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Displaying items by tag: La Solitaire du Figaro

As stage one of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro completed its first 24 hours at sea, racing 553 nautical miles from Pornichet to Kinsale, Ireland, leaders Adrien Hardy (Sans Nature Pas de Future) and Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) were fighting hard to contain a pack of pursuers who were threatening to pass on both sides to their west and to their east.

Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) read the breeze at the island light winds crossroads better and, at one point, had got himself up to ninth. This afternoon he was 12th, less than 2 miles from the leaders, and racing closely with three times La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès (Saint Michel). And by 8pm the County Meath man was as high as sixth place,

Dolan, who is racing just his second La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, reported today: "It has been a long day with a lot of time spent pulling on ropes and driving under the blistering sunshine, but it looks like we are just about out. In general, we are a bit late. I have eaten but at the moment I am trying not to sleep, you can drop off and then suddenly all your little mates are gone.”

Hardy, who is from Nantes – the official start city for this historic edition - is a former French 420 dinghy champion and Mini class racer. As the skipper who won this passage to Ireland when it was last sailed in 2010 – when the fleet raced from Brest to Kinsale - he knows this course from the west of France well.

Since he first raced La Solitaire in 2008, Hardy has won stages in 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2017 and was runner up last year to Sébastien Simon. Accompanied by the wily silver fox Desjoyeaux, who has won the multi-stage solo offshore race overall three times, the duo largely survived a big slow-down this morning and early afternoon in light winds at the Ile de Yeu, NW of Les Sables d’Olonne, as a messy ridge of high pressure engulfed the fleet. Speeds among the 47-strong fleet were less than one knot at times.

But during late afternoon on Monday, almost exactly 24 hours after the stage started in a blaze of glory under gennakers on the bay of La Baule, a group lead by the tenacious, talented Mediterranean rookie, Achille Nebou (Le Grand Reservoir) had made gains inshore in a more settled breeze and favourable current and cut the leaders’ margin from nearly one mile to just a few tenths of a mile. And on the other side, to the west, Pierre Quiroga – also a former top French dinghy racer from the Mediterranean – was posing an equal threat to the two pacemakers.

The first 24 hours have seen a real mix of fortunes for the international, non French sailors in the fleet. The biggest disappointment is the highly fancied Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) who seemed to get stuck off the bottom of the island in the very light winds, dropping right to the back of the fleet. Roberts, who holds the record for the highest overall finish by a British sailor with his ninth place in 2015, was fighting back on that easterly, inshore flank this afternoon but was 11 miles behind the leaders.

Also on just his second La Solitaire, England’s Will Harris (Hive Energy) is mid fleet in 25th, with several top seeds around him. Harris reported this afternoon that he has lost the use of his wind instruments at the top of his mast.

“It has been a really complicated start for me. Last night my wind instruments completely crashed and broke I think there is some water damage up at the top of the rig and so now I have no wind instruments that makes it a but more challenging to race as I now only have compass, so it is hard work to keep up with the others. But I am happy to be out racing and I am enjoying being back on La Solitaire. It has been really close from the start of the race and I got a bit preoccupied trying to fix the boat, but it was an amazing start, so many boats around, a really cool place to start a boat race from. It has been tricky because I did not have the best of starts, then I caught up a bit and now lost a bit again so I think it will be like that over the next three days. Let us see what the rest of the day brings."

Battling to escape a ridge of high pressure, there could be a big gain for those who can wriggle free first. The general strategy is to get out to the northwest to meet a new breeze first. The balancing act is whether to push out west earlier to find the wind but sailing extra miles, or to wait for the new wind to fill in and sail a more direct course.

A new depression is deepening off the south of Ireland, bringing a SW’ly wind. Tail enders may struggle to get free of the light zone and there is a risk of them being left behind. Tonight and in to early Tuesday morning the wind will swing back to the SSW and so there will be better downwind sailing conditions from Tuesday.

That new breeze is forecast to build, according to the race meteorologists MeteoConsult, with gusts over 25knots as a cold front passes on Tuesday bringing crossed seas. The choice of passing to the west or east of the infamous Ushant traffic separation zone may prove critical. And inshore the tidal currents are stronger. As usual the winds behind the front will be unsettled in strength and direction but the long term objective seems to be to get west.

