Superstitious Bretons

Skippers refuse to finish 'unlucky' prologue to the Solitaire du Figaro

Saturday August 3rd 2002, Author: Laure Fay, Location: France
Ah superstition! The theory goes that if you win the prologue to the Solitaire du Figaro, then you don't win the main event. Gildas Morvan on Cercle Vert, leader throughout the Bayer Prologue to Sunday's start of the big race, strongly believes in this and and he wasn't the only one to do the race but leave victory honours to someone else.

Morvan was well set to make a great show of his talent leading his 30ft Figaro Bénéteau to victory at the end of the banana course. But you wouldn't know Gildas Morvan very well if you imagined that he could put his old superstitions away. The sailor showed this two years ago in Arcachon, by refusing to have anything to do with the prologue. And once again it was with unconcealed delight that he took command of the fleet so as not to let them go off without him until the very moment that they crossed the line. It wasn't simply a question of toying with bad luck, which has the habit of sticking to he who wins the pre-start race. "I seriously believe in it," Morvan confides. "We have seen too many winners of the prologue encounter serious setbacks in the ensuing races of the Figaro circuit."

Nevertheless, everyone started off well in the races off Boulogne-sur-Mer. At 1100, Gilles Sabin, President of the Race Committee, launched the start of proceedings despite a shift to the right which forced him to modify the course a little. But the timing was respected and the fleet was off eight minutes later. The sun returned again and with a southerly wind of 12-15 knots.

Despite the slight chop, the conditions were ideal for enabling the 38 singlehanders to throw themselves into the competition. At the gun, the big players had already chosen the more favourable right hand end of the line. Young first-timer Vincent Graveleau on Bati 85 Qualeader more a fabulous start. The old sea dog Philippe Vicariot on Thales was the only boat over.

In the leading group, race favourite and 2001 winner Eric Drouglazet on David Olivier and Gildas Morvan detached themselves very quickly. It was all set for a head on battle between the two titans of the circuit. "It was the best side and that enabled me to avoid contact with the others and to play with the current," commented Morvan. His black and green Figaro tacked up to the windward buoy, followed like a shadow by his rival.

One lap later down the Côte d'Opale, the same players were approaching the finish. Cercle Vert, at this point seemed set to leave victory to his close pursuer. But Drouglazet not known for his superstitious nature also refused to cross the line. And it was the same for Erwan Tabarly on Thales-Armor Lux and Vincent Riou on PRB - none of these superstitious Bretons wanted to win.

And so the opportunity was left wde open to southerner Laurent Pellecuer on board Languedoc Mutualité to take up the opportunity to edge through the field and take the line honours. "I said the day before that if there was ever the opportunity I would seize it. I have already had enough worries so we'll see. I had a fantastic regatta, that's the main thing," declared the happy winner of the Bayer Prologue.

In his wake and in the cacophony, Vincent Riou and Gilles Chiorri (32 01 of Météo Consult) took the other places on the podium.

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