After two out of the four stages have been sailed, Pierre Quiroga who was second on the first stage and them won the second, has control of the general classification of La Solitaire du Figaro with a solid lead of more than an hour and a half over Tom Laperche and Xavier Macaire. Has the Skipper Macif 2019 skipper already got the race in the bag? Tip & Shaft assembled a few experts in the field to analyse this first half of the race.
His start can be considered almost perfect, second on the first stage, 47 minutes behind the winner Xavier Macaire, then Pierre Quiroga clearly dominated the second course between Lorient and Fécamp. The Mediterranean skipper took the lead on the first morning just before the raz de Sein. Ad then the solo racer who already won the curtain raiser of the season back in March, the long offshore of March’s Solo Maître CoQ, Quiroga then just constantly widened the gap, to finally win under the Normandy cliffs at 56’19 ahead of the runner-up Tom Laperche and 2h24’10 over Xavier Macaire (14th). That stage winning delta allowed him to take the lead of the general with a margin of 1:37 on the second two who are separated by just 13 seconds.
Paul Meilhat, himself a former Macif Skipper, says: “What is really obvious is his speed upwind, he seems to have found a little something more than the others have. As there have been a lot of upwind since the start of this La Solitaire, he has found something special. And when you know you’re going faster, it plays a bit on the minds of the others. “
Christopher Pratt knows Quiroga well after having worked with him at the CEM, the La Grande Motte Mediterranean Training Center. He adds: “On the first stage he really broke the fleet with his speed [9th at the La Corogne buoy, 2nd into Lorient after the climb upwind up the Bay of Biscay Editor’s note]. On the second stage he not only was fast but he managed to take the “lead” on the positioning especially compared to Tom. He has always been the first to go and others were not in control at all. “
“He wants to do well
or his last season with Macif”
A specialist in weather routing although he does not work on this La Solitaire, Jean-Yves Bernot, was impressed by the second stage as sailed by Quiroga: “It was not easy, he knew how to take risks when needed, but also to calm things down when necessary.” Watching the race closely from the water is of course race director Francis Le Goff who agrees: “Yoann Richomme said before the start that to win the Solitaire, you had to be prepared to risk to be daring, Pierre illustrates these words well. And that includes the last few miles on Wednesday morning, while leading the fleet, he stayed well to the south in the bay, just not worrying about the others behind, because he said to himself that this is where he should be, on this stage he always pushed his options, not to the extreme, but just following what he considered to be the right line.”
And there are signs of a certain maturity for a sailor who will turn 29 during the final stage on September 14 when he is competing on his sixth La Solitaire, his third under the colours of Macif (19th and 9th on the last two years)? “This year, I see a kind of serenity in him. He made his choices, he went back to the south a fortnight before the start, he built his own path, this is the first time that I see him decide all about his own preparation completely, it shows that he has matured, “explains the weather strategy specialist, Dominic Vittet who is close to the sailor whom he has followed since his debut in Figaro at La Grande Motte and who he still works with on this La Solitaire.
Julien Hereu, one of the two Figaro Macif shore crew, adds: “Pierre was quite relaxed and chilled before the start of this Solitaire, this is his sixth year, he wants to do well on his last race with Macif. And he really took a load of care this year in his technical preparations, looking at all the small details of the boat, and we all know that in Figaro, it is often the small details that make the difference.”
Laperche and Macaire
on the prowl
But now for the first time, Pierre Quiroga finds himself in the shoes of the hunted not the hunter. Might that get to him? “His goal was to win a stage, that’s done, and that may help him now in not putting too much pressure on himself, he will have already succeeded in his Solitaire no matter what,“ says Christopher Pratt. Jeanne Grégoire, director of the Finistère racing centre at Port-la-Forêt, where Pierre Quiroga has been training since he joined the Skipper Macif system, answers: “Of course, he will look at others a little more but when you are in tune with the way you sail and things are going well, there is no reason to change.“
What about his rivals, and in particular Tom Laperche who has been very consistent (3rd and 2nd) and of whom Paul Meilhat says “does not really have an attacking profile, he is someone who ‘recites his scales’ well “? ” His goal on solo races since the start of this year has been to be on the podium [winner of the Solo Maître CoQ, 2nd of the Solo Guy Cotten, Editor’s note]. “He is already achieving things,” says Jeanne Grégoire. “Now it’s a matter of temperament, he knows that there are people who sail a little differently, but if he doesn’t feel e needs to change and he is good in his own mind then let him stay on this. He knows how to do this. “
As for Xavier Macaire, he will have to recover from a stage which saw him lose his navigation software and then dive to remove a fish pot all caught up in the keel of Groupe Snef and so finish 14th. “He caught the pot at a time when you couldn’t lose touch. That took the legs from under hime and ruined the story for him. But even when you watch the bits he did with no navigation software, he was still quite strong, others would have been much worse. And given what he showed on the first stage this if not over for him at all.” analyses Francis Le Goff.
“The next stage
can be really different”
It is not all over for the chasers, according to our experts, provided that the scenario of the next two stages is more about strategy not just speeds. “If the weather pattern stay clean the top three have already an option on the podium. But if you now have one or two stages with more downwind, two or three transitions, it can all change. And no one is safe from what happened to Xav or Tom.” Reminds Christopher Pratt. Francis Le Goff adds: “Normally now it will be difficult to catch the top three in speed alone and this next stage can be really different, possibly with a lot of transitions. guys who were up there at the start of the Solitaire, like Gildas Mahé [4th overall], who attacked a lot, or Alexis Loison [5th], show they are capable of coming back every time. “
Gaston Morvan…a surprise, or not?
Eighth on the first stage and fifth on the second (each time 1st rookie), Gaston Morvan who is seventh overall, is, for all of our experts, the surprise of this first part of the race.
” Before the start, I told myself that he was much more ready than I could really imagine. We felt that he had progressed his way of sailing, of understanding the scale and intensity of the project, of approaching the races, already he has confirmed all this over the first two stages in an impressive way, it is a very nice surprise ”, summarizes Jeanne Grégoire. Other revelations include the Rochelais Alexis Thomas (15th overall) – “I didn’t know him, he sails clean”, notes Jean-Yves Bernot – and Achille Nebout, 3rd in the second stage and 6th overall. “He’s been sailing well for a while, he’s a guy who’s super invested, who works hard, it’s good that he’s rewarded,” said Christopher Pratt.
Photo: Alexis Courcoux