Displaying items by tag: Kenneth Rumball
The second stage of the La Solitaire du Figaro started on the Baie de Saint-Brieuc, northern Brittany in a light to moderate north-easterly breeze at 1100hrs this Sunday morning. The 404 nautical miles stage takes the 35 strong field of solo sailors east to Dunkirk, a new destination port for the multi-stage solo offshore race which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The leg is expected to take two and a half days – a veritable sprint compared to the 642 miles, four-night first stage marathon to the Fastnet and back - but once again sailors and weather experts alike consider that it is this first tricky light winds night which is very likely to shape the finish order into the historic, easternmost city of France.
The tricky beat to Eddystone, off Plymouth, is followed by a long, fast 160 miles downwind run east up the channel to a mark, Antifer, off Le Havre then continuing 100 miles more on a downwind procession to Dunkirk, the fleet increasingly funnelled into a narrow lane, gybing several times down a course bounded by high land to the south and the forbidden shipping lane to their left.
“It looks very much like a leg on which the Solitaire could be lost but is not likely to be won.” Observed weather guru Marcel van Triest who, pre-start, advises several top sailors on weather strategy.
All the way through the fleet the time differentials carried from Stage 1 are tiny. Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF), the opening Fastnet leg winner held just 95 seconds of advantage over Loïs Berrehar (Bretagne CMB Performance) with Alex Loison (Région Normandie) third at seven minutes and three seconds behind. But poised in fourth is double winner Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) at 10 minutes 20 seconds behind. The top 15 are spanned by 25 minutes, the top 20 by 35 minutes.
As the fleet sailed away from the Brittany coast at around 1500hrs local time today in 10-12kts of northeasterly breeze it was the French 2012 470 dinghy Olympian Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnment) leading the way with Armel Le Cléac’h lurking in second after making a much stronger start than he made on Stage 1 off the same Saint Brieuc start line. Le Cléac’h is looking hungry for success and has had no other distractions this year, training hard on his Figaro after finishing 10th last year.
"The weather is looking a little complicated for the climb north to Eddystone with variable winds to negotiate then a long, important leg to the finish which will be a real speed test.” Le Cléac’h, 44, said on the race dock, “ The first night is going to be interesting tactically you have to be good here to be well placed around Eddystone as I think after that it will be hard to get places back. Much of the ranking will be set by here. There will still be little gains to be made here and there, but it will be a speed race and the finish will not be very complicated. There will be wind all the way down there and it is great to be going to Dunkirk for the first time to show our boats.”
Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) is the best of the international entrants lay ninth on the overall standings and was fighting in the main group at less than a mile from the lead.
The opening 115 miles upwind passage to Eddystone lighthouse off Plymouth is set to see the sailors encounter shifting light winds affected by an occluded front and a new high pressure ridge coming in from the west which will combine to swing the breeze through three significant shifts in direction during the night. What promises to be a hard fought upwind in a decent 14-16kts of northwesterly breeze will peter out as the wind drops completely in the small hours of the morning.
Round Start Point the fleet are likely to work the Devon coast where there will be more wind pressure before calling a layline for the A8 mark off Le Havre, a difficult but necessarily accurate call given the strong tides in the Channel. The wind is set to build to over 20 knots for an express ride to the line where the leaders are now expected late on Tuesday evening.
Dublin's Kenny Rumball and Meath's Tom Dolan can expect a fairly fast, long, and open 642 nautical miles first leg, to the Fastnet and back, in the first challenge for the 35 solo sailors who embark on the 51st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro from noon (or 1300hrs local time) today (Sunday) on the Baie-de-Saint-Brieuc.
Experienced La Solitaire observers and competing sailors alike all agree that there are no standout favourites for the podium places on what promises to be an all-consuming, very complete test of the solo sailors’ skills. The course this year is a good mix of open offshore sailing and coastal Channel style racing. There there are probably fifteen sailors in the fleet who might have realistic aspirations to finish in the top three.
Irish Rookie Ready to Rumball
Ireland’s newcomer Kenneth Rumball comes to La Solitaire not as the realisation of any longstanding ambition or desire for a big sailing adventure but very much as a means to an end.
He is one of the first of what is expected to be a growing number of international sailors moving to the Figaro Beneteau 3 as one of the best pathways into double-handed offshore racing. An accomplished offshore racer and skipper from Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay, his original plan was a programme to get to the Mixed Double Handed Offshore Worlds with Irish Figaro racer Joan Mulloy.
