Photos: Alexis Courcoux

Elies keeps his cool

Race favourite first into Gijon on leg one of La Solitaire du Figaro

Wednesday June 27th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

At 13:59:07 UTC this afternoon Yann Eliès on Groupe Queguiner-Le Journal des Entreprises crossed the line in first place to win the opening leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro-Eric Bompard Cachemire. Eliès took 3 days, 3 hours, 9 minutes and 7 seconds to complete the 451 miles between Paimpol in northern France to Gijon in northern Spain.

Fewer than nine minutes later last year's rookie winner Morgan Lagravière on Vendée clinched second place, with Fabien Delahaye on Skipper Macif 2012 completed the podium.

Eliès, Lagravière and Delahaye formed a tight-knit trio who led the opening leg from before they had passed through the Chenal du Four. They gained a small but significant margin over the rest of the fleet by skillfully negotiating the rock-strewn coast of Brittany, while maintaining a eye on their competitors they swapped positions at the front as they passed relatively unscathed through a ridge of high pressure yesterday with light and tricky winds, while maintaining their position through the second foggy night that featured several close encounters with ships, and came through the high best placed for the final sprint to Gijon, arriving in typically close Figaro fashion after more than 450 miles of intense racing.

"I forgot it could be that long… you need some good luck as well to win a leg!” declared an elated but exhausted Eliès after docking in Gijon.

Yann Eliès' victory on this technical and varied course demonstrated his Figaro experience. “This one was hard,” he shouted crossing the finish line. And he was right. Eliès didn't make the greatest start out of Paimpol, and during the coastal course he incurred a penalty and had to complete a 720° turn, eventually rounding the Radio France mark in the last quarter of the fleet. But from the initial miles in the Channel, when light breezes forced the skipper to hunt for relief fromthe tide close into the rocks over the first night, he was back in the game. He took the lead, followed by Lagravière and Delahaye who would become his faithful travel companions for the rest of the leg.

The skipper of Groupe Queguiner-Le Journal des Entreprises went on to round each of the following marks in first place: the Grande Basse de Portsall, close to the Brittany tip, then the Birvideaux lighthouse before tackling the Bay of Biscay and on up to the finish line in Gijon. With today's victory Yann Eliès, who is competing in his 13th Solitaire du Figaro - Eric Bompard Cachemire, reaches an impressive score of six leg wins since over his long career in the Figaro class.

"If somebody had taken it from me on the final miles, it would have been tough!" said Elies. "It was part of the possible scenario, I did not know where Thierry Chabagny was, the wind shifted completely when I crossed the finish line. You had to have a bit of luck to win this leg, but it also required some hard work, and a good speed. The three together allowed me to win. However, at the start, it was a disaster, I wondered what had happened to me, I made lots of mistakes, nothing was right, and then I got a bit upset, I told myself: you have to go and get it I had an opportunity in front of Perros Guirec and I grabbed it right away."

On racing with the front trio, Elies said: "Yes, it helps to be at full speed all the time. But one must continue to think twice, to make sure you're going in the right direction, to do the right analysis and not to rely only on the two guys around you. We must try to avoid wasting effort. It could have been a leg with gaps in the finish times, but in fact proved not to be. It's one of my problems: I always win legs where there are no gaps."

Elies added: “The most important thing is the way you win it. Taking the lead four hours after the start and never let it go, not one centimetre. I'm happy with myself for that, I really gave a lot to stay in the lead all the time. It was not clear because the two young guys behind, Morgan and Fabien, they are really good competitors. They will be hard to beat.”

Vendée skipper Morgan Lagravière said: "With the different transitions we faced, I was hoping that some errors would be made by Yann or Fabien but Yann was unbeatable... he really sailed well. He is very experienced and continues to show his skills. The conditions were very random with transitions and anything can happen in those kind of conditions.

“I was very focused on my race. I'm happy but this is the logical continuation of my progression and consistency in the results of my pre-season races. I will continue on this trend. The hardest part on the leg was to manage the windless pockets. You have to be strong – the work pays! The first 10 of the leg are almost the top 10 apart from one or two... I finish second but there were times when I could have ended up stuck in light winds.”

