Tense closing moments

At the Figaro sailors deal with light breeze and strong tides

Thursday August 29th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
Yann Elies finally made it to the Cherbourg-Octeville finish line winner of the fourth and final leg of the Solitaire du Figaro. The 28 year old who earlier this year sailed around the world with Bruno Peyron on board Orange crossed the line on board his Groupe Generali Assurances at 08:43:28 GMT this morning and was followed by Ronan Guerin at 08:50:15 GMT.

"I'm happy with myself. I set out to look for this victory. I have succeeded in winning a leg - anything is possible now. It was very important to succeed in the last few miles. Of course this victory is a present for Titouan, my little boy born a week ago when I wasn't there..." commented Elies.

However the happiest man in the fleet is Kito de Pavant (right) who finished fifth at 08:55:12 GMT to take overall victory in this year's Solitaire du Figaro. In the past this accolade has been the ticket on to greater things such as the Vendee Globe or the 60ft trimaran circuit.

De Pavant, 40 from Montferrier sur Lez in the Herault region in the south of France is unusual in the Figaro class for having an extensive background both in racing as well as cruising - his travels have taken him through most of the world's oceans.

He was taught to sail at an early age by his doctor father. He won the SNIM Worlds in 1978 at the age of 16 and like Vendee Globe winner Christope Auguin, cut his competitive teeth in the Micro Cup, finishing second in the Nationals in 1979.

In the early 1980s he bought and refitted a ketch which he chartered in the Med and Caribbean and used for scientific research trips. He took part in the 1982 Route du Rhum on board a catamaran, but then retired from competitive racing to bring up his family, a life punctuated by delivery trips around the world and a brief return to racing in 1990 when he became Hobie 16 European champion.

De Pavant has 25 transatlantic crossings to his name but it is only in the last two years that he has entered the French professional racing scene, racing with Bernard Gallay's Open 60 in the two handed Transat Jacques Vabre and finishing second on Jean le Cam's 60ft trimaran Bonduelle in the Course des Phares this year. He has competed in the Solitaire du Figaro for the last two years finishing 12th in 2000 and 9th in 2001.

His ambition is to go on to take part in the Route du Rhum this November.

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