Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire)  talks to the media after winning the  2023 Solitaire du Figaro Paprec title Photo ©Alexis Courcoux

Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire) talks to the media after winning the 2023 Solitaire du Figaro Paprec title Photo ©Alexis Courcoux

French favourite Horeau wins La Solitaire du Figaro at seventh attempt


14/09/2023 - 10:28

"I am not very good at maths but to be better than second there is only one step." Corentin Horeau told the French sailing media when he returned to La Solitaire du Figaro in 2021. After a five year break from the multi stage solo offshore race, he was hungry to finally better the runner up position he achieved as a 25 year old in 2014.

After sailing everything from Ultims, including a Trophée Jules Verne attempt with Spindrift to winning the Tour Voile on the Diam 24 Lorina Limonade with the Mourniac brothers and Kevin Pepponet, Horeau maybe returned to the Figaro a more mature and a more rounded sailor but the results did not come as he hoped, finishing eighth in 2021 and, last year, 13th. But under a beautiful starlit sky at 03:203:44:27hrs this morning off pretty Piriac-sur-Mer the 34 year old solo skipper of Banque Populaire finally realised his dream on his seventh participation

After overtaking his nearest title rival Basile Bourgnon (Edenred) during Wednesday afternoon on the downwind section to the southernmost turn of the course, Horeau was then able to extend far enough ahead on the 140 miles long beat back up the Vendée coast to more than overturn the 8 mins 55 seconds deficit he had lagged behind the talented 22 year old Bourgnon when the final stage started last Sunday.

After all three stages, totalling eleven and a half days and nearly 2000 nautical miles of racing, Horeau's winning margin over Bourgnon is 10 mins 52 secs. And a fairytale story of the younger skipper following his famous Swiss father Laurent into the record books has to remain on hold for a future edition. Third overall is Lois Berrehar (Skipper MACIF 2022) 27 minutes and 11 seconds behind Horeau.

Universally known for his drive and his will to win, on the victor's pontoon this morning Horeau attributed part of his success to working with a mental coach who helped him smooth out the psychological highs and lows to achieve a more consistent approach.

Early in the season he marked himself out as a Solitaire title contender when he won 2023's curtain raiser, the Solo Maitre Coq. But his campaign was immediately thrown into jeopardy when his sponsor withdrew. Within 24 hours he was called by Banque Populaire who sought a return to the solo racer's ultimate proving ground. In fact his program continued seamlessly with the same boat and set up but with the logistical and technical back up of one of French sailing's premium supporters.

"With the support of Banque Populaire at the last minute that added a final dose of confidence. They are the sponsors in sailing." Enthused Horeau who has a merchant mariner's degree qualification and whose parents were Whitbread Round the World racers.  "Winning La Solitaire is a childhood dream that has come true. Seven participations... I felt that this year, I was good for it, that I had prepared well for all of that. I've been thinking about winning overall for 24 hours. I really didn't want to miss out on this one. It's done. It's not the most beautiful Solitaire, in the sense that I sailed it a bit like an accountant. I tried to sail with the fleet without taking too many risks. This is the way you need to sail to win the Solitaire this year."

Asked about his emotions, he replied, "There are so many things racing through my head. I wanted this Solitaire so much. To put these feelings into words, right now is complicated. In 10-15 days, maybe I'll realize what I have done. I think of my father especially, who in the very beginning didn't want me to do all but who is now super proud."

Roscoff finish sets the podium

After finishing 15th into Kinsale at 20 minutes and 49 seconds after Stage 1 winner Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan), Horeau really laid down the solid foundations of his overall triumph when he ghosted into Roscoff some 3 minutes and 24 seconds behind Basile Bourgnon, the stage winner.

After an intense, slow motion match race which saw Horeau very nearly stealing the stage win, it was around 1700hrs – late afternoon – when they crossed in a dying breeze. With Berrehar third another 27 mins and 06 secs behind him, the top trio were to gain more than two hours on the next finisher.

In fact the wind did not reappear until the following morning. As the tidal current built, big gaps were driven through the fleet, some top seeds losing an massive 12-14 hours on the three leaders in a painfully slow finish which goes down in Solitaire du Figaro history. Without question the final podium was cast in Roscoff.

In the end Horeau overshadowed Bourgnon with whom he won the two handed multi stage Tour de Bretagne in the summer, on Bourgnon's Edenred. Ironically, all three who make up the final podium – Horeau, Bourgnon and Berrehar - are from La Trinité sur Mer.

The new La Solitaire du Figaro champion said that the standout moments of the race were that match race with Bourgnon into Roscoff - where he just ran out of runway - and also, naturally, the arrival into Piriac-sur-Mer, when all the team RIBs and supporters were out to greet him. The worst time was early in this final stage when he had to dive three times on the north Brittany coast to remove weed.

He now moves into the IMOCA class, preparing to partner Benjamin Dutreux on the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre.

Dolan disappointed but objective.

After winning the first stage into Kinsale, an overall podium place for Irish sailor Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) seemed like it might be on the cards but his hope became one of the many casualties of the Roscoff glass off. On a race most often won and lost my minutes, he was forced to give up more than 14 hours against the leaders, an insurmountable margin especially given the consistent 10-12 knots breeze which blew for most of the final stage.

Dolan's race, and that of others, was ultimately lost at Saint David's Head on the north west corner of Wales. He was among the leading group who went outside, west of the Smalls TSS and became becalmed in contrary tide.

"It was just bad timing. At that time on the forecast we had there was no reason to go inshore but the boats behind did. " Recalled the Irish skipper. He finished a very creditable eighth into Piriac-sur-Mer this morning – losing Berrehar and Horeau in the final miles after he caught a rope round his keel - but all but sunk by that Stage 2 finish, Dolan ends up 18th overall and again wins the Vivi Trophy for the best international skipper.

Looking exhausted and spent, he was philosophical, "This stage felt long but it was shorter than the one before. It was intense, it was a real race that I really found cool. This Solitaire was a lot of hard work. And I'm quite happy with the way I sailed on the first stage, even if the second was a little bit cruel for me and many other sailors. I feel good, and I was quite comfortable with the boat, until this morning when I lost my temper when I caught something in the keel. It took me quite a while to realize that I had something on it, while the others were passing me." Even in his red-eyed deeply fatigued state, Dolan smiled, "I feel like I sailed well, I sailed the boat fast and made good decisions. With the information I had I would still make the same choices at Saint David's and indeed I am pretty happy with all the choices I made. I don't feel like I made mistakes or bad choices."

He quipped, "If I could, I would love to do this every month, haha! It's so good, there's nothing better. Sometimes it's a war where you're attached to the helm that you can't let go, other times it's a game of chess, and sometimes it's a dance or at the slightest shift in the wind everything the world turns at the same time. It's incredible and intense. I recommend to everyone, and I already want to come back next year."

Top Rookie is Tuduri

The third and final stage was won by French rookie Benoît Tuduri (CAPSO en Cavale) who made amends for a fundamental rules transgression which lost him the Stage 1 win into Kinsale. The 29 year old from Montpellier who trains out of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie with Team Vendée Formation followed a bold, but pre-prepared strategy to stick close down the Vendée coast. Passing inside the Ile de Yeu, finding a stronger thermal, sea-breeze saw him  pass the most leeward turn of the 470 mile course in first  place. Tuduri, marks himself out as a talent to watch for the future crossing the finish line first on two stages. He wins the BÉNÉTEAU Bizuths trophy for the top rookie on the General Classification

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