La Solitaire du Figaro - Near photo finish in leg 4

Phil Sharp - La Solitaire du Figaro 2011
La Solitaire du Figaro's fourth leg is coming to a close with Phil Sharp crossing the finish line a mere ten minutes behind the first ‘Rookie’ and only twenty-four minutes and twenty-two seconds behind Jeremie Beyou.

An incredible finish to the 2011 Solitaire du Figaro! Jeremie Beyou (BPI) won leg four by just 12 seconds, with Paul Meilhat (Macif 2011), Fabien Delehaye (Port de Caen Ouistream) and Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat) all finishing within 38 seconds of Beyou after 430 miles and 72 hours of intense racing.

The British Artemis Offshore Academy sailors also had a close finish with Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) finishing in 20th only 24 minutes behind Beyou, Conrad Humphreys (DMS) in 30th, 13 minutes behind Sharp, Sam Goodchild in 33rd , only two minutes behind Humphreys, and Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) in 36th position, 14 minutes behind Goodchild.

Crowds lined the dock for the final finish of the 2011 Solitaire du Figaro cheering their sailing heroes home. For Frechman Beyou, this is his thirteenth time in the race, and it has not been unlucky for him. He has dominated the race wining three out of the four legs, and winning the race overall for the second time since 2005.

Sharp was aiming for the top ‘Rookie’ prize for the final leg and very nearly claimed it, but as the fleet converged on the finish line two other Rookie’s beat him to the line. With such a close finish between the fleet after three days of racing, the excitement for the Rookie’s was plain to see: 'The finish was the most exciting finish I’ve ever experienced,' reported Sharp. 'The closest offshore racing you’ll ever see - three days of sailing and then you get 20 boats finishing within minutes!' Sharp finished just ten minutes behind the first ‘Rookie’ and 24 minutes and 22 seconds behind Beyou.

For the four British sailors the final leg got off to a flying start with the youngest skipper of the fleet, 21-year old Goodchild (Artemis) in second position going into the first evening:

'It was a very hard leg, mentally and physically,' said Goodchild. 'It started well, the first 24 hours were good but then I got myself stuck in a hole and watched everyone sail past. I didn’t realise I was second at the beginning… I now need to finish in second not just start in second!'

Conrad Humphreys just before he crossed the line - La Solitaire du Figaro 2011
Leg four was predominantly a tactical coastal race from Les Sables d’Olonne through the testing Ile d’Yeu, and navigating round Brittany Point before they faced the difficult passage of the Raz de Sein against the tide. Throughout the race the skippers faced ever-changing conditions with light and fickle winds through to heavy squalls:

'This particular leg was very coastal, there was plenty of opportunity to sneak in and out of rocks and take slightly different options around Guernsey but at the major landmarks we all came back together,' explained Humphreys.

'It didn’t matter if you went offshore or close inshore, as soon as you had to pass the next turning point we all converged.'

For King, as with many of the skippers the thrill of one design racing where the winner will not be known until the very last seconds is clear to see:

'The last couple of hours have been the best sailing we’ve had all race,' said King. 'It was so close, we were changing positions all the time. I think I’m just going to go off and sleep for a couple of days!'

The solo offshore skippers have now refuelled and are catching up on some sleep. The rest of the week will involve a Leg Four prizegiving on Friday, the Overall prizegiving and dinner on Saturday at La Halle à Marée. On Sunday the 44 skippers will bid farewell to Dieppe and the 2011 Solitaire du Figaro, with a Parade of Sail along the beach in front of the crowds.

A look back of the 2011 Solitaire du Figaro in the eyes of the four British sailors will be published in the coming days including latest photos and video with their own personal account on the experience and learnings from this classic French solo race.

Solitaire du Figaro Leg four results:

1st - Jeremie Beyou (BPI) 72h 37’ 01' at 12:49:01 CET
20th - Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) + 24’ 22'
30th – Conrad Humphreys (DMS) + 37’ 27'
33rd – Sam Goodchild (Artemis) + 39’ 57'
36th Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) + 51’ 50'

Solitaire du Figaro Leg four Rookie results:

1st - Morgan Lagraviere (Vendee) 72h 51’ 34'
?3rd - Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) + 09’ 49'
7th - Conrad Humphreys (DMS) + 22’ 54'
8th - Sam Goodchild (Artemis) + 25’ 24'

Overall 2011 Solitaire du Figaro results:

?1st - Jeremei Beyou (BPI) 257h 08 ‘41'
18th - Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) + 02h 42’ 51'
31st – Conrad Humphreys (DMS) + 06h 14’ 57'
34th - Sam Goodchild (Artemis) + 09h 36’ 33'
37th - Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) + 11h 12’ 42'

Artemis Offshore Academy website
La Solitaire du Figaro website