Guillaume Pirouelle leads after Saint Catherine's Point
Photo Alexis Courcoux

Guillaume Pirouelle leads after Saint Catherine's Point Photo Alexis Courcoux

Guillaume Pirouelle leads, Dolan top six on Stage 1


28/08/2023 - 19:14

After a relatively quick, express sprint across the Channel from Sunday's start off Caen to pass the Isle of Wight early this morning, the leaders of the first stage of the 54th La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec are finding their return path – heading to a turning mark west off Paimpol peninsula– increasingly challenging.

On the second afternoon of the 610 nautical miles first course from Caen to Kinsale, their northerly breeze has been steadily fading, dropping from the welcome 12-15 knots of this morning. The adverse tidal currentat the Channel Islands will hamper them, and the Casquets exclusion zone blocks their direct path to the next turning mark just off Paimpol. So far the course has run in their favour but the second night looks complicated.

Le Havrais Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie), 26, may have made a slightly inauspicious start Sunday lunchtime in what might still beconsidered 'home waters' – he got his timing to the line wrong – but he quickly made amends and has led the 32 strong fleet since around 1700hrs Sunday evening, emerging from the Normandy beaches with a steady lead of 1.2 miles which he has held through the day, pursued by the hugely talented 21 year old Basil Bourgnon (Edenred)

And the two '20 somethings' have Alexis Loison (Groupe REEL) –on his 17th participation – in hot pursuit. Normandy's La Solitaire local hero Loison mentored the young former 470 Youth World Champion Pirouelle through his first two years in the Figaro Beneteau 3, took him on his first Figaro Transatlantic two years ago, and may yet - perish the thought - come between Pirouelle – last year's runner up – and this year's overall title.

Loison has two sixths, a fifth and fourth in 2021 as his best finishes so far overall. And over the coming hours the former Fastnet Race winner will sail through his 'backyard' off his Cherbourg-Cotentin  home.

The big question is how unspecified foil damage which he sustained in a collision not long after the start will affect his performance. Most of the climb to the Fastnet is likely to be upwind.

The night should see the NW'ly breeze build again but drop as they climb towards the Scillies, which – as it was last year – looks like there might be a road block of light winds.

Ireland's Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) has been consistently in the lead group, from fourth at Nab Tower, fourth at the Intermediate Sprint passage at the Needles Fairway where he missed by seconds a one minute bonus to be taken off the elapsed time of the third positioned skipper. Leader Pirouelle collected a five minute bounty.

Contacted on the VHF by the guard boat, Pirouelle said, "It's going okay and I would like it to continue like this. I didn't get off to agreat start. I missed the last 30 seconds of the start procedure a bit and couldn't start the first upwind like I wanted. But I got back into it fine. The leg across to Barfleur was pretty clear in my head. Then, the Channel crossing turned out to be easier than I thought. There were no particular difficulties.Same for the Isle of Wight, even if I fell into a small wind hole on the lastpart. The important thing is that things have got off to a good start, before tackling the second Channel crossing. For the moment, I am rather ahead of the timing of the current. I'm going to slow a little less, but on the other hand I don't have the stronger wind expected. We will see how it will evolve. But it was pretty good to do a little more spinnaker work than what was planned, so much the better."

Germany's Susann Beucke (This Race is Female) is hanging in well in 26th. Kiwi rookie Ben Beasley (Ocean Attitude) is in 28thover a mile ahead of Brit David Paul ( a Drop) who he was preparateur for last season.

Needles Fairway Intermediate Sprint points:

·        1 - Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie) at 09h38 (bonus 5 minutes)

·        2 - Alexis Loison (Groupe Reel) :at 09h55 (bonus 3 minutes)

·        3 - Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire) :at 09h59 (bonus 1minute)

·        4 - Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) :at 09h59

        5 - Basile Bourgnon (Endenred) : at 09h59

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