Leg 3 gun goes Sunday

We meet Kito de Pavant and Philippe Vicariot current leaders in the Solitaire du Figaro

Friday August 16th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
The third leg of the Solitaire du Figaro kicks off on Sunday from Les Sables d'Olonne on a convoluted course that involves sailing up the coast to Belle Ile before heading south to the race's third stopover in Gijon in northern Spain.

The closeness of the racing so far in this world championship of singlehanded offshore racing has proved that even at this halfway stage of the race the form is far from clear. At present the overall leader after two legs is Christophe 'Kito' de Pavant on Malice.

41 years old de Pavant, who heralds from Montferrier sur Lez, has five children and has sailed 25 transatlantics as well as several crossings of the Pacific and China Sea. Despite this high mileage on the high sea he only took to the Figaro circuit three years ago.

"Ah, so much has happened!" recalled de Pavant of the last leg from Crosshaven to Les Sables d'Olonne. "I was having a ball, but like a lot of the others, we were blocked by the current and almost straightaway three other boats passed in front of us. It's never, never over this type of regatta. The first night, I took some risks, it was a real sleigh ride. It wasn't easy, but you just hung on to get away from the others from the outset.

"With Philippe Vicariot, it's going to be really hot in the general rankings, but it's fantastic news to be in the lead. That said, we've had two legs with little distance between each competitor so we'll be leaving the Sables in almost the same way as we left Boulogne [at the start]. It's always better to be in front, even though the pressure will be on and that's evidently not a good thing. Luckily, this is my third solo race, and I'm surprising myself, I'm very relaxed this year."

Vicariot is in second place just under five minutes behind de Pavant in the overall results. At 42, he is an old hand at the Figaro and Mini circuits and in 1995 finished second just eight minutes behind solo sailing legend Philippe Poupon.

"We've had a lot to deal with, a lot of emotions and that's why we're here," says Vicariot. "Like on the first day in the Irish Sea, under spinnaker, we were verging on the limit. We had to push under heavy spinnaker just to gain a few metres and then afterwards, it was 25 hours of light winds which made you pull your hair out. One part was okay, the other was not okay. At the end, the concertina effect played in my favour. I passed to the southwest of isle d'Yeu because at that time, things were so equal that you had to take a few risks, you had to do something to get that little bit extra. I finished second at the Sables d'Olonne. For me there was the added incentive to do well since I really hope to be at the start of the Vendée Globe, at the helm of a boat twice the size of this one!"

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