More than halfway through the third stage of La Solitaire du Figaro, Englishman Sam Goodchild is continuing to leave his mark on the history of this ultra-competitive and very French class. More than 20 years since Irishman Damian Foxall won the fourth and final stage of the Solitaire, Sam Goodchild is threatening to join the ultra-exclusive club of non-French sailors to win a stage, let alone place on the podium or even win the whole event outright.
Since placing 9th in the first stage and passing three-time Solitaire winner Yann Elies at the finish of Leg 2 to claim a second place, Goodchild has been leading nearly the entire third leg thus far. Again taking place in light, shifty and benign conditions in the English Channel, the breeze is set to go even lighter as the fleet approaches the NW corner of France and begins sailing down the west coast to a finish in Saint Nazaire in the Loire-Atlantique region of France.
Very critically, stage 1 winner Xavier Macaire on Groupe SNEF is right on Goodchild and Leyton’s transom in second place and not giving up an inch. After the first two stages, Xavier sat in 2nd place overall with Goodchild in third and just six and a half minutes stood between them. Equally as important, previous overall leader Armel le Cleac’h and his 37 minute cushion to Macaire is all but gone as the Banque Populaire skipper again tried a northerly option early and got buried in the fleet as a result. His rivals Macaire and Goodchild were part of a small handful of boats to tack to the coast and make big gains that only got bigger. As of this writing on Monday morning, le Cleac’h is back up to 24th, but more than 13 miles astern of Goodchild.
With just over 200 miles to go including a dying breeze, big currents and tidal gates, and a predicted northerly fill to the finish, this one is far from over. – Ronnie Simpson.