La Solitaire du Figaro leg 3 overall

The pontoons in Les Sables d’Olonne - La Solitaire du Figaro 2011
© Courcoux Marmara
La Solitaire du Figaro third leg to Les Sables d’Olonne has been completed and preparations are underway for the start of the fourth leg on Sunday.

It’s not just another day in the office for the 42nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro race in sunny and unusually hot Les Sables d’Olonne in France. Shore crews are busy preparing the boats, skipper’s recover, relax, chat to each other and discuss the latest weather forecasts ahead of Sunday’s start. The public visit the race village, stroll along the pontoon to take pictures and kids ask their favourite skippers for autographs before the prize giving ceremony.

Do sailors dream when they are at sea? With three days and three nights at sea, there is not much time to sleep, but some to admit to dreaming:'I dream a lot at sea, bizarre visions like going buying a baguette on my bike.' Exclaims Romain Attanasio (Savéol).

'I sleep down below, to keep an eye to the navigation instruments. During the Solitaire I haven’t slept longer than 10 minutes, 15 maximum at a time. I wake up spontaneously and I never dream. It happened to me in double-handed races, when you have a much more regular rhythm, but never on the Solitaire. What do I dream for on the fourth leg? Crossing in first with an hour advantage over the second!' Thomas Rouxel (Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance).

'I never dream at sea and I never sleep soundly because there just is not enough time. But I do ashore… utterly unlikely dreams, funny, incredible stories and mainly during the first hour of sleep after a race.' Jérémie Beyou (BPI).

'When I sleep, I start dreaming at once, bizarre, odd dreams… Sometimes it whilst I am at the helm and then I start hearing voices. I suddenly wake up and it’s gone, I guess it’s a form of hallucination. Ashore, frankly, I don’t remember I’m too busy recovering.' Isabelle Joschke (Galettes Saint-Michel).

Les Sables d’Olonne in the Vendée region of France is a town that has a very special meaning to many solo sailors. It is famous for being the start and finish town of the non stop round the world race, the Vendée Globe. Some of the sailors have competed on this race, others have been to Les Sables to train for the Figaro and all are enjoying the friendly atmosphere and huge public support they receive on the stop over before the start of the final leg on Sunday to Dieppe.

'The Sables d’Olonne reminds me of the start and finish of the Vendée Globe. The huge crowds coming here, anytime day or night, to greet and welcome the sailors. You always feel at home here.' Laurent Gouezigoux (Valorisons)

'I’m so happy I’ve done well, finishing in Les sables. It feels like homecoming and my sponsors are from here, I couldn’t ask for more.' Morgan Lagravière (Vendée)

'I’ve won a leg finishing in Les Sables, it was in 2007 and I beat Michel Desjoyeaux, after a very tough crossing so I have very good memories. Les Sables d’Olonne, is a place I’m fond of and the people here are always so welcoming.' Fred Duthil (Sepalumic)

The solo sailors set out with certain dreams and ambitions at the start of La Solitaire du Figaro but now at the end of the third stage of the race, what have they become?

'I am below the target I set myself at the start: last year I finished 18th and was hoping to be among the top ten this year and now I am in 30th place! There is one last leg where I need to go for it to try and have a good end of the race' explains Jean-Charles Monnet (Paris-Château Peyrat Fourthon 15).

'I go below deck, where I can keep an eye on the instruments. I have a lot of alarms, so if any little thing changes, wind, boat speed, it wakes me up. I do not count only on my sixth sense. It would not be prudent. But I tend not to dream. I sleep so deeply and try and think of good things when falling to sleep.' Sam Goodchild (Artemis)

'On the eve of the fourth stage, I am disappointed because I have not sailed well so far. The only constant thing is that I make lots of mistakes! What's more, I am just not having any luck. In the storms at the end of the third stage, I was just stuck becalmed for two and half hours close to the finish line unable to get across it…but I am not going to carry on moping: one always gets the place one deserves. 'Sébastien Picault (Kickers)

'I do not feel that I am not in contention. My ambitions of victory or the podium are a little far off now, but it was not my primary goal. I wanted to be in the top ten: everything needs to be done on this final leg. We will navigate in very variable and uncertain conditions... I'm a better on the attack than on the defensive. It should be an interesting race.' Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls)

'I do not say to myself that I sailed badly because I am unable to sail. I tell myself that it is not me that is sailing right now. This is a person with problems and too many things going on in my mind. I am not expressing my potential. I have lots of little things that have just accumulated and right now I am pretty bogged down with it all. I know things will change after this Solitaire when I am going to get some rest and try and do something else for bit.' Francisco Lobato (Roff)

Conditions at the finish of the third leg in Les Sables d’Olonne were incredible. The rising sun and rainstorms transformed the sky and the sea into a work of art, a real surreal painting. A unique moment for the exhausted skippers who, after more than 470 miles, discovered a new side to a finish…

'The finish was magical! A thunderstorm at dawn, I’ve never seen such a sky, those shades and that light… Pink, orange, blue, black, grey and an immense rainbow: just unique!' described a happy Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire). 'It was the first time that I saw such a bright light and incredibly intense shades of red. You can see stunning things at sea, but that was exceptional! Usually we haven’t time to contemplate, especially near the finish. But then, I took a moment to watch the lightning, to hear the thunders…' enthused Erwan Tabarly (Nacarat).

There is the race on the water... then all that goes on ashore! Birthdays, weddings, meetings, La Solitaire du Figaro is played as much at sea as it is ashore. Over the month long event the racing on the water is bitterly fierce then on the shore it is equally busy but it is more a matter of rest and getting fit again for the next leg. There is time to regain strength, to sleep, but also attend the cocktail parties, chat with fellow competitors, meet the public and sponsors...and get married!

'For the past five years I have celebrated my birthday on the Solitaire and each time, I am fortunate to have had entire organisation with me. This year, Claire de Crépy, (the event Director) said that this should be one of the most beautiful editions. I think we're on the right track. This one has a very special feel about it. Let's hope we get an equally wonderful finish to the event.' Jacques Caraës (Race Director, 52 today)

'I travel so much, but at least we will all be there together at the finish in Dieppe. Tomorrow it will be simple, we will go to City Hall at noon to tie the knot and then we will raise a glass to celebrate in the Partners Club with all. Les Sables d'Olonne is my home base and I am part of the Vendée Pole, although I almost never have time to train because of work.' Maurice Tannyères Louis (St Ericsson) is going to get married on Saturday in Sables d'Olonne to Emma, his partner of the past six years and his assistant on the race...

La Solitaire du Figaro website