Displaying items by tag: Figaro
As I type this, I am currently motor sailing along the Brittany coast having left Port La Floret and am delivering Figaro3 Number 20 to Dun Laoghaire with my co-skipper Pamela Lee.
There has been a lot of speculation in both the media and also amongst the sailing community regarding the inaugural Double Handed Offshore Worlds that were due to be held in Malta in October 2020. This is my story and my views on the handling of the event and the challenges that have had to be overcome if anybody wants to compete at this level. It also our plans for the future for double-handed offshore sailing.
As early as 2017, World Sailing announced there would be a potential new discipline for the Olympic Games of a mixed crew double-handed offshore style discipline. Sailing and sport is constantly evolving with commercial pressures such as sponsorship and TV rights having an influential effect on the style and format of sailing events. There has been talk of this new discipline involving constant live streaming of cameras onboard the boats with drama and images fed ashore continually. This concept was turned to reality with the proposal of the inaugural Double Handed Offshore Worlds that were/are due to be held in Malta in October. There were/are 20 international teams due to take part in this event. One team per country. Irish Sailing representing Ireland was one of the countries that applied for one of the spots for this event. This occurred in November 2019.
There next came the challenge as to how to select the best Irish team to represent Ireland at this event. There has been some speculation as to how effectively Irish Sailing promoted this opportunity to the sailors of Ireland. In my own personal view, I believe that anybody looking for this information could have easily found it. There were no hidden secrets or emails sent to selective potential representatives, teams were invited to submit expressions of interest to Irish Sailing. Myself and Joan Mulloy were one of a small number of teams who sent in an expression of interest to Irish Sailing. We did this in December 2019.
Irish Sailing then needed to find a way to select the best team to represent Ireland. It is my belief that Irish Sailing enlisted the services of Marcus Hutchinson who has for many years managed IMOCA teams and is heavily involved in the Figaro 3 class and organisation in France. The Figaro class and race calendar of single-handed & double-handed events is arguably the pinnacle of short-handed small boat offshore sailing in the world. Marcus and Irish Sailing proposed a three-race series of two races for Irish teams only with course lengths of 50 and 100 miles and then the Solo Concarneau race due to be held in April 2020. There were questions as to this selection process including; Why France?; Why Figaro 3s; Why a race that is part of the Figaro circuit? Other questions stemmed from these including costs, Figaro 3 boat time & experience. The simple answer is that if Ireland wants to have the best possible representation at these world championships the Figaro race circuit is the best proving ground available. For me personally, if you want anything in life, you will find a way to make it happen. This you will see is a running theme, there have been a lot of unforeseen obstacles that have had to be tackled and overcome to get this far.
"The simple answer is that if Ireland wants to have the best possible representation at these world championships the Figaro race circuit is the best proving ground available"
The first of which was Joan’s fantastic news which is far more important than any sailing campaign. Joan was pregnant and as a result, would not be able to realistically compete in either the qualifying events or the event in Malta. Therefore I approached Pam, who had only recently returned to Ireland after eight years abroad offshore racing and professional crewing on superyachts and race campaigns in Australia, UK, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, to join the team. Pam subsequently forfeited and rearranged her existing personal and professional plans to get onboard for making this campaign a reality.
Figaro3 learning curve
We then needed to get sailing, Joan had worked with Marcus previously in her earlier Figaro sailing so between Joan, Pam and myself with input for chartering a boat and logistics advice from Marcus, we went to France with Joan acting as a coach and Pam and I learning how to sail a Figaro3, this was a month before the original Irish Sailing qualification process in early March. We had a great week and learnt a lot but it became clear how much more we really needed to learn if we were to seriously compete not just to win the qualifiers to represent Ireland but to represent Ireland at the Offshore World Championships in Malta.
Unfortunately, as we were leaving France, the Covid-19 pandemic was just starting to unfold… Yet another challenge to overcome and also a lot of uncertainty as we all now know. Despite the uncertainty, the end goal was also at the forefront of our minds as to represent Ireland in Malta in October. To accomplish this we had agreed as a team then as soon as the various lockdowns around the world were lifting or showing signs of lifting, we were straight out to France to put the boat back in the water and get sailing. Our plan included getting the boat to Ireland as soon as possible. This was because it had been hinted that the Round Ireland yacht race may be used as the qualifying event for Malta. So on Thursday the 14th of May, with various letters and my father Alistair to help with transport logistics, I was on a ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg to get to the boat, Pam armed with similar letters was flying on one of the five scheduled flights in total the next day out of Dublin airport.