The Irish qualification trials were to have been in the Figaro at the Solo Concarneau due to have been in May. Mulloy subsequently withdrew as she is expecting a baby at the end of this month and so Pam Lee joined.
They did one week’s training before the COVID-19 lockdown and the double-handed worlds were cancelled.
“So I was left looking at the season wondering what to do then, I did not want to waste the season and to get better at shorthanded and solo offshore sailing this is what you do.” Recalls Rumball, 33, who is a qualified accountant and pro sailor who runs the Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School and a commercial division Irish National Marine Services.
While the ‘Bizuth’ division, competing for the rookie prize, is hotly contested usually the rookies have come from solo racing in other classes such as the Mini650 or Class 40. But Rumball’s actual first solo race was the Solo Maitre CoQ three months ago and then the Solo Concarneau earlier this month.
Predictably he feels light on training with the fleet or a group. As soon as the lockdown was lifted in Ireland they took their boat back to Ireland and practised for five weeks to get used to the boat handling skills from late May until 16th June then he went to France and straight into the Solo Maitre Coq.
He made the lockdown work, though, doing French lessons, building up fitness and doing meteo lectures with Christian Dumard.
“To some degree, we really made it good for us. We were stuck at home but did a lot to prepare ourselves for being here.” Rumball recalls
“I am still a vertical learning curve. As a sailor I know I can get the boat to the Fastnet and back. I can do that. But getting the boat to the Fastnet and back and be racing in the fleet is a different thing entirely. But the whole objective is to finish, to get to the end and have learned and to enjoy it, a bit, and experience the French scene.”
“If you were to ask, yes, Olympic selection is the long term goal.” He acknowledges, “But it is one step at a time, but there are other sailors here agree, like Tom and Alan Robert agree that this is the best place to be to get better.”
Rumball has had excellent help from North Sails in Ireland who have in turn ensured he has had good help and service from North Sails in France, so the Irish skipper has built some confidence in his speed and his set up.
Dolan Looking For Solid First Leg
Rumball’s Irish compatriot Tom Dolan’s two previous challenges on La Solitaire du Figaro have found the Irish sol racer fighting back after massively disappointing first legs. So while he might harbour high hopes of a finish in the top fifteen of this year’s 35 boat fleet, 33-year-old Dolan who is from County Meath but has lived in Concarneau for 11 years, is looking strictly short term, aiming to sail a solid, assured first leg to build on.
“I want to do a good first leg. That is the dream. The first two years my first legs have been a disaster. Last year I was in the west on the first leg (to Kinsale) and came in six or seven hours after the leaders. So right now I am just looking to do a good first leg and then take it from there.” Dolan says resolutely.
When last year was all about learning the boat and compressing as much training in as possible before the start, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa has taken time to significantly improve his strength and stamina and to bolster his mental toughness.
“I have worked with the fitness coach in Concarneau three times a week and I really notice the difference. Don’t get me wrong I did stuff before, but it really was not enough of a priority. It came after the boat work and sailing, way down the list. And I really do notice the fatigue taking longer to affect me.” He says.
He has also worked on keeping to his game plan more and not letting frustration boil over into making risky decisions. Racing the Drheam Cup two-handed with Mini Transat winner François Jambou gave him the chance to focus solely on his strategic decision making.
The annual multi-stage race increasingly seems to reward the racer who makes fewest mistakes over the entire course as last year’s winner Yoann Richomme showed. Corentin Douguet (NF Habitat) at 46 years old is gilt-edged podium contender, who was fourth last year and who starts the race for the 11th time notes sagely, "It's the real constant on La Solitaire, there are fifteen skippers starting out with a legitimate claim to the podium. As there are only three places, each time there are twelve disappointed skippers every year. In essence, you are trying not to be one of those. And it’s not easy. This is what gives the stage podiums and the general classification a special flavour. "
"Nobody really stands out this year, there are more than ten of us who could win it and that promises a great battle on the water.” Observes Anthony Marchand, 33, skipper of Groupe Royer-Secours Populaire, who became the local hero when he won Stage 1 into his native Baie de Saint-Brieuc in 2018 on the 49th edition, before going on to finish runner-up to Sébastien Simon.
Top picks for the podium include 23 year old Tom Laperche of the Bretagne CMB Espoir team who has been in the medals at all three warm up events. Also Pierre Quiroga who will turn 28 years old during the race who is on the Skipper Macif programme - which produced four times podium finisher Charlie Dalin and Vendée Globe winner François Gabart, whose MerConcept ecurie manages the Macif programme. Quiroga won the Solo Concarneau earlier this month, was fourth in the Solo Maitre Coq and fourth in the Drheam Cup. And Briton Sam Goodchild (Leyton) is among those tipped for the podium, returning to the Solitaire after a six year absence.