Fans can follow the race through the tracking on the official website https://www.lasolitaire-urgo.com/en/ and on the English language Twitter account here

Published in Tom Dolan

The introduction of the new foil-assisted Figaro Bénéteau 3 has proven to have had a particularly magnetic attraction to past winners of the famous annual La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. When the 47-strong fleet of solo racers start from Saint Nazaire, by Nantes, on Sunday 2nd June and head for Kinsale, there will be no less than six previous champions competing.

All of them have returned to solo ocean racing’s month long, multi stage, foundation discipline, the uncompromising school of hard knocks, which remains an essential proving ground. Three went on to win the Vendée Globe.

All of this year’s real podium contenders, as well as the hard bitten year-in year-out French pros, and the incoming new generation of rookies or ‘Bizuths’, all know that in France, success on La Solitaire opens doors to a future Vendée Globe campaign. The stakes are high.

The new 10.85m, 2900kgs VPLP one-designs are much more physically demanding and exacting to sail with a slender keel and rudders, foils in place of water ballast, a more powerful sailplan including asymmetric spinnakers and Code Zero. Since the first batch of boats were handed over in late January it has been a race against time for the solo skippers and their teams to learn how to get the best performance at every different wind strength and angle.

This 50th edition of the race will span four very different stages, something of a voyage of discovery for the solo racers on this new generation boat. It is a race without equal. There are sailors who by default have become experts in only this race. Gildas Morvan, for example, starts his 22nd participation. There are past Olympic classes and dinghy champions, Mini Transat sailors, some amateurs and the rookies, who are the rising stars of the future.

There are three past triple winners in Michel Desjoyeaux, Jérémie Béyou and Yann Éliès; a double winner (Armel Le Cléac'h); and two one-time winners (Alain Gautier, Yoann Richomme). And there are many who have won at least one stage including Yann Éliès (10), Alain Gautier (9), Jérémie Béyou (8), Michel Desjoyeaux (7), Armel Le Cléac'h (6), Gildas Morvan (6), Adrien Hardy (4), Anthony Marchand (2), Loïck Peyron (1), Corentin Douguet (1), Fabien Delahaye (1), Morgan Lagravière (1), Alexis Loison (1), Gildas Mahé (1) and Yoann Richomme (1).

This first stage will give an immediate insight to who is competitive for the overall standings. And so also it opens the competition for the top Bizuth or Rookie prize and for the new Vivi Trophy which will be presented for the first time to the top ranked skipper from outside of France.

Over the course of the race’s 50-year history some 53 foreigners have entered. In this fiftieth edition there are seven competitors from outside of France. From Switzerland Justine Mettraux finished 11th last year and has shown well in the early season races. There are two Irish competitors (Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan), two Englishmen (Will Harris and Alan Roberts), an Italian (Alberto Bona) and a New Zealander (Conrad Colman) all form the non-French Foreign Legion.

Among the dozen rookies who will take on their first La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, the top contenders include the hotly tipped Benjamin Schwartz who was top rookie in the Solo Maitre CoQ and fourth overall. His CV is mainly in big boat racing including being part of the Spindrift Jules Verne attempt this year, as well as sailing on the SFS Volvo 70. New Zealander Conrad Colman has raced three times around the world, completing the Vendée Globe and the Barcelona World Race but has never competed in this foundation class.

The 36-year old Kiwi says: “It does feel a little disingenuous being described as a rookie or bizuth when you have raced round the world but the Figaro is its own beast and requires its own skills and so in terms of my skillsets and experience of what I have done, in this class I am very much a rookie.

“This whole season is about new targets and new learning and eating a lot of humble pie to develop these new skills. Over the last ten years it has been about going fast solo on heavy, fast and powerful big boats. This is much more about keeping a small, fast boat going fast 100% of the time. My goal is definitely to win the bizuth division but there are some very impressive sailors in this division too.”

The first stage of this landmark edition, appropriately, heads to the race’s most popular destination, Kinsale in the south of Ireland. Over the 50-year history of the solo race it has gone across the Celtic Sea to Kinsale 19 times. The only sailors in this fleet to have won into Kinsale are Adrien Hardy (2010), Alain Gautier (1997 and 1988), and Loïck Peyron (1986).

