competitors concentrated in snatching all the quintessence in the evanescent northerly puffs of wind…one hit 2 knots! Misfortune would be the only prize for whoever chose to stick his nose over the line before the liberating start gun: he would then cop a three hour time penalty and see all his hopes go up in smoke. The warning was fully heeded and at 1438, the 37 soloists got away - very slowly - to contend in a little parade lap of 6 miles in the sea off the Asturias.

A little hooking together in the start zone before the beginning of the starting procedure. Yann Eliès (Groupe Générali Assurances) collided with Philippe Vicariot (Thales), author of a starboard refusal. No great damage but a real fright before the great start. The first suffered two broken guardrails and the second had to rerun his spinnaker… which won't go up too well throughout the long upwind leg announced.

He's not the type to let himself be affected by a poor earlier performance. Despite his " tide behind " the frontrunner (6 hours), Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) really knows how to get his revenge. " Since the start, I've lacked success and I've been rather close to the wall in my choice of options. There's no point being a dreamer, I'm a long way behind. But I need to reassure myself, reassure my family, my sponsor. I fully intend to finish in style and sail at my best to prove my worth. I'm leaving to have a great leg ", declared the green giant some days before the leg. That being said, first at the Radio France marker, with the expected arrival of a storm before the open sea, he seemed to have got off to a fine start! But behind him, the pressure is on already… Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore), Charles Caudrelier Benac (Bostik Findely) and Kito de Pavant (Malice) played their bows and jostled around to his stern while the wind began to come back with the passage of a squall.

Kito's hooter ! In the past 24 hours, the competitors have been plunged into the charts and weather patterns which are shaping up to provide a high calibre leg where the good times are set to roll for the high speed specialists. As long as they trace the best route and pull off the best tacks. Beyond the wise words communicated to the Bretons by Dominique Conin from the training centre in Port La Forêt, the majority of competitors have called upon the services of specific routers. This is the case for Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore), Antoine Koch (Saunier Duval), Yann Eliès (Groupe Générali Assurances) supported by the wizard Pierre Lasnier. Ronan Guérin (Saint-Nazaire-Escal'Atlantic) is informed by Richard Silvani from Météo France and is working once more with his accomplice Ronan Cointo. As for Gilles Chiorri (32 01 from Météo Consult), it's inevitably with Eric Mas that he ponders his trajectories. All or nearly all amongst the best seem to multiply their sources. All except one, who prefers to count on his own flair. Kito de Pavant (Malice) isn't the sort to let someone else dictate where he goes : " I have a big nose, so I make use of it. I prefer to be in control of my options. It's definitely down to my late-developing experience that I don't have the same maritime culture. Of course, I look at the weather patterns and speak with friends who are particular wise to the question. Whatever happens, during the summer in the Atlantic, the weather is prone to be very unstable and I think you're better off looking at the clouds and observing the water. "

Position 08:00h 27 August

Position Skipper Boat Distance to Finish
1 TROUSSEL Nicolas Galinette 255,60nm
2 DROUGLAZET Eric David Olivier a 0,10nm
3 VICARIOT Philippe Thales à 1,10nm
4 RIOU Vincent PRB Produits de Revêtement du Bâtiment à 1,60nm
5 CHABAGNY Thierry Petit Navire Le Bon Goût du Large à 1,90nm
6 BEYOU Jérémie Delta Dore à 2,10nm
7 TOULORGE Alexandre Cherbourg - Crédit Mutuel à 2,80nm
8 ELIES Yann Groupe Générali Assurances à 3,00nm
9 JOSSE Sébastien Créaline à 3,30nm
10 LE CLEAC'H Armel Créaline à 4,00nm

Overall After Leg Three

Position Skipper Boat Total Time
1 DE PAVANT Christophe Malice en 235h03'44''
2 CAUDRELIER Charles Bostik Findley à 13'07''
3 CHIORRI Gilles 32 01 de Météo Consult à 16'01''
4 RIOU Vincent PRB Produits de Revêtement du Bâtiment à 32'01''
5 TABARLY Erwan Thales - Armor Lux à 33'34''
6 VICARIOT Philippe Thales à 37'05''
7 BEYOU Jérémie Delta Dore à 37'48''
8 KOCH Antoine Saunier Duval à 37'49''
9 DROUGLAZET Eric David Olivier à 1h04'50''
10 ELIES Yann Groupe Générali Assurances à 1h12'54''

Laure Faÿ/News Editor
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