International interest is justifiably at a high as British sailors have finished on the podium in all three of the preliminary Figaro Beneteau 3 races of a foreshortened season. Goodchild lies second in the French Elite Offshore Championship after taking a second and a victory preceded Alan Roberts’ second in the Solo Concarneau race earlier this month.
But the shorter 350 to 450 miles warm-up races are a different level of challenge to the renowned La Solitaire which aggregates elapsed time over more than 1820 miles of mind blowingly intense solo racing.
Yann Eliès, who is one of three skippers local to the Baie de Saint-Brieuc, starts La Solitaire for the 19th time and if he won would be the first sailor to amass four overall wins. Despite his excellent racing record in the Figaro and IMOCA and his obvious marketability Eliès could neither find a major sponsor to back his Vendée Globe challenge nor indeed to mount a top drawer Figaro challenge this year. He is helped out by previous supporter Groupe Queguiner. At 44 Eliès says the physical challenge of the new Figaro Beneteau 3 is telling over the course of the entire race. Of the possibility of stepping clear of the other four three times winners, Poupon, Le Cam, Desjoyeaux, and Beyou. Eliès says, “It really is a big ask but it is always possible. Everything needs to fall into place. At 44 there is now a physical dimension to it that maybe wasn’t there before.”
He acknowledges. “To be honest I would be happy to be in the top five.”
As he starts his 12th La Solitaire du Figaro two times winner Armel Le Cléac’h remains tight lipped about his own prospects of joining the elite circle of triple victors. The skipper of Bank Populaire was tenth last year, one of the many big names drawn back to the race by the introduction of the Figaro Beneteau 3, and this race is his one main focus of the season.
“ I'm not fixated on that third win,” Le Cléac’h asserts, “Iif it is meant to come it will, but that's not my target at all, My goal is to sail well stage by stage and make as few mistakes as possible, like the winner Yoann Richomme last year. We'll do the count up at the end. I have concentrated 100% on this, in reality it is the second major sailing event of the year in world sailing along with the Vendée Globe. That’s why I’m really happy that the race is taking place. We have a good field and the race is going to be as demanding as any other year. Now, I will just take is one stage at a time I will not set myself clear objectives, the goal will be to make as few mistakes as possible. I made them last year, some cost me dearly, now it is up to me to be more consistent.”
Stage 1 is an open sea leg to the Fastnet. At 497 miles Stage 2 starts with open waters racing to Wolf Rock to the south-west of Land’s End but them moves east up the Channel to Dunkirk. Five hundred and four miles of Stage 3 tests coastal sailing and navigation passing westwards down the Channel, round the rocky, tidal tip of Brittany through the Raz de Sein to the entrance to the Loire estuary before a final 24 hour sprint out of Saint Nazaire of 183 miles.
At an estimated four days duration Stage 1 is the longest opening leg for many years, likely to finish Thursday afternoon. It not only has the propensity to be shape the whole race if the finishing deltas are opened wide by light winds and a change of tide but with the second stage start due on Sunday there is very limited recovery time after a long opener.
As ever from Sunday’s start gun the pressure will be relentess. Fastnet is the only mark of the course leaving the strategic options wide open. Northerly winds of 12 to 15 knots are expected at the start but the fleet will have to negotiate light winds in a ridge of high pressure off the NW corner of France. The new south-westerly breeze will fill from the left side of the course giving fast reaching before negotiating two frontal systems and the northwesterly winds towards ‘the rock’ which is Ireland’s most southerly point. But the high pressure ridge is expected to compress the fleet again as they return to the Channel which would ensure the fleet is compressed again. Maximum windspeed through the fronts is expected to be around 25knots during what Briton Alan Roberts considers a ‘boatspeed, reaching leg.’
“Whoever gets out of the light winds and into the new south westerly first will profit. Getting furthest west as quick as possible might be the key but it is how and where you cross the ridge that will be key, going to the south or north, after that there is the decision where to pass the TSS, passing to the south at the Scillies or north.” Says Roberts (Seacat Services), “It should be quite straightforward after that a boatspeed reaching test really except at the finish a calm is expected so it won't be over until the finish”.