It will be essential to find a steady rhythm from the start on this 553 nautical mile leg. From the start off Pornichet on Sunday the fleet should have a wind flow of W-SW of around 10kts, ideal for the first opening 11-mile circuit. Then they head to a turn for a mark at Port Bourgenay before leaving Noirmoutier to port (57 miles after the start) as the wind veers west and eases.

From there it is 435 miles to reach the famous Fastnet light, probably racing through the Raz de Sein, and here there might be some chances for the weather experts to find the best of a Westerly flow.

Monday night, the wind seems to move to the South West around 12 knots or so to climb out to the Scilly Isles, the milestone leading to the Celtic Sea crossing out to the rock and then 50 miles back along the Irish coasts where the tidal coefficient is 89 in a Northerly offshore breeze.

Reaching Kinsale in touch with the leading peloton, the top overall group, will be essential. On such long stages – the second stage is 630nms, the third 450nms and the last 500nms – any initial big gaps are only likely to increase. So the first leg might be key.

Published in Figaro
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Preparations continue in Kinsale, County Cork to welcome the 50th Figaro Race race when the solo race returns to Ireland on June 6th.

As added interest for Irish race followers, the huge entry for this 50th-anniversary edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro will have Irish participation too. Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan will compete in the event that for the first time features a new foiler one-design boat. Full details were announced on Afloat in February by Jack Roy, President of Irish Sailing.

 The transition to the new foil assisted VPLP designed Figaro Beneteau 3 has seen the return to the race of Beyou, Yann Eliès, Michel Desjoyeaux, Yoann Richomme, Loick Peyron, Alain Gautier and Armel Le Cleac'h, creating a sporting level which is unprecedented.

The upcoming four-stage race which starts on Sunday in Nantes and finishes at the end of the month in Dieppe after stages to Kinsale, Ireland, to Roscoff, a loop off Roscoff and a final leg to the finish.

The Figaro has been described as the “ Tour de France” on the ocean. In Kinsale, it is organised by a locally based voluntary committee, chaired by Tony Small assisted by EnCircle Na Farraige, an event management company.

Published in Figaro

Unfortunately, Stage 1 of his La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro only lasted about 90 minutes for the Irish solo racer Tom Dolan yesterday. He has been forced to retire in to Le Havre because of a damaged starboard spreader. Dolan informed the race organisers that he was returning to the race start port where he is expected to repair and head directly to Saint-Brieuc to be ready for Stage 2. Abandoning the leg means his elapsed time is calculated at that of the last skipper to finish plus an additional two hours.

Listen into Tom Dolan speaking about the spreader failure on podcast here.

spreader mastDolan's broken spreader in Le Havre port last night. The breakage gave the County Meath sailor no choice but to retire and make repairs for leg two.

Meanwhile, Joan Mulloy, Ireland's first female in the race is currently lying 29th from 30 still racing. See tracker here.

The first stage of this 49th edition, La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, is the longest of the four legs and it will be something of a baptism of fire for the 36 solo racers. They may have a relatively straightforward first afternoon after the start Sunday at 1300hrs but there will be a fast crossing of the Channel under spinnaker as a fast moving and active front passes over the fleet at the start of this evening.

It will be a pretty tough, challenging first night at sea with little chance to rest. But by Monday afternoon it there will be a big change in the weather as the anticyclone re-establishes itself and with that comes a measure of uncertainty, bringing light and unsteady winds. To get to Wolf Rock off the tip of Cornwall first and then across to the Portsall mark off the Breton peninsula in good shape, up to Guernsey and in to the finish in Saint Brieuc, it looks like a long, hard and very open game.

Only six and a half hours after leaving the La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro start line in Le Havre the leaders have already turned west, upwind at the Pullar mark, to the west of Owers. Anthony Marchand (Groupe Royer-Secours Populaire) lead at South Pullar at 1930h French time (1830 BST) being chased hard by Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola), Tanguy le Turquais (Everial), Sebastien Simon (Bregagne Credit Mutuel Performance), Eric Peron (Finistere Mer Vent), Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF )and Vincent Biarnes (Baie de Saint-Brieuc). Brit Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is tenth at 1.3nm behind leader. The fleet now race upwind leaving the Isle of Wight to starboard. Low water at Saint Catherine's point was around 1720 BST/1820 French time and so they will be sailing against the building flood tide.

