Thiercelin pipped at the post

Yann Elies continues to fulfil his prophecy

Sunday August 3rd 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
After what looking like a surefire win for Marc Thiercelin, the former Vendee Globe skipper was pipped at the post into Bilbao on the first leg of the Solitaire du Figaro by Yann Elies.

After the 400 mile dash across the Bay of Biscay an exhausted Elies, crossed the finish line at 23 hours 29 minutes 54 seconds BST last night (2 August) aboard his yacht Groupe Générali Assurances.

Thiercelin was also overtaken by former Vendee Globe winner and trimaran skipper Alain Gautier who crossed the line 13 minutes later - 30 seconds ahead of Thiercelin...

"I feel enormously relieved," said Eliès on his arrival. "I was under pressure and thought I’d never get here. What a leg! Not an easy one, this one! We saw it dominated by Marc Thiercelin who finally gave way due to technical problems, I think. Until you cross the line anything can happen. I thought I’d get here sooner and then the wind dropped out and ...crash! It’s always very difficult for the frontrunners in these situations. You have to find the necessary resources and above all keep your spirits up."

Rather arrogantly prior to the start of this event Eliès had predicted that he would win both the prologue and the Solitaire du Figaro. However the blond-haired Frenchman did indeed win the prologue and to date has also lived up to his promise in this intense singlehanded offshore race.

"It’s true that I promised to win the Prologue and then La Solitaire. For the moment I’m keeping my word but there’s a long way to go yet. I am incredibly happy. It’s my second consecutive victory after the final lap last year. I’m on a roll and I’m just hoping that the next leg will be as good. The gaps are not decisive but this initial victory is very important ”.

Marc Thiercelin at one point held an unprecidented 10 mile lead in the race (fractions of miles are the norm in this class). However since Lorient Thiercelin said that he had been sailing without instruments - relying on his GPS for bearing and SOG - and using his reserve autopilot - "which isn't great," he confessed.

"I was having a few problems finding the right speed of the boat. It’s hard enough sailing single-handed, but without other boats as a reference it’s even harder… in fact I’m sailing against nobody!" Thiercelin commented in the final radio chat show before he finished. "I obviously lack clarity. I feel a little fatalistic. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken part in a Figaro leg when everything is decided at the end. It’s nothing like the Vendée Globe where I had doubts about my safety. Here, it’s different, it’s a question of defending the slightest metre. I really hope I can hold out. There’s not going to be much in it at the finish. If when we left, someone had said that I had the chance of winning the leg from the outset, I’d have never believed them!"

Impressively the first 41 of the 42 entries streamed in over the course of 3 hours and 19 minutes. In such a competitive fleet several of the 'mighty' have fallen, most notably talented trimaran sailor Loick Peyron who finished 37th after some poor tactics approaching Belle Ile on the way up the French coast.

"My brain has played me two cards: the poor choice [tactically] first of all," said a disappointed Peyron. "And then, it’s the first time on the water during a race that I’ve felt this: a huge need for sleep which I could do nothing to fight. So I have slept very well! In addition I have some very bad multihull habits: sailing more miles to find wind. That doesn’t work in the Figaro."

Among the Figaro 'bizuths', or first timers, the leg was won by Marc Emig on Espoir Total Course au Large (12th overall) with Yves Le Blévec on Rêve de Grand-Actual Interim second, lying 21st overall. Sam Davies (who we will be speaking to later today) finished 25th.

Finish times

Pos Skipper Boat Time
1 ELIES Yann Groupe Générali Assurances arrived 03/08/03 at 00:29:54 in 81h29'54''
2 GAUTIER Alain Foncia + 13'53''
3 THIERCELIN Marc Bermudes + 14'29''
4 BIDEGORRY Pascal Région Aquitaine + 15'11''
5 LE CLEAC'H Armel Créaline + 20'13''
6 TABARLY Erwan Thalès + 1h05'40''
7 ATTANASIO Romain Port Trebeurden + 1h05'50''
8 DESJOYEAUX Michel Géant + 1h07'31''
9 BEYOU Jérémie Delta Dore + 1h09'41''
10 PETIT Benoit Défi Santé Voile + 1h09'46''
11 CAUDRELIER Charles Bostik Findley + 1h11'20''
12 EMIG Marc Espoir Total Course au Large + 1h12'26''
13 MORVAN Gildas Cercle Vert + 1h15'25''
14 RIOU Gwenaël Espoir Crédit Agricole + 1h16'56''
15 DE PAVANT Christophe Crash Bandicoot + 1h17'02''
16 CHABAGNY Thierry Petit Navire Le Bon Goût du Large + 1h17'50''
17 DROUGLAZET Eric David Olivier + 1h18'45''
18 TOULORGE Alexandre Ville de Cherbourg - Crédit Mutuel + 1h19'47''
19 CHIORRI Gilles 32 01 Météo Consult Groupe Prosodie + 1h25'43''
20 GRIMONT Damien Soletanche-Bachy + 1h26'30''
21 LE BLEVEC Yves Rêve de Grand-Actual Intérim + 1h26'53''
22 PELLECUER Laurent Cliptol Sport + 1h28'35''
23 BAKKER Sander Egeria + 1h28'55''
24 ESCOFFIER F.Y. Crêpes Whaou ! + 1h29'03''
25 DAVIES Samantha Skandia + 1h29'40''
26 ARTAUD Christophe Petits Petons + 1h31'32''
27 PEAN Lionel Nouvel Observateur + 1h34'04''
28 BOISSIERES Arnaud MBD Design - Sorelec + 1h40'53''
29 DUPONT Daniel Art Immobilier Construction + 1h42'21''
30 BOUVET Christophe Savoy Open Race Télé Monte Carlo + 1h44'30''
31 GREGOIRE Jeanne Skipper AG2R + 1h45'56''
32 SEVAUX Stéphane Sarthe + 1h51'00''
33 MOUREN Jean-Paul Marseille Entreprises + 2h05'34''
34 AGUSTA Corrado Sector Sport Watches + 2h07'23''
35 ALFARO Amaiur Eki + 2h10'13''
36 PILAT Eric Altaventure-SNSM + 2h10'31''
37 PEYRON Loïck Fujifilm + 2h16'16''
38 BOS Christian Raynal et Roquelaure + 2h43'21''
39 BOUGARD Patrice Kogane + 2h46'50''
40 GUERIN Ronan Amandine & Chérie + 3h07'59''
41 LEBRETON Eric CYP + 3h18'56''
42 BASURKO Unai Bizkaia + 8h13'10''

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