Plan B - La Solitaire du Figaro
As a team, we had discussed the possibilities and probabilities of the event in October actually occurring and naturally had come up with a plan B. A simple plan but one that would give the team more overall experience of short-handed offshore racing in the Figaro class. The backup was for me to do the solo Figaro circuit including the Solitaire du Figaro to learn the boat and also improve short-handed offshore sailing techniques. Reality quickly came into play three days ago when we were leaving France on the 20th May that plan B would have to be put into place as World Sailing cancelled its World Offshore Championships for 2020.
Sailing home to Dun Laoghaire
Complying with all the social distancing guidelines in both France and Ireland, we got the boat back to Ireland yesterday evening on the 22nd of May after a two day 317nm spin from Port La Floret. The plan is to train here from Dun Laoghaire Harbour gaining boat handling skills for the next 5 weeks before returning to France for the newly revised Figaro calendar that will include events such as the Drheam Cup, Solo Concarneau, La Solitaire du Figaro and Spi Ouest (Double-Handed). This should hopefully give us a firm grounding in the boats and discipline of sailing ahead of a double-handed season next year and seeking to qualify to represent Ireland at the rescheduled double-handed offshore worlds, hinted to be in Malta in 2021.
The third edition of the Drheam Cup, from 18 to 27 July, starting in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin and finishing in La Trinité-sur-Mer, has been opened up to more competitors, as the Open De France De Course au Large-labelled race will welcome a Figaro Bénéteau 3 fleet. It is an opportunity for the solo sailing experts to warm up on the Drheam Cup 400 course, one month before the start of the Solitaire du Figaro.
As Afloat reported previously, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organisers are having to postpone or cancel races, including the Solo Maître CoQ, the Solo Guy Cotten and the Transat AG2R, the last three races in the Figaro Bénéteau class season. This had implications for the first Irish selection trial for three trialists vying for the single berth at this year's mixed offshore world championships.
When he launched the Drheam Cup in 2016, its founder Jacques Civilise dreamt of an Open race, taking place in the summer, open to all boats, formats and sailors, enabling everyone to enjoy a real high-level competition in a sharing and celebratory atmosphere. This openness, which led to it being awarded the Open De France De Course label, allowed the two first editions to welcome a multi-class fleet, from Ultimes to Classic Yachts, including Imocas, Class40, Multi50, Multi 2000, IRC, Osiris and Mini 6.50 boats.
In the run-up to the third edition, this quest for openness continues, since the Figaro Bénéteau class has accepted the organiser's invitation to include the Drheam Cup in its official 2020 calendar. "When Jacques Civilise told me that he wanted to welcome Figaro skippers, I immediately loved the idea and I submitted it to the board members, who agreed, explains Yvon Breton, Chairman of the Figaro Bénéteau class. First, because it takes place at an ideal time for the Solitaire du Figaro, which starts just over a month later, and because participating in a multi-class race is an opportunity for our class to open up. This challenge can encourage other participating sailors to join us, we always aim to grow. Finally, it is important for our partners, as the Drheam Cup is well-covered by the media, offering them more visibility.”
Cherbourg skipper Alexis Loison has jumped on the chance to be the first Figaro sailor to enter. "I just had to take part in a race that starts in my home town and has the backing of my sponsor, Région Normandie. The timing is perfect as well, five weeks before the start of the Solitaire du Figaro, it isn't too early or too late, and the Drheam Cup 400 course could be a leg of the Figaro. For us it is a good rehearsal, a warm-up that will enable us to make sure everything is working onboard.”
The Bay of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany will host the start of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro for its 51st edition on 30 August 2020, it has been announced.
As Sail World reports, the schedule for next year’s Figaro was moved forward to August and September in line with the season’s event schedule that’s making room for the Olympic Games in Tokyo from July to early August.
The offshore challenge returns to the Côtes d’Armor for the race start after what OC Sport Pen Duick president Hervé Favre described as an “excellent” stopover in the 2018 edition.
It’s been revealed that the race village in Saint-Quay-Portrieux will open to the public from 26 August until the race gets under way.
Race organisers OC Sport Pen Duick are also hosting the iconic Transat AG2R La Mondiale in the weeks before the Olympics window, for which a serious pitch is being made for mixed two-handed crews in view of the new offshore sailing event for Paris 2024.
Delighted with the warmth of welcome in Kinsale and the interest shown in La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro and his project Tom Dolan, solo skipper of Smurfit Kappa, put to sea this afternoon on the 545 miles course to Roscoff.