Published in Tom Dolan

URGO, a leading French healthcare group which specialises in advanced dressings and bandages for wound care and family medication, and OC Sport Pen Duick, experts in the organisation of ocean races, have announced today that URGO has become the Title Partner of the world’s leading annual solo sailing race, La Solitaire du Figaro, for the next three editions (2017-2019).

The 48th edition of the race, which is known as the unofficial world championship of solo offshore sailing, will set sail on 4 June 2017 from Bordeaux under a new name, La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro.

A new logo, a new visual identity, and a new website are being unveiled for the occasion.

URGO became an Official Partner of the race in 2016, and will go a step further over the next three years, reinforcing its commitment as Title Partner.

Hervé Le Lous, President of URGO Group commented: “After the remarkable 2016 edition that the skippers have just given us, this choice seemed an obvious one. Taking part in this prestigious professional sailing competition is a source of great pride for URGO and our staff, and is a unique opportunity to support a sporting event that arouses a great deal of interest.”

La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro is a 2,000 mile solo ocean race, that in 2017 will consist of four legs. It is the ultimate annual sailing endurance race, which brings only the very best single-handed offshore sailors to its start line.

Pierre Moustial, Managing Director of URGO Group, added: “We are very pleased to be associated with La Solitaire du Figaro. The values embodied by sailing such as bravery, tenacity, and determination are values that we share. This partnership also represents an excellent vehicle for promoting the innovative projects of URGO Group, in wound treatment, wound-heating, compression, and also family medication or connected healthcare.”

For URGO, the extreme conditions of La Solitaire du Figaro are a perfect environment in which to test and develop its healthcare products in areas such as adhesiveness, antifriction and pain relief.
URGO will supply its products to the solo skippers, conduct campaigns with the general public in the Race Villages, and involve local healthcare professionals at the various stages of the race.

In 2016, URGO Group launched a self-adhesive strip for stopping bleeding, “SOS Cuts”, designed in the shape of a lifebelt.

URGO will benefit from the expertise and experience of OC Sport Pen Duick, a major player in professional sailing, both in France and internationally. Mathieu Sarrot, Events Director at OC Sport Pen Duick commented: “Firstly, I would like to thank Eric Bompard Cachemire, which stood alongside us for five years as title partner and enabled us to make the race grow.

“After a year as Official Partner in 2016, we are delighted to have URGO Group on board La Solitaire as Title Partner. We can find many parallels between La Solitaire and URGO Group. URGO continuously seeks to innovate in its sector while our sport is continuously evolving, and thereby serving yachting and sailing generally.

“The partnership with URGO Group will enable us to develop the event up to 2019 when a new one-design boat will be introduced – the Figaro Bénéteau 3, created by the Figaro class and by boatbuilders Bénéteau. 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the race, and we are thrilled to share that journey with URGO,” Sarot concluded.

La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro will set sail on 4 June 2017 from Bordeaux.

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Strangford Lough sailor Hammy Baker is among a line up of British sailors from the Cowes-based Artemis Offshore Academy are looking to post strong results in the week-long Solo Maitre Coq race that starts from Les Sables d’Olonne today.

With several of the main Figaro competitors currently racing across the Atlantic in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale race, this year’s Solo Maitre Coq – the second of the main build-up races to the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro in June – offers an opportunity for strong performances from both Artemis Offshore Academy alumni and rookies.

The Maitre Coq starts with two days of inshore racing off Les Sables d’Olonne. After a rest day on Wednesday, there is then a long 280-mile offshore race that could see the sailors at sea for up to three days. The key to a good result is consistency across both disciplines and stamina over what promises to be a tough week of racing in the 33ft Bénéteau Figaro II one-design fleet.

As well as Northern Ireland's Baker there are five British sailors on the 22-boat startline, three alumni sailors – Alan Roberts (Vasco de Gama), Nick Cherry (Redshift) and Hammy Baker (Artemis 64) – and three rookies in Will Harris (Artemis 77), Mary Rook (Artemis 37) and Hugh Brayshaw (Artemis 23).

With strong dinghy racing backgrounds, both Roberts and Cherry will be looking for a good start to the championship and will hope to be well up in the standings after the four inshore races. Baker, who is returning to racing alone after competing in the double-handed division of the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten, is hoping to match them.

