Photos: Alexis Courcoux

Solitaire du Figaro 2013 - runners and riders

Six past winners are taking part in this year's effective world championship of solo offshore racing

Thursday May 30th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: France


Skipper Age Boat name Previous Best results
Joan Ahrweiller 29 Region Basse Normandie R  
Amaiur Alfaro 41 Region Aquitaine/Ateliers de France 5 37th 2001/2
Jeremie Beyou 36 Maitre CoQ 12 1st 2005, 2011, 3rd 2004
Vincent Bairnes 39 Prati'Buches 4 13th 2008
Henry Bomby (GBR)_ 22 Rockfish 1 31st 2012
Didier Bouillard 49 Jehol 5 28th 2012
Jack Bouttell (GBR) 22 Artemis 77 R  
Thierry Chabagny 41 Gedimat 11 2nd 2006
Nick Cherry (GBR) 28 Magma Structures 1 25th 2012
Fabien Delahaye 28 Skipper MACIF 2012 4 2nd 2011
Michel Desjoyeaux  47 TBS 11 1st 1992, 1998, 2007, 2nd 1991, 1996, 2005, 3rd 2003
Fred Duthil 39 Sepalumic 9 2nd 2007, 3rd 2008, 2009
Yann Elies 39 Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir 13 1st 2012, 2nd 2004, 2009
Matthieu Girolet 39 Lafont Presse 4 29th 2012
Sam Goodchild (GBR) 23 Shelterbox-Disaster Relief 2 24th 2012
Damien Guillou 30 La Solidarite Mutualiste 3 20th 2012
Adrien Hardy 28 AGIR Recouvrement 5 14th 2011
Ed Hill (GBR) 30 Artemis 37 R  
Benoit Hochart 27 ADOCIS / IB-Remarketing R  
Corentin Horeau 23 Bretagne-Credit Mutuel Espoir 1 23rd 2012
Nicolas Jossier 37 In Extenso experts comptables 5 13th 2012
Dave Kenefick (IRE) 21 Full Irish R  
Morgan Lagraviere 26 Vendee 2 2nd 2012
Gilles le Baud 64 Carnac Thalasso & SPA 3 1st 1973, 1978
Armel le Cleac'h 36 Banque Populaire 9 1st 2003, 2010, 2nd 2000
Yannig Livory 46 Thermacote France 3 34th 2012
Alexis Loison 28 Groupe Fiva 7 8th 2012, 2008
Nicolas Lunven 30 Generali 6 1st 2009, 3rd 2012
Xavier Macaire 32 Skipper Herault 2 10th 2011, 2012
Anthony Marchanrd 28 Bretagne Credit Mutuel Performance 3 9th 2011
Paul Meilhat 31 Skipper MACIF 2011 3 5th 2011
Gildas Morvan 44 Cercle Vert 17 2nd 2008, 3rd 1999-2001
Jean Paul Morren 50 Groupe SNEF 26 6th 1991
Jean-Pierre Nicol 34 Bernard Controls 6 15th2011
Claire Pruvot 36 Port de Caen Ouistreham R  
Yoann Richomme 29 DLBC 3 19th 2010, 2012
Fred Rivet 35 DFDS Seaways 4 14th2008
Thomas Ruyant 32 Destination Dunkerque 2 16th2012 (Mini Transat 2009 - 1st)
Louis Maurice Tannyeres 55 Joanna 3 41st 2010
Simon Troel 26 Les Recycleurs Bretons R  
Julien Villion 25 Seixo Habitat 1 18th

As discussed in our interviews with the leading Brits heading into Sunday's start of 44th Solitaire du Figaro - Eric Bompard cachemire, this year's effective world championship of singlehanded offshore racing is set to be one of the most competitive in the recent history of the race. Not since 2009 has been such a number of potential winners among the 41 competitors.

”Usually one talks of 15 potential candidates to win, but this year you might well consider 20,” says Michel Desjoyeaux when asked for his prediction. TBS's skipper leads the field in this year's race being one of only three people to have won the Solitaire three times (1992, 1998, 2007), along with other legends of the race, Philippe Poupon (1982, 1985 and 1995) and Jean le Cam (1994, 1996, 1999). But most impressive about Le Professeur is his consistency. In 11 past participations, his first being in 1990, he has only been off the podium on four occasions.

Behind him on two victories apiece and hoping to level the score are Banque Populaire skipper Armel Le Cléac'h (2003, 2010) and Maître CoQ's Jérémie Beyou (2005, 2011), plus another legend of the race making his return this year, Gilles Le Baud, skipper of Carnac Thalasso & Spa, who won in both 1973 and 1978, when the race was backed by another French newspaper and known as Course de l'Aurore.