Follow the start live on the website www.lasolitaire.com with commentary and live images in French. Race start is 1300hrs CET, (1200hrs BST)
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Eight of the 35 solo skippers who will start the 51st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro on the Bay of Saint Brieuc on Sunday are not French natives and so are eligible to compete for the Vivi Trophy which was inaugurated last year.
Representing Ireland are Tom Dolan, 33, (Smurfit Kappa), on his third La Solitaire, and race rookie Kenneth Rumball, 33, (RL Sailing) who has already written about his expectations this week on Afloat here.
GBR fields Alan Roberts, 30 (Seacat Services) who starts his seventh La Solitaire, Sam Goodchild, 30, (Leyton) who is on his fifth race, and Phil Sharp, 39, (Ocean Lab) and Jack Boutell, 29, (Fromagerie Gillot) who is half Australian. Italy has Alberto Bona, 33, (Sebago) and race rookie Nils Palmieri, 33, carries Swiss colours.
]The last ten years or so have seen high hopes of a British podium finish. But this second season of the new foil-assisted Figaro Beneteau 3 now sees strength and depth to the British challenge, one which is leant real credibility thanks to three GBR podium finishes in this season’s races so far.
On form Goodchild, in his first year in the new class, backed up a second in the Solo Maitre Coq by winning the Drheam Cup while Roberts took second in the recent Solo Concarneau Guy Cotten. Add in an excellent ninth place in that race by Bouttell, earned just days after stepping into the boat for the first time and there is some justification for high hopes.
All three very experienced and successful Brits Goodchild, Bouttell and Sharp come back to the race each after a long break, similarly drawn to the challenge of the new one design class and the high technical level offered by the multi-stage race which is the toughest annual challenge in solo offshore racing.
Six years on from his last La Solitaire this season Goodchild has impressed the top French cognoscenti and has been tipped as a possible podium finisher overall. He did four back to back La Solitaires aged 20-24, stopping in 2014 after his best result 11th in 2013. The intervening period has seen him amass substantial experience as an in-demand first choice crew on Ultime and Maxi multihulls such as Spindrift and Sodebo and Multi70s as well as Class40 successes which culminated in his second on last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre.
Goodchild has a good programme backed by Leyton who are one of the more active new sponsors in sailing and admits he has the skills and the tools to win.
“I am not sure I rank myself as one of the favourites.” Goodchild smiles in Saint Quay Portrieux, “ But, honestly, any pressure comes from me and me wanting to do well. I know that if I can do well then it will only do good things for me, it would make getting a bigger project and going further easier. This is why we go sailing, to win. When I was in the Figaro before I was looking to the top 10, now I have won an event and come second in two very different styles of event, one tactical and one boatspeed. It is encouraging but there is more to it than that.”
Goodchild has not been carried away by his successes this season, “My biggest weakness is that there are so many conditions I have not sailed in, but the light is difficult because it is hard to get a gauge, a feel, in light winds the winds are not very stable and you need a lot more time to know what works and what doesn’t. In the Figaro 2 you could always go at the same speed, now you can go a knot or two knots faster by driving, and now there are times when you can only lose 0.2 of a knot to go to sleep.”
He has fast tracked his learning of the new boat with the help of guru Pascal Bidégorry.
“I have managed to short cut to a lot of what people spent last year learning, Pascal came on board and said ‘this works, that doesn’t, it’s worth looking at this and not this’, he sailed with several boats and is a ‘details’ man. I thought I looked at the details until I met Pascal.”
He feels he is a more ‘complete’ sailor learning from some of the best, “I don’t think anyone is the perfect sailor. Sailing with Pascal, sailing with Brian Thompson, sailing with Thomas Coville, sailing with Rob Greenhalgh, when you sail with a bunch of really good guys I have had the good fortune to sail with, you put the pieces together and learn. And if all five of these good guys think the same things are important then you learn from that, you learn so much.”
Meantime Goodchild’s aim is not a number but to finish with no regrets. “It would be nice to finish and think I sailed as well as I could. It would be nice to come away with no regrets. I have the tools to win for sure, but on a race like this the stars do need to align a bit, I feel like I have a capacity to win, I have the boatspeed and I have the nav, I have made some good calls and some bad calls but that will always be the case on this race, I am capable of winning but there are many more here who are capable of winning.”
Back after four years, Bouttell
Three weeks and two days ago the thought of doing La Solitaire du Figaro had not even crossed Jack Bouttell’s mind. But the 29-year-old Guidel, Brittany based Volvo Ocean Race winning sailor, who describes himself as ‘half British, half Aussie’ will be on the start line Sunday, lining up for his fourth La Solitaire armed with a very competitive, well-prepped boat belonging to his Team Dongfeng crewmate, three times La Solitaire winner Jérémie Beyou.