“My goal is to be in the top-half of the fleet and definitely top-10,” said the Ulsterman, “but then again I have only managed to get two days of training in since the Concarneau race, so I’ll have to see when I get out there…it’s a bit like riding a bike, when you have been off it for while you can still be a bit rusty.”

Among the British rookies Will Harris will be looking to continue the sparkling form he showed in the Solo Concarneau when he started brilliantly and then sailed confidently to finish top-rookie and sixth overall in a 23-boat fleet. Harris is hoping he can bring the same level of performance to the Maitre Coq.

“There is only one guy racing here who was ahead of me in the Concarneau race,” said Harris, aged 22 from Surrey. “In terms of achievement I wouldn’t put a result on it but I want to come away from the week feeling I have given it my all. It’s going to be a very different experience, especially because we have inshore racing this time. If you have a bad start, you haven’t got three days to catch-up. Every race counts and you can’t have a bad result in any of them.”

Charles Darbyshire, director of the Artemis Offshore Academy, is in Les Sables d’Olonne to keep eye on his charges and says the Solo Maitre Coq is another big step on the road to the Figaro for the rookies. “This will give the sailors a flavour of what it is like in the Solitaire in terms of rest and recovery time between races,” he said. “On Monday and Tuesday they will be off the dock at 9.00am and will not be back until seven after a long day on the water. Then they only have Wednesday to recover and plan for the long offshore race which will be two nights at sea.”

The weather forecast for Les Sables d’Olonne promises two light wind races today and then breezier conditions for tomorrow’s inshore contest. The long offshore race was looking like a thrash in 30-knots, but latest predictions suggest a wind range of 10-15 knots, giving a total passage time for the 280-mile course of up to three days.

Published in Figaro

Great Britain’s Will Harris was the stand-out performer in the opening race of the 2016 single-handed Figaro circuit, finishing in an impressive sixth place in a fleet of 23 boats on debut.

Harris, aged 22, from Surrey at the helm of Artemis 77, was the top rookie by some distance in the 342-mile Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten – a tough non-stop, two-day race along the French Brittany coast that saw bitterly cold and, at times, windy conditions.

Harris was one of three British newcomers to the Figaro racing circuit taking part in the Concarneau race who are currently learning their craft at the UK’s Cowes-based Artemis Offshore Academy. Harris was the first non-French skipper to finish the race which was won by France’s Charlie Dalin on Macif 2015.

Harris was delighted with his first performance as a professional and is hoping to maintain – and even improve on this form – as he continues his build-up to his first La Solitaire Bompard – Le Figaro race in June.

“I am very happy with my result but I think it is just a start,” said Harris, still recovering from a decidedly chilly baptism of fire. “It’s a result I still think I can improve on. I can keep working up the field – I am never happy until I am at the front and I was always gaining places, so I am happy with that.”

Harris started the way he finished, at the business end of the fleet, running in seventh place in the early stages. He believes his race management was key to his performance and was determined to try and make sure he got some sleep early in the race. He stuck to his plan, managing three 15-minute naps in the first 12 hours.

“I wanted to make sure I could keep my body going for the next two days and actually manage myself properly,” he said. “I think I slept much earlier than most of the fleet.”

Another key element was Harris’s boat speed in a range of conditions. He was always in or around the top-eight boats and was heartened to see that he could mix it with far more experienced French skippers. “I’ve learnt so much over the past few months of training,” he said. “It is so important to have those few months before going into the racing season where you are just fully focused on making the boat go fast on every point of sail.”

It was not all plain sailing though. Harris found he did not have adequate clothing to keep out the cold and by the second night at sea, he was forced to spend much of his time below as the boat powered through the night. He was also short of decent food and will look at both his clothing and food options before the next race – the Solo Maitre Coq which starts on April 15th.

Charles Darbyshire, the director of the Artemis Offshore Academy, was impressed by Harris’s debut. Harris had been working part time with the Academy over the past two years, while he was still a fulltime student at Southampton University, and Darbyshire believes this was the perfect background for him to learn from other skippers as he prepared to join the Academy himself.

“Will is showing how important the whole Academy experience is for young sailors. Clearly he has been listening and learning from the older sailors on the programme and now he is bringing all that he has leant to bear onto the racecourse. Will is already refining what he is doing on the water and this looks like being a very exciting rookie season for him,” said Darbyshire.

