Photo: Alexis Courcoux

First leg victory for Chabagny

Snakes and ladders 12 hours heading into Sansenxo for Solitaire du Figaro leaders

Thursday June 4th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Thierry Chabagny and Gedimat have claimed the opening leg of La Solitaire du Figaro Eric Bompard Cashmere. On his 14th participation in solo offshore racing's unofficial world championship, the 43 year old who finished second in 2006 sailed an excellent race between Bordeaux/Pauillac and Sanxenxo on Spain's west coast.

Always up with the leaders from the moment they exited the Gironde river on Sunday night, Chabagny made sound strategic decisions crossing the two fronts that moved over the fleet as they crossed the Bay of Biscay. His winning move occurred at Cape Finisterre which he rounded initially further offshore, before gybing in - the opposite move of the race leader at the time, Yann Elies on Groupe Queguuiner-Leucemie Espoir despite conditions of complex navigations. This move allowed him to pull out an (in Solitaire terms) giant lead of four miles yesterday afternoon. However those astern slowly closed back again, not helped early evening when there was a virtual re-start for the leaders - with the top eight closing to within 0.5 miles of Chabagny - and with Elies momentarily recovering the lead. However Chabagny fought back, recovering the lead at 2118 UTC to reach Sansenxo at 00:11:36 UTC in a time of three days nine hours 11 minutes and 36 seconds, sailing 643 miles over the 461 mile course (great circle) at an average speed of 6.69 knots. 

On finishing, Chabigny, sailing his 14th Solitaire, said: "I had to make some 50 manoeuvres - this is a victory of patience. I have been slowly maturing and I'm still maturing, but finally it's arrived. It is also dwon to the faithfulness of my partner, Gedimat, because it's been five years we've been together. I'm feeling great joy. Certainly it was a light finish which was upsetting, but for it to end like this...I really had to earn it. When I crossed the line, I thought it was amazing. I thought of all my family, all my friends and all those for whom it would be a pleasure: my sponsors that I had and who believed in me."

Of the tense arrival, Chabagny said: "I had a small wind shift downwind that worked well for me compared to the group I was up against. I knew it was going to ease off towards the finish, but I thought there would still be a little wind, but suddenly ... nothing! We were making 6-7 knots and then, suddenly, zero. I had the spinnaker up in face and nothing else. I had a boat directly behind me which was Yann ... I managed to recover a little, then at the end, at the last corner, there was nothing at all. I fell behind, I began to be concerned but thanks to the movement of the waves I made ​​a little progress. It was a nightmare. I was frustrated by this finish in the light, because with all the moves that I had made, I felt good but then I had to stomach finishing in 2nd, 3rd or 4th place. I am still coming to terms with having won this leg."

Of the leg itself Chabagny said: "It was hard, complicated from the start, exiting the Gironde and then the cold front passes over us just before rounding Cape Finisterre in big breeze ... there were a lot of difficulties. But each time, I managed to do the right thing and gained places. I preferred staying in the pressure and having done several Solitaires, I knew there would always more wind offshore. When I crossed ahead of the fleet, I saw that it was the right choice."

In second place, Yann Elies commented on the leg: "I think this is the first time I spent so much time finishing a race! No wind...not a breath of air and little waves. It was not easy, but I learned some stuff, like to heel the boat, sheet the mainsail by hand ...

"It's good for Thierry (Chabagny), he sailed a lot! I was in front for a time, but I did not realise where there would be more wind. But place second...I'm happy! I'm 15 minutes behind. Thierry had not won a Solitaire leg since he was second [overall]. This was a rich leg, quite close to what we had planned [with the forecast]. I do not feel we lost in all the stages of it. We were anticipating being becalmed and 30 knots at Cape Finisterre too. I was fast at times, but Charlie [Dalin] and Thierry [Chabagny] were very fast upwind. It was a really tough finish. "

Alexis Loison on Groupe Fiva crossed the finish line in third position at 00:28:13 UTC, 16 minutes and 37 seconds after the first Thierry Chabagny.

More on the British performance shortly and in particular Artemis Offshore Academy sailor Robin Elsey picking up the Bizuth first timer prize for this leg. 

Leg one results (up to 29th place)

Pos Boat - skipper Finished Time/delta
1 GEDIMAT - Thierry Chabagny 02:11:36 in 3d 9h 11m 36s
2 GROUPE QUEGUINER - LEUCEMIE ESPOIR - Yann Elies 02:26:39 00:15:03
3 GROUPE FIVA - Alexis Loison 02:28:13 00:16:37
4 SKIPPER MACIF 2015 - Charlie Dalin 02:30:02 00:18:26
5 SKIPPER HERAULT - Xavier Macaire 02:32:41 00:21:05
6 CERCLE VERT - Gildas Morvan 02:36:20 00:24:44
7 MAITRE COQ - Jérémie Beyou 02:44:56 00:33:20
8 SAFRAN - GUY COTTON - Gwenolé Gahinet 02:47:30 00:35:54
9 SKIPPER MACIF 2014 - Yoann Richomme 03:56:33 01:44:57
10 GUYOT Environnement - Vincent Biarnes 04:07:00 01:55:24
11 GAC CONCISE - Jackson Bouttell 04:53:34 02:41:58
12 BRETAGNE – CRÉDIT MUTUEL ESPOIR - Sébastien Simon 05:00:58 02:49:22
13 GENERALI - HORIZON MIXITE - Isabelle Joschke 05:17:15 03:05:39
14 GENERALI 40 - Alain Gautier 05:32:40 03:21:04
15 CHATHAM MARINE - Sam Matson 05:35:18 03:23:42
16 ARTEMIS 43 - Robin Elsey * 05:37:29 03:25:53
17 AGIR RECOUVREMENT - Adrien Hardy 05:38:38 03:27:02
18 ROCKFISH / RED - Henry Bomby 05:39:44 03:28:08
19 SOFINTHER - UN MAILLOT POUR LA VIE - Corentin Douguet 05:40:20 03:28:44
20 ENTREPOSE - Benoit Mariette * 05:44:44 03:33:08
21 TEAM VENDEE - Benjamin Dutreux * 05:55:12 03:43:36
22 QUALICONFORT - THE BEAUTIFUL WATCH - Gildas Mahé 06:05:22 03:53:46
23 BRETAGNE CRÉDIT MUTUEL PERFORMANCE - Corentin Horeau 06:34:22 04:22:46
24 MAGMA STRUCTURES - Alan Roberts 06:35:15 04:23:39
25 PORT DE CAEN OUISTREHAM - Claire Pruvot 06:40:42 04:29:06
26 REEL - PGO AUTOMOBILES - Aymeric Arthaud * 06:52:57 04:41:21
27 REDSHIFT - Nick Cherry 07:42:30 05:30:54
28 REGION BASSE NORMANDIE - Sophie Faguet * 07:45:16 05:33:40
29 LOI ET VIN - Yannick Evenou 07:52:45 05:41:09

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