When The Ocean Race was postponed recently Bouttell, whose La Solitaire best is tenth overall and was first rookie in his first edition, found himself looking for a sailing challenge.
“I wanted to go sailing. I was having one beer with Alan Roberts and he said ‘why not do La Solitaire?’ and that was it. I spoke with Jérémie and because it was a last-minute charter the price is acceptable. The boat has a new set of sails to do The Transat AG2R and obviously it was cancelled. It has fallen together quite nicely, but look last-minute stuff really is not my style. I prefer to have more time to prepare. It is a cool challenge, I have to look at the big picture and not get worried by the small details, remember what things are important.”
But Bouttell’s first race in the Figaro Beneteau 3 went well, in a craft he rather bluntly describes as ‘…..a boat after all.”
“I had done a few days sailing in the boat so I struggled a lot in the first 24 hours basically getting my head back into racing in this class, where small mistakes become big mistakes become disasters as they do in this class, but I got back into it in the first 24 hours, and then I got into it. I lacked a bit of speed upwind and so lost a few places coming into the finish. This is obviously a bigger event with more boats.”
Some three weeks after the idea dropped to become reality he is on the race dock making final prep, “I don’t think I have really thought about it yet. It has not really sunk in that I am here. It is really cool to be here doing something in my own right. The Figaro is where I had my first start back in 2013. Last time I did it my objective was the top 10 and I made it. It is such a cool race and these are cool boats because there are so many ways to sail it. When I was in the Figaro before it was so refined it was ‘you sail it like this’ and that was it and if you didn’t you were nowhere. This is a more open ball game. There are so many more options.” He adds, “I feel good. I am back to my roots. I enjoy the class, it is super professional high level. I would like to get a good result, finishing in the top half would be good, I am saying that publicly but I am aiming higher.”
And he chuckles, “Who would have thought an Aussie who grew up in Britain and now lives in France is here racing the top French solo race with a French cheese sponsor. It is amazing.”
But he drills down to the core of solo racing, “More experience removes stress. Singlehanded sailing is about managing stress, that is it. If you are going fast you need to manage it. Having done a Volvo and spending three weeks in the Southern Ocean, all the things you go through in that project, I keep going through those days in my head…’is it worse than that day, no it’s not, carry on then and get on with it!”
Sharp back nine years on
Nine years after his one and only La Solitaire du Figaro Phil Sharp is now armed with bucketloads of hard-earned offshore experience, multiple successes and a real chance of the top ten overall finish which he is aiming for.
The 39-year-old Jersey solo racer who is now based in La Rochelle, France and who won back-to-back World Championship titles in Class 40 stepped into the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet at the start of this season looking to improve his level and to test himself in the toughest proving ground in solo racing. He has shown well in the early and middle stages of the races he has done, finishing 22nd in the Solo Concarneau Guy Cotton and 16th in the Solo Maitre Coq. With a limited background in the Figaro class, he is very much back in the class to learn and improve from the intensity and a very different style of racing to what he has been used to.
“The competition here is incredible, up against the likes of Yann Eliès and (Vendée Globe winner) Armel Le Cléac’h. This gives you a reference point to know where you at, it gives you a proper real structured training platform and it offers an incredible improvement curve, the amount I have improved over the last few months is really good. It is not easy to see in terms of results because it takes time to turn that into consistency but it has been rewarding to be part of.”
“What is interesting is looking at the level of the skippers and their experience of this racing. But that does not phase me, I relish the competition and do better if I have very highly skilled people around me, that brings out the best in me. After coming from podiums in Class40 to getting a bit of a kicking here it is a bit a of shock. But it makes sense and I am here to improve.”
Sharp joined the group in Lorient in the winter and then joined Saint Gilles training group near his home in La Rochelle where the best of that group is Xavier Macaire. “Since my first race I have focused on my weaknesses. I struggled for reaching speed and have worked on my sail trim and before I really struggled for control in strong downwind conditions. I took the rudders off to find them completely misaligned. The axes were more than five degrees off from the stock of the rudder. Since then the boat does not stall out as much. First of all to have confidence in yourself you have to have confidence in the boat and that has taken a bit of time.”