The two other Academy rookies Hugh Brayshaw (Artemis 23) and Mary Rook (Artemis 37) finished the race in 17th and 19th places respectively. Academy alumni sailors Nick Cherry (Redshift) and Alan Roberts (Vasco de Gama) finished ninth and 10th.

The next race on the Figaro calendar is the 320-mile Solo Maitre Coq that starts from Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Biscay coast on April 15th.

See the results in full below.

Follow the Artemis Offshore Academy squad via our website, Facebook and Twitter.

The double-handed division
Position/Co-skippers/Boat name

1. Yann Elies & Antoine Carpentier/Queguiner Leucemie Espoir
2. Sebastien Simon & Xavier Macaire/Bretagne CMB Performance
3. Adrien Hardy & Vincent Biarnes/AGIR Recouvrement
4. Gildas Morvan & Alexis Loison/Cercle Vert
5. Martin Le Pape & Eric Peron/Belloco Paysages
6. Sam Matson & Robin Elsey/Artemis 21
7. Milan Kolacek & Pierre Brasseur/Fulgur – Evapco
8. Andrew Baker & Nicolas Jossier/Artemis 64
9. Tanguy Le Turquais & Hervé Aubry/Cuisine Ixina
10. Tolga Ekrem/Stéphanie Jadaud/Freedom – Service á Domicile

The single-handed division
Position/Co-skippers/Boat name

1. Charlie Dalin/Skipper Macif 2015
2. Yoann Richomme/Skipper Macif 2014
3. Thierry Chabagny/Gedimat
4. Nicolas Lunven/Generali
5. Anthony Marchand/Ovimpex-Secours Populaire
6. Will Harris/Artemis 77
7. Bejamin Dutreux/Team Vendée
8. Corentin Douguet/Sofinther-Un Maillot Pour La Vie
9. Nick Cherry/Redshift
10. Alan Roberts/Vasco de Gama
11. Justine Mettraux/Teamwork
12. Marc Noesmoen/Team Vendée Formation
13. Arthur Le Vaillant/Un Bateau pour Demain
14. Damien Cloarec/Saferail
15. Claire Pruvot/Port de Caen Ouistreham
16. Aymeric Decrooco/Bretagne CMB Espoir
17. Hugh Brayshaw/Artemis 23
18. Pierre Casaux/Welcome to LA
19. Mary Rook/Artemis 37
20. Cécile Laguette/Cecile Cherche Sponsor
DNF – Sophie Faguet/Region Normandie
DNF – Yves Ravot/Hors La Rue
DNF – Arnaud Godart-Philippe/Faun Environnement

Published in Figaro

At 1300 CET on Sunday 19th June, Leg 1 of the 2016 Solitaire du Figaro will kick off from the historic French town of Deauville. Unfortunately, for Irish fans, after a string of Irish stopovers at Howth, Crosshaven, Dingle, Kinsale and most recently Dun Laoghaire there will be no Irish stopover this year nor is there any Irish sailor involved.

As many as 40 brave skippers are expected on the Solitaire start line next year, as a fleet formed of the world's best ocean racers and ambitious young Rookies prepares to take on 1,525 miles of Europe's roughest waters - single-handed.

"This edition of the Solitaire will be particularly challenging," Race Director Gilles Chiorri explained. "The coastal route will throw the game wide open, with skippers left to decide whether to stay closer to shore or go further offshore. To be successful around this course, the competitors will need seasoned offshore experience and tactical intelligence, enabling them to play the tides and weather to their advantage."

Director Mathieu Sarrot: "As 2016 is a Vendee Globe year, the Solitaire's most experienced skippers may be absent. This means the stakes will be high among the intermediate skippers, the skippers who consistently finish top 10 on a leg, but can't quite out sail the Yann Elies and Jeremie Beyous among the fleet. This is the year of the Solitaire regulars, their time to shine."