Fabien Delahaye added: "We've had a nice trio throughout the race! I am tired even though I managed to get some sleep during the leg, but I would be happy to be in my bed! I knew we would get strong winds in the end, so I slept a lot at the beginning of the night which allowed me to hold out until the finish. But they managed to drop me at the end! It was nice to sail between the three of us since the beginning. Each of us had our moments and we sailed pretty well. Morgan and Yann were very good this morning in the strong breeze. The key factor for winning the leg for me was to sleep well, but you'd better ask Yann!”

The remainder of the top 10 streamed across the finish line of an increasingly breezy Gijon in little over an hour, with Nicolas Lunven on Generali taking fourth ahead of Thierry Chabagny on Gedimat, Paul Meilhat on Skipper Macif 2011.

The best of the international contingent arrived in succession with Nick Cherry on Artemis 77 arriving in 24th place, just six minutes ahead of team mate Sam Goodchild. The Solitaire du Figaro is scored on combined elapsed times. At Cherry is 3 hours 46 minutes off the leader's time.

Finish times
Pos Boat Skipper Arrival Spd
1 GROUPE QUEGUINER / JOURNAL DES ENTREPRISES Yann Elies 27/06/2012 15:59 5.89
2 VENDEE Morgan Lagraviere 27/06/2012 16:08 5.88
3 SKIPPER MACIF 2012 Fabien Delahaye 27/06/2012 16:19 5.87
4 GENERALI Nicolas Lunven 27/06/2012 16:36 5.85
5 GEDIMAT Thierry Chabagny 27/06/2012 16:39 5.84
6 SKIPPER MACIF 2011 Paul Meilhat 27/06/2012 16:50 5.83
7 NACARAT Erwan Tabarly 27/06/2012 16:58 5.82
8 SEPALUMIC Frederic Duthil 27/06/2012 16:59 5.82
9 LA SOLIDARITE MUTUALISTE Damien Guillou 27/06/2012 17:02 5.81
10 SKIPPER HERAULT Xavier Macaire 27/06/2012 17:04 5.81
11 GROUPE FIVA Alexis Loison 27/06/2012 17:05 5.81
12 CERCLE VERT Gildas Morvan 27/06/2012 17:10 5.8
13 IN EXTENSO experts - comptables Nicolas Jossier 27/06/2012 17:27 5.78
14 FINANCIERE DE L'ECHIQUIER Thomas Normand 27/06/2012 17:27 5.78
15 KEOPSYS Charlie Dalin 27/06/2012 17:50 5.75
16 BANQUE POPULAIRE Jeanne Gregoire 27/06/2012 17:53 5.75
17 SEIXO PROMOTION Julien Villion 27/06/2012 18:09 5.73
18 DESTINATION DUNKERQUE Thomas Ruyant 27/06/2012 18:14 5.72
19 AGIR RECOUVREMENT Adrien Hardy 27/06/2012 18:23 5.71
20 DLBC Yoann Richomme 27/06/2012 18:40 5.69
21 GALETTES SAINT-MICHEL Isabelle Joschke 27/06/2012 18:50 5.68
22 BRETAGNE – CRÉDIT MUTUEL ESPOIR Corentin Horeau 27/06/2012 18:56 5.67
23 PRATI'BÛCHES Vincent Biarnes 27/06/2012 19:19 5.64
24 ARTEMIS 77 Nick Cherry 27/06/2012 19:45 5.61
25 ARTEMIS 23 Sam Goodchild 27/06/2012 19:51 5.61
26 BRITANIE COSMETIQUES David Sineau 27/06/2012 19:56 5.6
27 ROFF Francisco Lobato 27/06/2012 20:23 5.57
28 KICKERS Sebastien Picault 27/06/2012 20:26 5.57
29 ENTREPRENDRE LAFONT PRESSE Matthieu Girolet 27/06/2012 20:29 5.56
30 ARTEMIS 37 Henry Bomby 27/06/2012 21:26 5.5
31 JEHOL Didier Bouillard 27/06/2012 21:27 5.5
32 KRISTIN FOR FULLE SEIL Kristin Songe Molle 27/06/2012 22:12 5.44
33 VOYONS LARGE Eric D'Hooghe 27/06/2012 22:52 5.4
34 ONE NETWORK ENERGIES Yannig Livory 27/06/2012 23:31 5.36
ABD GROUPE SNEF Jean-Paul Mouren    
ABD BERNARD CONTROLS Jean-Pierre Nicol    


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