“ I am happy, the boat feels good, the sails are good, I am happy with what I have. But I am not here to do the Figaro year in year out. There are more exciting boats, more exciting ocean races out there to do. This for me is the ultimate training camp to push myself. I think I will do this year and then see how it goes, but it can be quite addictive!”
He is clear on his target, “I am aiming for the top ten. That is probably optimistic as there are probably ten guys here who can win it, but I believe in aiming high. I am used to offshore. Figaro racing is really stop, start and you have to find a rhythm and then you are back on land recovering, that is what I struggled with in 2011. On a Transatlantic race, it is about getting into your 24-hour routine, with the Figaro you have to push harder, you are getting much less sleep and then you have to recover as best you can.”
Ireland’s Kenneth Rumball is in the final preparation stages before starting his first La Solitaire du Figaro which start this Sunday, 30th August in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc. Having made the twenty-four-hour delivery up from Port-La-Foret on Sunday, Rumball’s Team RL Beneteau Figaro 3 is docked with the rest of the fleet in the marina at Saint-Quay Portrieux while any last preparations are made.
“This is my first season racing in the Figaro 3 and on courses around this section of the French coast, with all the changing schedules and restrictions due to COVID 19 I haven’t had the opportunity to do much training so I’ve found it really beneficial to do the deliveries to the race starts myself. It gives me a chance to spend real time on the water and to familiarise myself with some of the navigation in the race areas,” says Rumball.
Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Rumball was a latecomer to the Figaro 3 circuit this year, originally intending to campaign doublehanded with Irish Co-skipper Pamela Lee with the aim of representing Ireland in the first Doublehanded Offshore Worlds, which were scheduled for October in Malta. When the Worlds and the majority of the rest of the planned schedule were cancelled, Rumball quickly made the ambitious decision to take on a solo campaign for the season, culminating in Le Solitaire du Figaro.
“It’s very clear that the best way to get better at shorthand sailing is to compete in France with the French. The Figaro circuit is incredibly competitive with the best shorthand sailors taking part every year, the Solitaire is the pinnacle of this circuit and a great challenge as a sailor. My main goal this year is to learn as much as possible and the learning curve has certainly been steep!” says Rumball.
"We are still on the vertical climb of this learning curve!"
So far Rumball has raced in the Solo Maitre-Coq from Les Sables D’olonne, the Dhream Cup (doublehanded) from Cherbourg-en-contentin and the Solo Guy Cotton from Concarneau. The Solo Guy Cotton was the last lead up race before the Solitaire and was a final opportunity to really focus on addressing a number of speed deficiencies, to test the new North Sails wardrobe, as well as experiment with managing sleep while racing – one of the biggest challenges. It proved to be a tough race with very fluky, light wind conditions. “Although disappointed with the final result, I took a lot of positives - good speed, smart decision making, good boat handling and above all strong mental power,” said Rumball of the race.
Now in the final days before the beginning of the first Solitaire leg, which is a 642-mile course to the Fastnet and back, Rumball is focusing on ironing out any last issues onboard, familiarising himself with the course and the navigation as well as analysing the upcoming weather and tidal patterns. Of course, a vital part of the pre-race preparation is mental and physical too, so there’s a strong focus on rest, eating well and exercise with an effort to be in a focused headspace on Sunday. “I’m certainly nervous,” says Rumball, “This is a long leg and a long time to be intensely racing with potentially some adverse weather coming through! So far the experience here in France has been great with all the other Skippers being extremely helpful and welcoming. This racing is tough, but that is exactly why we are here. We are still on the vertical climb of this learning curve!”
Our final training race before the big one in a few weeks (GULP!) was the Solo Concarneau 2020. Originally to be used on its initial date in May as the Irish qualifier for the team to represent Ireland at the inaugural Doublehanded Offshore Worlds that have obviously now been cancelled. This race, as per the original schedule would have been one of the first races of the Figaro season and my first race together with Pamela Lee as RL Sailing Team. Of course, now so late in the year, it was a solo race. Racing out of Concarneau was nice as we only had a 30 minute delivery from our base in Port La Foret and we could essentially stay at ‘home’ which cut out many days before and after a race.
We had not raced since the Dhream Cup in which we had highlight speed deficiencies in a range of conditions. For the most part, we are slightly on the back foot as we have not had the opportunity to get any solid coaching due to the timescale imposed by the constraints of COVID -19. However, we have been spending a lot of time talking to our friends in the Figaros and trying to figure out how to make these little boats go faster. It should be noted, these are one-design offshore boats, where all the boats are identical, therefore it is totally up to the sailor to make the boats go faster. Most offshore sailing is done in a range of different boats where the results are based on a time factored handicap system afterwards. With the boats going at much the same speeds it leads for close, intense and stressful racing, you can never relax! For those reading who sail one-design dinghies, a dinghy race is typically 45 minutes, our races are typically 48 hours!