The 2016 course - 1,525nm:
Leg 1: Deauville - Isle of Wight Cowes (via Wolf Rock), 510nm
Leg 2: Isle of Wight Cowes - Paimpol (via Lands End and the Celtic Sea), 475nm
Leg 3: Paimpol - La Rochelle, 410nm
Leg 4: La Rochelle - La Rochelle (via the Ile d'Yeu), 130nm

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#AOAsolo – And they're off...nearly. Just three days now stand between Artemis Offshore Academy Rookies Rob Bunce (Artemis 37), Robin Elsey (Artemis 43), Andrew Baker (Artemis 23) and the first race of their solo offshore careers – the 196 mile Solo Basse Normandie starting 1430 CET on Friday 27th March. The Solo Basse Normandie is the litmus test for the Academy's intrepid Rookies. Have they learned enough? Have they practised enough? Will they be able to stay in the mix with the Classe Figaro Bénéteau's high calibre competitors? For Academy Alumni sailors Sam Matson (Chatham) and Alan Roberts (Magma Structures), the Solo Basse Normandie marks their first race as bona fide Figaro sailors, stepping out of the Rookie division and into the field after racing their first Solitaire du Figaro in 2014. For Jack Bouttell (GAC Concise), the race is the start of his third Classe Figaro Bénéteau season, while Nick Cherry (Redshift) and Henry Bomby (Rockfish Red) are preparing to kick start their fourth. For the British solo Figaro team, supported by the Artemis Offshore Academy, the future couldn't look brighter – the Academy's five Alumni skippers all securing promising partnerships with top UK businesses ahead of the season.

"Right now we are where we'd hoped to be in the Academy's evolution, with British companies seeing value in supporting the endeavours of our Alumni sailors and benefitting from their association," Charles Darbyshire, Artemis Offshore Academy Sailing Team Manager explained. "This benefit is not just in terms of media exposure, but also inspiring their employees and customers. While becoming a title/naming sponsor of a Figaro campaign is clearly a significant financial commitment, we've been impressed by the number of smaller sponsorships the Alumni sailors have been able to sign. This allows smaller companies to access the sailors, as well as giving bigger companies an opportunity to test the water with sailing sponsorship. The Academy has had to evolve from not only creating a British talent pool, but supporting it too. It's great to see eight British names on the entry list for the all important first race of the season – each skipper benefitting from varying degrees of Academy support. I hope the results on the water reflect the effort and energy that has gone in to each and every one of the British campaigns."

At just under 200 miles the Solo Basse Normandie looks set to be a short, but not so sweet race through some of the world's most tidal areas. On delivery to Granville, Jack and competitors from the Pôle Finistere Course au Large training centre were held up outside of the port, forced to anchor for seven hours after missing a vital tidal gate. Granville is notoriously hard town to reach by water, with a large sill preventing the Figaros entering or leaving the port at any time other than high tide. Add in to the mix a rugged coastline, debris and the Channel Islands and the Solo Basse Normandie competitors will have a lot to think about during their two intensely tactical days at sea.

"The Solo Basse Normandie course is extremely tidal" Ed Hill explained, a British Solitaire du Figaro competitor in 2013 and 2014. "It passes through the Alderney Raz, one of the most tidal areas in the world. If you have never been through there before it is an experience in itself. It can be a very frustrating time for a skipper, especially if the tide is against you. The course also slaloms around the Channel Islands, which are notoriously rocky. For the Rookies, there is going to be a lot to think about, especially over night. Twenty-four hours is a long time to have to stay in contention, stay awake and deal with everything that's going on. I think the race is going to be a real eye opener for them, both physically and mentally. There is a really strong turn out for the race this year and all the Brits are up against some really good sailors."

There are now 26 Figaro skippers signed up for the Solo Basse Normandie, ranging from top Solitaire du Figaro competitors Yann Elies, Paul Meilhat, Charlie Dalin and Vendée Globe winner Alain Gautier, to six ambitious Rookies including Rob, Robin and Andrew in the Academy's blue 'Bizuth' boats: "So far we've only sailed against each other and Benoit Mariette from the Rookie division, so measuring ourselves against Sophie Faguet and Martin Pape will be interesting," Robin explained. Along with Rob, Andrew and the Alumni sailors, Robin has spent his week in Granville pouring over charts and doing a recce of the area. "The wind is looking quite light for the race, which makes the tide even more important. I've sailed the area between Granville and Cherbourg quite a bit racing on the Royal Ocean Racing Club circuit and with a negative tide through the Alderney Raz, you'll see seven knots pushing against your boat. I'm hoping that we see a bit a breeze so that we won't need to drop anchor!"