See Bob Bateman's report of the Kinsale Figaro race departure here
A last minute course change did not concern Dolan any more than it did the 44 other solo racers. The decision not to take the La Solitaire racers north to the Isle of Man in potentially difficult 35-40 knots winds which were predicted for Tuesday was only announced at 1130hrs this Sunday morning. Dolan immediately fell in step with his team's new weather and strategy briefings for a stage which will now take the fleet into the English Channel where much more sedate, even light winds are promised.
As he left the dock in Kinsale Dolan smiled, "The stop has been short, intense and with a lot of things to do, seeing old friends and so on, which has been lovely. But it has been so great to be here and be able to be doing something which should gain a bit of interest in the sport in Ireland. It is nice and there has been such enthusiasm in Kinsale it has been lovely."
The 530-mile course goes from Kinsale to Bishop Rock at the Scilly Isles then up the Channel to the Needles by the west point of the Isle of Wight before racing back down the Channel to Roscoff. Winds along the southern English coast are set to be light to moderate, dropping for the rounding of The Needles in strong tides.
" This last-minute change is because of the tough weather forecast over the next few days in the Irish Sea. It would have been a bit rock and roll with more than 25 knots of wind, especially in the St. George channel where we also had to deal with the traffic separation schemes, sandbanks, and ferries and that would require us to do more gybes. We know that the seas can get big and messy in the channel in the strong currents. I understand the decision of Race Direction even if all the homework and preparation we have done here in the last two days goes in the bin. We have to start all over again! Dolan adds " And the last 24 hours I had really got into my head the course, thinking about the long upwind and looking forwards to the downwind. But there you have it. You have to adapt, roll with it."
The Irish skipper admits he is as unfamiliar with the Channel as he would have been racing up around the Isle of Man, as planned,
"It will be quite new to me, I do not know the South coast of England that well at all. Now we are expecting a lot of reaching in 10, 12, 13 knots of wind and then we sail into this low-pressure system which is off England, so it could be quite chaotic going across the Channel. I would say it will be one after the other and then at the end it will be light, like the end of the last one, tide, wind all over the place. I am grand. After the result I got in the first leg I just want to be back out there with the counter set to zero and going again. I took a bit of a kicking on the first leg and so I want to get out and do better."
The second stage started in perfect conditions off Kinsale, 12-13kts of westerly wind and sunshine. Smurfit Kappa was in the middle of the 45 boat fleet as they headed towards Bishop Rock after a characteristic conservative, safe start. Two boats collided on the start line. Alain Gautier, a previous winner, was heading directly to Roscoff with damage to his boat. That's part of the game, however, and it's the same for everyone, "
Forty five solo racers will take the start line on Sunday afternoon at 1700hrs local time, heading out from Kinsale, Ireland on the 615-nautical mile second stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro to Roscoff via the Irish Sea with a turn at the Isle of Man.
Enjoying the Irish stop-over, the sailors were ashore in Kinsale's Market Square where they got a chance to meet the locals as Bob Bateman reported here.
The course comprises four waypoints after the start; Coningbeg off Wexford so the south-east corner of Ireland; Chicken Rock light which is to the south of the Isle of Man; the Isle of Man to starboard and a cardinal buoy, Astan, on the approach to Roscoff and the Morbihan bay.
There is a prologue of about 11 miles, which in essence is the same format as last Sunday’s start from La Baule. From the start out in the Bay, there is a first mark towards Black Head, a second at Bulman which is up the estuary a little, and then to the Radio France buoy which is Daunt Rock, midway to the entrance to Cork Harbour.
The weather for this long leg initially promises more of the same; upwind in light winds, difficult transitions, some thermal influences close to the coast and strong tidal currents on the points, but there seems a good prospect of a fast run back down the Irish Sea at least to the Channel. Going towards the low pressure system(s) in the north will means a strengthening breeze for the leaders, with initial gains magnified by the slingshot downwind. A rich get richer scenario perhaps?
The first stretch up to the Isle of Man is 240 nautical miles. Although the island, famous as a tax haven and for its motor bike TT (which finished yesterday), has featured on stages of the Solitaire du Figaro before, those have always been shortened. So this will be the first time that the race has ever been round the Isle of Man, and in so doing at 54 degrees north, it will be the furthest north that the race has ever been.
But although the leg is the longest of the race, the fleet will be much more constrained, there being no more than 50 or so miles of Irish Sea between Ireland and mainland UK. The tidal coeffiencts are low but the currents are tricky and there many sandbanks on the Irish coast especially which limit the options to go too close in.