Back to the race - the weather outlook was for very light conditions, the organisers had the opportunity to give 4 different length courses depending on the conditions. They decided on a course of 280 miles which brought us out of Baie de La Foret and along the coast, following it north through the incredibly tidal Point du Raz, where tides can hit up to 6 kts! From here we were to round a South Cardinal just south of Quessant before heading south to round Phare Birvideaux (Northern most rounding mark in the Solo Maitre Coq). The course then had us staying inside the island of Belle Ile and rounding a mark south of the island before heading north to home!
Start day came and as our experience and confidence grows we are continually much more proficient with the safety and measurement checks, prop shaft seal controls etc. The wind was light, light, light for the start. I planned to simply get off the line in clear air as there was so little wind… I failed! I got pinned by a boat to leeward, who ended up ruining the start for both of us. The boat in question was definitely not thinking about overall strategy! Finding myself spat out the back yet determined to improve event after event, I set to work in the blistering heat (I forgot to mention that we are in a mid-summer heatwave in France). Taking a few educated risks and pouring lots of effort into sail trim, I picked up speed and started to claw my way back into the fleet, one boat at a time. I brought the boat so close to some of the islands that I could have tipped my weather foil off the rocks if I had wanted to!
We were beating and close fetching, so there was a lot of Code 0 action or J2 with a full main. Our North Sails inventory really came to the fore here as for the first time I started to drop a boat here and there. You cannot imagine the confidence boost that comes from doing that in such a tight fleet! As dusk fell, I kept in the same groove maximising boat speed and concentrating on going fast in the right direction. As we rounded Cap Caval, I took a hitch into the shore. Before the race, I had looked at the weather from a broad perspective much more than any other race and had discussed with Pam that I need to stay close to the coast as much as possible heading north. We had learnt about some advantages to doing this from our deliveries north to Ireland and Cherbourg. My strategy paid and I got inside a lot of boats heading north, which put me in touch with the lead pack as we headed through the narrow gap at Point du Raz. Coming through here we were able to crack sheets on the Code 0 to the mark just south of Quessant.
At dawn, I rounded the top mark, gybe setting inside two boats. I was proud of myself for having a quicker hoist and getting the kite pulling before the two boats I rounded inside of. At this point, I was lying around 10th… Happy Kenny!
Once the boat was settled, I rewarded myself with an Expedition Foods porridge with strawberries and a delicious Handspresso coffee! I knew my upwind speed was now better but this long downwind gave me the opportunity to check out my downwind speed. Initially, this started well as I pulled slightly from the two boats I rounded beside. Then the wind started to play funny games, dying and filling from the East before doing the same from the West. I found myself chasing the wind and losing places in doing so, lesson learnt, if in doubt point at the mark!
This light weather downwind lasted for over 15 hours with our North Sails A2 diligently pulling me along, all the way to Birvideaux. The fleet compressed as we rounded Birvideaux. All the boats rounded within 30 minutes of one another after approximately 170 miles of racing. This just shows how close and tight the racing is in this Classe! I had lost some places down this leg and was now around 20th, still happy but determined and hopeful not to loose any more before the finish. I had a good gybe and I set myself up to the next mark. I was trucking along at 9.5kts, 27 miles to go, roughly 3 hours, all was going well. So well in fact, that I decided to have a nap…Birvideaux mark rounding, before heading inside Belle -Ile.
I should mention that sleep and rest are luxuries when solo sailing. We have lots of electronic aids to look out for other boats such as AIS, but we rarely sleep or rest because we are constantly worried about our speed, competitors or changes in weather etc. By the end of this race, which lasted 51 hours, I probably rested for 80 minutes in total. Ten minutes at a time. At this stage, I was setup with good speed and going at the right direction. I checked the nav, set the timer on my watch and the boat alarm and put my head down in the cockpit for 10 minutes… I woke up well before the alarm with my world turned upside-down. I had fallen victim to the weather phenomenon around Belle-Ile that the French call the “tampon effect,” where in certain weather conditions the island sucks all the wind away. The spinnaker was hanging limp and by quickly checking the other boats on AIS, I could see that we were all doing circles. There would be winners and losers from this! After a very frustrating, long few hours, I was one of the losers. The results had been turned upside-down and I was out the back. I was tired and frustrated. I had to do some seriously deep digging in order to get myself up and going again, but I regained my determination to catch a few boats.