On single wins are Generali skipper Nicolas Lunven (2009) and the defending champion Yann Eliès sailing Groupe Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir. Except for Gilles Le Baud, whose goal, now he's 64 ambition is pure to finish in style, all the others are potential winners.

But there are many other with the potential to win, ranging from the old and high experienced to the young and talented. In the former category unquestionably is Cercle Verte skipper Gildas Morvan who has previously sailed he race 17 times during which time he has scored five leg wins and four overall podium finishes, his best result being second in 2008. Morvan has lost none of his edge - he won the singlehanded Trophe BPE in 2009 and last year's doublehanded Transat AG2R. Could this be his year....finally???

Having competed a mere nine time before is Frédéric Duthil, skipper of Sepalumic, who has previously had three leg wins and has finished n the podium three times from 2007-2009.

Among the young blades, the favourites are the runners-up in the last two races: Skipper Macif 2012's Fabien Delahaye in 2011 and ex-Olympic 49er sailor Morgan Lagravière, skipper of Vendée, who come home just behind Yann Eliès in 2012.

Beyond this there are several dark horses, outside bets, most of the younger generation. These include Anthony Marchand (Bretagne - Crédit Mutuel Performance), Adrien Hardy (AGIR Recouvrement), Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls), Xavier Macaire (Skipper Hérault) and Paul Meilhat (Skipper MACIF 2011).

The winner will have to be consistently good over the four legs of this year's race, 1,938 miles of competition, from Bordeaux to Porto to Gijon (N Spain) up to Roscoff and on to the finish in Dieppe. As described by someone who knows the race all too well - Gildas Morvan: “There is always an incredible line-up. Those who won never, ever did so easily. This race is tough, you fight more against yourself than the others”. Words of wisdom.

So who are the skippers' favourites? 

Anthony Marchand, Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance: “Each of us has his own favourite. Mine is Yann (Eliès). He is really focused to do well in this Solitaire. I've seen that when we were training in Port La Forêt last winter. Armel (Le Cléach') and Jérémie (Beyou) both have other big projects and it is harder for them to focus just on this race. Me, I have the chance to do well, maybe win a leg and be consistent with the others”.

Michel Desjoyeaux, TBS: ”Usually one talks of 15 potential candidates to victory, but this year you can well consider 20. I can't see one who stands out. Maybe on Friday I will be able to tell you more… Me? I will tell you in one month's time, on 23 June in Dieppe”.

Sam Goodchild, Shelterbox Disaster Relief: “I think six or seven can win it. My personal favourite would probably be Jeremie Beyou, but then there's Armel, Mich can win it, Morgan Lagraviere, Yann Elies, who won it last time. Dark horse? I reckon Julian Villian is pretty strong for his age. He was a bizuth last year. He is doing the Tour Voile with Groupama this year. He hasn't been sailing a Figaro this winter, he's been trimming the main for Franck Cammas. You imagine he'd learn a bit from that. He is probably the strongest of the youngsters”.

Alexis Loison, Groupe Fiva: “Who will be the winner? Me, of course! I'm joking, naming names is hard. Il will give all I have, I see myself as an outsider. During winter training I found Jérémie Beyou extremely strong, not to mention Yann Eliès…”

Thomas Ruyant, Destination Dunkerque: “Lucky he who knows! Maybe me, why not? My favourites are Nico (Lunven) and Yann (Eliès), they're strong. And myself too, I will race with no inferiority complex”.

Corentin Horeau, Bretagne - Crédit Mutuel Espoir: “Hard to say, I would place Anthony Marchand in the top three. I think he is in good shape, has raced well in the Transat and prepared well last winter. He is ready for it. And then there's the great 'classics' like Beyou, Eliès, Morvan and then Morgan (Lagravière), who can also do well”.

Damien Guillou, La Solidarité Mutualiste : “As always, the truth is that on the last editions there is always been a past winner who came back to the game and dominated. This year the level is so high. Past winners and some who still have to, but are so well prepared. I guess that there is at least a dozen who could win”.

Fabien Delahaye, Skipper MACIF 2012 : “At least 15 can win, five or six among the past winners. And the experts like Gildas (Morvan), Thierry (Chabagny), Fred Duthil. Everyone can be fast, it will be decided by weather strategy. On my part, I will give it a try. Paul (Meilhat) is also very strong, he is fast and self-confident. There are many who could…”

Gildas Morvan, Cercle Vert : “A Solitaire is never easy to win, very tough for everyone, star or not. Whatever happens, it will be hard. There are some good youngsters, some veterans who come back for more. But this race is also a battle with yourself, more than against the others. The level is always so high at the Solitaire."

Thierry Chabagny, Gedimat : “I don't think it will be a past winner. And that's good, because there will be more chance for everyone. But it will be someone who trained well, who has a long-time sponsor, who is focused and is able to sail well for over a month. It will not be a shocker but someone out of the 25 who can win this year”.

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