The reward for climbing to the Isle of Man should be a fast descent with 25 knots expected during Wednesday night, meaning an express 275 miles downhill ride to Wolf Rock, the first chance for the skippers to really put themselves and the new Figaro Beneeau 3 to the test for such an extended period.
For the start on Sunday, a shallow depression to the north of Ireland will generate a pretty unstable SW’ly flow of around 12knots. Monday into the Irish Sea promises a transition into weak, unstable, variable winds caused at the intersection of two depressions, the one over Ireland moving south and one forming over Central Europe. Tuesday and Wednesday the unstable northerlies should build to be moderate to fresh.
The initial stages of the northwards climb will be contested in unstable breezes, perhaps with some taking an option to gybe further offshore. As the low pressure system moves north, the SW’ly will veer more to the west. A messy, weak front will then bring a shift to the NW. On Monday late morning it will be very light with the risk of calms in a transition area between the two depressions. The question here is which depression will prove the dominant influence and how to position for the future.
Two sailors will not start. The ever popular Gildas Morvan will take no further part on his 22nd La Solitaire. He hit a rock off the Ile de Yeu and suffered structural damage to Niji. He monitored the two cracks all the way to the finish but on inspection by the Beneteau expert in Kinsale, Morvan was advised to retire because the composite repair will take several weeks. He has made a request to the jury to use a replacement boat for the final two stages from Roscoff. The other skipper who will not start is Cassandre Blandin who retired into Brest after hitting a cargo ship.
At the top of the standings after Stage 1 the top three sailors are within four minutes of one another after a leg which lasted four days and three hours for them. Yoann Richomme (Groupe Telegramme-Hellowork) leads rookie Tom Laperche (CMB Bretgane Espoir) by one minute at 13 seconds. The top nine skippers, to Martin Le Pape (Skipper Macif 2017) are within 25 minutes of the leader but then there is a 25 minutes gap to tenth. Of the international competitors, Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux (Teamwork) in 14th is one hour and three minutes behind the leader. Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is 16th at one hour and 49 minutes behind and Kiwi Conrad Colman (Ethical Power) is two hours and seven seconds behind as well as being third-placed Rookie.
There is a one hour gap between 18th and 19th. Three times winner Yann Eliès (Saint Michel) finds himself in 22nd three hours and 54 minutes off the leader’s time and the delta between Richomme and Jérémie Beyou (Charal) is eight hours and 29 minutes.
Still very much in touch are the likes of past winners Armel Le Cléac’h in 11th at +55 minutes, Michel Desjoyeaux in eighth at +24 mins and sixth placed Loick Peyron at +21 minutes.
On a long stage like this second one, big breakaways are possible and similarly the approaches to Roscoff are never easy. Just as some of these deltas may appear big just now, they can easily close just as much on the second leg.
Recovering from the baptism of fire that was leg one of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro race into Kinsale on Thursday, both Irish entrants, Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy, attended the Skipper's briefing in Kinsale this afternoon as the south coast town greeted the international fleet.
From what is considered the most competitive fleet ever, Yoann Richomme won the opening stage of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. The open, strategic 545-nautical mile leg from Nantes across the Celtic Sea to Kinsale in Ireland proved to be an appropriately testing introduction of the new Figaro Beneteau foil assisted one design yacht.
Predominantly light and very changeable winds prevailed through the marathon four days and four nights of racing offering very little opportunity to rest. Expected to finish into the picturesque Irish haven on Wednesday, the stage overran by a full 24 hours.
It looks like heading home to Ireland is all the motivation Tom Dolan requires as the County Meath solo sailor has moved up from mid fleet last night to 10th place in the 47-boat La Solitaire du Figaro race fleet this morning.
Dolan and County Mayo sailor Joan Mulloy (currently 39th) are the two Irish sailors competing in the 50th edition of the race that is expected into Kinsale this week, the first port of call in a month long race.
Rather than any accumulated local knowledge it will be the strong, primal lure of returning to the homeland, Ireland, which might yield any additional speed advantage to Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan when the two Irish solo racers compete on the 550 nautical miles La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro opening leg from Nantes in France to Kinsale starting Sunday.
Both of the Irish sailors have done most of their solo racing and training in France during their sailing careers and actually probably concede any extra knowledge of the Celtic Sea to some of their French counterparts, some of whom will have raced into Kinsale as much as a dozen times before.
