‘Benjamin’ Basile Bourgnon secures Stage 2 win
Under pressure from one of the title favourites, Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire), the 21 year old youngest skipper on the race Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED) held his nerve in very light wind conditions this evening to win the very challenging second stage of the 54thLa Solitaire du Figaro Paprec crossing the finish line Roscoff on the Bay of Morlaix at 17:59:44hrs (French time).
Finishing on a near windless glassy sea – the only ripples made by the wakes of their Figaro Bénéteau 3 one designs – Bourgnon’s impressive victory, just 3 minutes and 24 seconds ahead of Horeau, was all down to the last gybe and layline to the finish line. The young skipper triumphed in a slow motion match race which had his rival progressively closing him down over the final nerve racking hours of what has been very tough 570 nautical miles leg from Kinsale where the 32 strong fleet started last Sunday afternoon.
The leg has been marked not only by numerous stop-starts and five different leaders including both Bourgnon and Horeau, but significant gains and losses in the strong tides of Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea and the Saint George’s Channel. At the northernmost turn of the passage, Chicken Rock lighthouse just to the SW of the Isle of Man, Bourgnon was 21st at 37 miles behind the then leader, French rookie Hugo Dhallene (YC Saint Lunaire).
Even last night Bourgnon was still in 13th place nearly four miles behind leaders Gaston Morvan (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) and Horeau – whose seventh La Solitaire this is. But once again Bourgnon and done his homework and stuck to his own plan, goingrock hopping round Land’s End from where he emerged with a small lead over Horeau which he held to the finish.
Fifth on Stage 1, some 14 minutes behind winner Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan), Bourgnon has worked tirelessly in training this winter and spring. He now very much follows in the wake of his late father Laurent, who went on to become a legendary Swiss ocean racer, before being lost in a diving accident in 2015. The first ever rookie to do so Laurent Bourgnon won the Solitaire in 1988 at the age of 2022 going on to win the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Route du Rhum in the colours of Primagaz.
His father’s La Solitaire win shares a common theme. It came In similar light winds but his was at the end of the third and decisive final stage from Kinsale. Laurent Bourgnon racing the oldest half tonner in the fleet crossed the line into Quiberon whereupon the breeze died and he secured victory ahead of Alain Gautier while the rest of the fleet struggled to finish.
Basile Bourgnon’s first stage win (subject to jury and any protests) gives him the overall lead on the General Classification and with a slow, painful finish into the night in prospect for many rivals, he may carry a useful margin into Stage 3 from Roscoff across the Bay of Biscay and back to the final finish into Piriac.
As an infant and child Bourgon spent seven years cruising with his parents, brother and sister designed by his father, visiting Brazil, Argentina, Patagonia, New Zealand before spending five years in Polynesia.
As he told Le Figaro last year during his debut in the race Bourgnon only learned of his father’s successes later in his youth “I really learned more about his career after his tragic death in 2015, meeting people in the sailing industry and his friends like Thomas Coville who inspired me and told his stories. Before that he was not a top sailor but simply my dad.”
Warmly welcomed in Roscoff by the crowds from the towns and villages around the Bay of Morlaix, where La Solitaire aces such are Armel Le Cléac’h, Jérémie Beyou and Nico Troussel all grew up, Bourgnon – who like Horeau is from La Trinité, said: “ I was pleased to get back up to the front. I tried something early on that I thought would make all the difference, but on the first morning’s rankings I was a long way back. But as time went on, the further we went, the better it got for me. Looking at the weather, I saw there were opportunities and that those in front would be slowed down. I was incredibly lucky in a corridor of wind off the English coast. I started to fly. I caught Corentin and then it was all match racing. It was scary right to the finish. The wind dropped off in Morlaix Bay.”
Overall runner up in 2014 and winner of the Solo Concarneau in the weeks leading up to this race, Horeau, 34, said: “It was a stressful race, as when you’re out in front, you know the others are chasing you. I would have liked to win the leg, but he was better. I tried to catch him right to the finish and it was very close, so well done to him! There isn’t much time between us in the overall rankings. We talked it over on the VHF when we were some way back. He said in 2019 Armel was back in 19th place but ended up fifth. It’s exciting looking at the rankings. Gaston was up there and went straight on, while the others went around him I think. I felt relaxed and sailed well. I’m pleased to have got back in the game from a long way back. I really worked hard from Land’s End to leave the others behind me. At the finish I thought I would pull it off, but I got stuck just before the finish line. I so wanted to win!
Skipper MACIF 2022’s Lois Berrehar took third place finishing 30 minutes and 30 seconds after Basile Bourgnon. He said “I had a hard time with this race and this stage. It really is a thankless race. This really is the finish line, and until it is crossed, anything can happen. You have to stay hyper-focused and give your all at all times. That’s why it’s tough. The last time I stood on a stage podium in La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec was in 2020. I must admit that I missed this a lot!. I have often been at the front but rarely rewarded. From the start, I was a bit behind but I knew that the course was still long so I had a pretty good feeling There is still one stage left. Lots of things are going to happen. I will do everything I can to do even better.”
At 2000hrs French time the best positioned international skipper is David Paul (Sailingpoint.co/Just A Drop) in 20th with 15 miles to the finish line. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) is 23rd with 17 miles to sail – like all the sailors around them both were making less than one knot boat speed.
Stage 2 Kinsale to Bay of Morlaix 570 miles
1 Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED) finish time 17:59:44 local time elapsed time 4d 4h 19m 44s 2 Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire) 18:03:08hrs 4d 4h 23m 08s 3 Lois Berrehar (Skipper MACIF 2022) 18:30:14hrs 4d 50m 14s