Today (24th August 2011) Devon-based ocean sailor, Conrad Humphreys sailing ‘DMS’ completed the fourth and final leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro, crossing the line at 1226hrs BST into Dieppe, Normandy. One of the “fab four” British entrants in this, the 42nd edition of the renowned solo sailing race, Conrad on DMS was the second Brit to complete the decisive leg, crossing the line in 30th place in the provisional results.
The 430 mile long leg, which started from Les Sables d’Olonne, Western France last Sunday, (Sunday 21st August) was won by Jérémie Beyou, BPI after a close battle between the 46 strong fleet of Figaro sailors. Two of the contenders were forced to retire after the first day of racing due to equipment failure or injury.
Only 4 hours separated the first and last competitors to finish the leg, who had to contend with wind shifts, light and fickle airs and strong currents through the duration of the leg. Negotiating a difficult passage of a low pressure system lying over the race course, added to the pressure towards the final stages of the race as the solo sailors tried to predict when the wind would veer.
In the overall results, Conrad has ranked as the second Brit behind Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence). As a “bizuth” or newcomer to the class, Conrad finished a respectable 31st place in the overall rankings, racing amongst some of the best solo sailors in the circuit, the majority of which are French. For this year’s victor and winner of three of the four legs Jérémie Beyou (BPI), this was the 12th time that he had competed in the multiple stage race, which he also won in 1995. Before competing in La Solitaire du Figaro, Conrad’s aim was to finish in the top 30 of the 47 starters.
This year has marked Conrad’s return to the discipline of monohull solo sailing, since he completed the Vendée Globe single-handed round the world yacht race in 2005. Following several years of skippering teams in multihulls, Conrad has used the Figaro class as an intensive method for training and improving his solo sailing skills.
Having learnt an immense amount in the intense, close-racing of the Figaro Bénéteau 2 class, Conrad is determined to continue in the class and plans to participate in La Solitaire du Figaro again next year. This will be part of a continuous training programme ultimately leading towards the ambition to compete in another Vendée Globe race, once he has secured a title sponsor for an Open 60 campaign.
Speaking from Dieppe, Conrad said: “That was an amazing leg, really, truly amazing!
“It was a really good leg for me, very close. I stayed with the lead bunch and the whole time we were never more than 4 or 5 miles off the front. It had bits of everything that leg.
“Ask me if it was harder than the Vendée? Yeah, I’d say it was harder than the Vendée. Ask me if I’ll be back? I’ll definitely be back, that was amazing.”