This year’s 50th-anniversary edition of the annual multi-stage French offshore classic solo race has attracted an unprecedented entry of 47 skippers including double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, three times La Solitaire winners Yann Eliès and Jérémie Beyou, French ocean racing legend Loick Peyron as well as several past overall winners. All have returned to La Solitaire because of the transition to the new lighter, faster, foil assisted Beneteau Figaro 3 one-design boat.
Tom Dolan, Skipper of Smurfit Kappa
This will be the second year of participation in La Solitaire for both Dolan, 32, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa who was brought up in a farm in Kells, County Meath and Mulloy, 33, skipper of Believe in Grace/Businesspost.ie from Westport, County Mayo in the west of Ireland.
And, after the stress and pressure of competing for the ‘bizuth’ or top rookie prize, both are pleased to be unshackled from the high expectations and ready to take on the four stage race with an open mind, keen to learn as much as possible over the coming month of racing, before the final stage finishes in Dieppe at the end of the month.
“I am surprisingly calm considering the start is Sunday but the boat is in good shape and everything is in place. As for me I have not had the training and preparation I had planned but I knew that would be the case a few months ago and so I take it as it is and just know that I will compete with every last fibre of my being to do as well as I can. I have such a great story with my sponsors Grace O’Malley and as soon as I knew I could do the race with them. I am so lucky to be here.” Mulloy smiles on the dock in Nantes on the Loire river at three days before the start.
“The fleet is wide open with this new boat. I have just done the one race solo and only a couple of weeks of solo training so it is important I approach this with the right mental approach and make progress. I won’t accept anything less from myself than trying to compete in the fleet.”
Mulloy raced one of the preliminary two-handed races, the Sardinha Cup, with four times Vendée Globe round the world racer Mike Golding.
“Mike was great. I learned so much from his unflappable approach, some of that comes with experience but also from the logical way he approached some of the manoeuvres and processes, he made it sound simple and when we came to do things that worked, but also he sat back and allowed be to back myself and my decisions and that gave me much more confidence in myself.
Dolan finished third rookie in the French Solo offshore championship last year and has had a solid preparation and build up, sailing the two handed warm up races with top Irish round the world racer Damian Foxall. He and Foxall finished 14th in the Sardinha Cup, fifth on the last leg, then 24th in the Solo Maitre Coq including a sixth on a short solo inshore. In both races he underlined that his nickname L’Irlandais Volant, the Flying Irishman, is as appropriate in the Figaro Beneteau 3 as it was in the Mini 650.
“I still have the speed and I am happy about that. The new boat has much more of the feel of the mini in the way you sail it and the feel and in the manoeuvres. I think I have had a good feel for speed since sailing Hobie cats and that has just carried on. There are one or two secrets I can’t tell you about!” Dolan quips. “In truth I am tired before the start but I think everyone is. I have to make that a positive and use that to really find the rhythm early on. It has been a long process prepping the boats and training and racing and then coming into the race. But I am very lucky. There is none of the pressure of the rookie thing last year, I know I am very lucky having Smurfit Kappa for three years and so there is no additional pressure other than my natural competitiveness.” Dolan adds, “But this is a long race. Four long legs. The first one is the home stop and I will be right up for doing the best I can. But I don’t have any special knowledge of the area. The crazy thing is I can remember only ten years ago being out at the Fastnet when I worked at the sailing school in Baltimore and seeing the Figaro racers out there then. Some of these guys are still racing or are back this time. I guess maybe that is where the dream started. But back then I never thought I would be here ten years on racing into Kinsale on La Solitaire. That is crazy, isn’t it?”
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.
Following a months-long drive to secure sponsorship for her sophomore Solitaire bid, Mulloy has now inked a deal to ‘Believe in Grace’ and showcase the Grace O’Malley whiskey brand in this year’s race as well as as in further offshore adventures as a solo sailor.
“Celebrating female leadership through rebellious spirit, this brand honours the legend of Grace O’Malley, regarded as one of Ireland’s but the world’s most inspirational and extraordinary female trailblazers,” Mulloy posted on social media today, Monday 20 May.
“Like their namesake, who earned her maintenance by land and sea, Grace O’Malley plunders fine spirits from the best of Ireland and worldwide adventures to create something truly special in and from the heart of Co Mayo.”
Mulloy’s most recent race was the Solo Maître Coq, where she placed 45th but not far behind the pack that included another Irish Figaro hopeful, Tom Dolan, in 28th.
Both will be racing in more local waters later this summer when the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro returns to Kinsale for the first time since 2009, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.