The Solo Basse Normandie starts on Friday 27th March from Granville, France with the competitors expected to arrive in Cherbourg, France on Saturday 28th March.

The Solo Basse Normandie entry list:
Skipper/Figaro/Boat no./*Rookie

1. Paul Meilhat, SMA VOILE/ 4
2. Rob Bunce*, ARTEMIS 37 / 37
3. Robin Elsey*, ARTEMIS 43 / 43
4. Henry Bomby, ROCKFISH RED / 16
5. Yann Elies, GROUPE QUEGUINER LEUCEMIE ESPOIR / 26
6. Alan Roberts, MAGMA STRUCTURES / 85
7. Corentin Horeau, BRETAGNE CREDIT MUTUEL Performance / 3
8. Nick Cherry, REDSHIFT / 56
9. Yoann Richomme, SKIPPER MACIF 2014 / 79
10. Charlie Dalin, SKIPPER MACIF 2015 / 1
11. Martin Le Pape*, OVIMPEX Secours Populaire / 65
12. Benoît Mariette*, ENTREPOSE / 68
13. Thierry Chabagny, GEDIMAT / 8
14. Sébastien Simon, BRETAGNE CREDIT MUTUEL Espoir / 25
15. Alain Gautier, GENERALI 40 / 50
16. Alexis Loison, GROUPE FIVA / 9
17. Claire Pruvot, PORT DE CAEN OUISTREHAM / 55
18. Jackson Bouttell, GAC Concise / 19
19. Andrew Baker*, ARTEMIS 23 / 23
20. Sam Matson, ARTEMIS 21 / 21
21. Sophie Faguet*, REGION BASSE-NORMANDIE / 14
22. Arthur Prat, GUADELOUPE Grand Large 1 / 34
23. Nicolas Thomas, GUADELOUPE Grand Large 2 / 36
24. Gwénolé Gahinet, SAFRAN – Guy Cotten / 62
25. Isabelle Joschke, GENERALI Horizon Mixité
26. Adrien Hardy, AGIR RECOUVREMENT

Published in Figaro

#solosailor – A talented UK dinghy and solo sailor Alan Roberts for 2015 has signed a new sponsor for his second Solitaire du Figaro campaign. Alan, has been a professional sailor since 2012 and spent 2013/14 training and competing with the Artemis Offshore Academy, the UK's only solo sailing training centre, honing his solo offshore sailing skills.  New sponsor Magma Structures is a global leader in carbon fibre technology and offers world-class structural engineering expertise and flexible composite manufacturing from its base in Portsmouth in the UK.

Alan Roberts, 25, is an accomplished sailor as well as being a Naval Architect graduate with experience in building light-weight composite boats, as well as the design of bluewater cruising yachts and IRC race boats. Twice winner of the coveted Endeavour Champion of Champions dinghy title, Alan is also a former National Champion in the RS200, Merlin Rocket and XoD. In 2014 Alan was first in class in the RORC Cherbourg Race, as well as being the first double hander to finish in his Figaro.

"Magma Structures are title sponsors to my campaign in 2015, funding me primarily for the Solitaire du Figaro race and the races leading up to it. They are a fantastic company and I am very excited to be working with them this season," Alan explained. "It's really good to be able to get on the start line of the Solitaire du Figaro for the second consecutive year. It's really difficult to find sponsorship and I'm really lucky to have them as a sponsor." While Magma Structures come onboard as title sponsor, the Artemis Offshore Academy will still continue to support Alan's campaign in 2015.

Magma Structures are a fast-growing ambitious, young company specialising in the engineering design and manufacture of complex large composite structures. The company has unparalleled experience in the design and manufacture of 60m+ free-standing yacht rigs and works across a number of sectors including construction, transport, civil engineering, oil and gas to provide cutting edge composite products.

Clive Johnson, Managing Director of Magma Structures commented, "We're excited to be sponsoring Alan Roberts in his Solitaire du Figaro 2015 campaign. Alan is an ambitious and hard-working individual who will be taking on some tough challenges in the months to come. Magma Structures is no stranger to challenging projects and is currently building some of the world's most technical and innovative, free-standing masts in excess of 60 metres."

The Solitaire du Figaro is a tough, demanding, single-handed, offshore sailing race. The 2015 race starts 31st May from Bordeaux.

Published in Figaro
Page 4 of 10

Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

© Afloat 2020