Special correspondent on board Express

The Southern highway is clear. It will be there all day towards the next toll. A buoy moored by the race management in front of Hourtin, in the north of the Arcachon basin. At the 8 a.m. rankings this Tuesday morning, Élodie Bonafous was leading the fleet around a hundred miles from this mark and progressing at more than 9 knots.

With in his rear, Alexis Loison (REEL Group) and Gaston Morvan (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance). For the leaders of the general classification after two stages, Basile Bourgnon (Edenred) and Loïs Berrehar (Skipper Macif 2022) were 3 miles from the conquering Breton. Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire) showing a further delay of more than 5 miles.

Since yesterday, the spinnakers have been puffing out their cheeks in an echoless gulf. From early summer, at the time when the clouds gather for the night’s funeral, eyes scan the water and the sky through puffy eyelids. The wind is strong, the cloudiness hides the sunrise. Élodie Bonafous is over the moon: “It’s going pretty well and the ranking is pretty good. But you have to be careful because the playing field is wide in the Bay of Biscay and I don’t really know where the little friends are. I managed to rest. I am under a large spinnaker and the wind has picked up enough to add the genoa. I glide well at an average of 8.5 knots. By tacking in VMG to get to the mark in front of us. We try to follow the wind to make the approaching tack.”

Also scrutinizing her computer screen, she knows thanks to the AIS where her pursuers are, boosted by her beautiful copy: “I see a good part of the fleet in reference but I don’t know where some of them have gone, I imagine them rather in the East. It’s never happened to me to be in the lead for so long, it’s nice. Despite the pressure, I manage to do things methodically, without being influenced by my position. We should keep this wind stable but the big question I have about the upcoming weather is if there will be any breeze effects to play with during the day.”

8th in the provisional ranking, Loïs Berrehar (Skipper Macif 2022) also had energy in his voice: “I slept well last night, and it’s not bad compared to last night when it wasn’t the same atmosphere at all. Yesterday, after going through the stones, I was pretty burnt out. We are progressing in a well-established northwesterly flow, tacking to the downwind. Let’s say that it’s easier to put on autopilot and make your life on board than when you’re in the flow and your progress depends on the slightest laugh. It’s nice to take out the spinnaker, it reminds me of the Transat.”

A Transat Paprec that he won last May with Charlotte Yven (Skipper Macif 2023). The day was still expected to be very active, with the northwest wind expected to maintain until nightfall: “We still have some gybes to do, some good placements in the wind variations too. It’s nice. Above all, I try to take the right tacks and play my game as best as possible to get to Arcachon as quickly as possible. I look at the map, of course, but not more than usual. We’re still a long way from the finish, I’m trying not to think about the general classification. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but we should be able to get to the next mark by the end of the day today.”

Once the intermediate sprint mark is completed, the climb towards Piriac will come, the end of this third stage where the winner of the Solitaire du Figaro Paprec 2023 will be crowned, during the day of Thursday.