There was about a 50-mile beat back to the finish but despite my best efforts and constant determination, nothing went my way. I never lost touch with the pack, but I also never took any places back. I finally finished around 1810 hrs. Although disappointed with the result, I took a lot of positives - good speed, smart decision making, good boat handling and above all strong mental power! Pam was on the dock with a few cold beers when I arrived. Later that night we joined a few of our fellow skippers, including our fellow Irish competitor Tom Dolan, who I spent a good proportion of the race beside, as well as Gildas Mahé, Robin Marais and a few others. It was great to chat about the race with hindsight and to learn from the others and their experience.
One cannot underestimate the years of experience that some of the skippers have, it is not necessarily sailing experience but this Figaro Racing experience in which we are lacking. From what we have learnt, it could take you up to seven years of exclusively racing Figaros to post a top 20 result in this highly competitive class. This racing is tough, but that is exactly why we are here. We are still on the vertical climb of this learning curve! We have about two weeks now until the start of the Solitaire du Figaro, so we are taking some time off before full preparation mode for the pinnacle of the season.
Check out the video log below
Ireland's 'Figaro Duo' teams are racing in the 400-mile Drheam Cup and after a 1 pm start this afternoon are neck and neck in the seven-boat Figaro division.
Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee are making their double-handed debut for Ireland and joining them on the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet start line are County Meath and French combination Tom Dolan and Mini Transat Winner François Jambou.
As Afloat reported previously, both Rumball and Dolan are looking for a performance boost after both Irish solo sailors posted mixed results in the Solo Maitre Coq last month.
The race represents the start of the Irish campaigns for double-handed keelboat selection for Paris 2024.
The course started from Cherbourg Cotentin and finishes in Lorient and first takes the fleet across the Channel to the West Shambles mark off Weymouth, westwards along the English coast to Wolf Rock off Land’s End and then back across the entrance to the Channel to finish at Lorient, some time on Tuesday.
The 400-mile race mirrors some of what is likely to be part of September’s pinnacle event the La Solitaire du Figaro offshore in which Rumball and Dolan have their sights on.
It is the first time the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet has been invited to race in this 100-plus boat event which has become a multi-class French offshore Grand Prix, set to feature the Ultime and IMOCA fleets too.
Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee make their double-handed debut for Ireland at the Drheam Cup on Sunday and joining them on the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet start line are County Meath and French combination Tom Dolan and Mini Transat Winner François Jambou in what is the first major multi-class race on the French coast this season.
The 400-mile race mirrors some of what is likely to be part of September’s pinnacle event the La Solitaire du Figaro offshore in which Rumball and Dolan have their sights on.
Both Rumball and Dolan will be looking for a performance boost after both Irish solo sailors posted mixed results in the Solo Maitre Coq last month.
It will be the first time the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet has been invited to race in this 100-plus boat event which has become a multi-class French offshore Grand Prix, set to feature the Ultime and IMOCA fleets too.
The course starts from Cherbourg Cotentin and finishes in Lorient and first takes the fleet across the Channel to the West Shambles mark off Weymouth, westwards along the English coast to Wolf Rock off Land’s End and then back across the entrance to the Channel to finish at Lorient.
"We’ve had a bit of time off now with the boat in the shed getting antifouled and we had a chance to get the rig out ahead of the Drheam Cup. This we will do doublehanded, in line with the main aim of the programme" says Rumball who gives a nod to their Paris 2024 Olympic bid.
Dolan admits he did not do well on the Maitre CoQ. "That was disappointing so I am really looking forward to putting that behind me and sailing with Francois. We have been good mates for many years together and started a little business teaching and coaching people on the Mini, so we know each other well.” Dolan emphasises, “Our skills are complementary, we work well together. He has shown he can win races and so it will be good to have some fresh ideas and to be able to support each other. A second opinion is what you lack racing solo and so it will be nice to have that this time.”
The Drheam 2020 programme
- Thursday 16 July: Arrival of boats in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin
- Friday 17 and Saturday 18 July: Technical and safety checks
- Sunday 19 July: DRHEAM-CUP start
- From Tuesday 21 July: arrival of boats in La Trinité-sur-Mer
Ireland will have two solo entries in next week's Solo Maitre Coq offshore race for the first time which starts and finishes in Les Sables d’Olonne.
Tom Dolan of County Meath and Kenny Rumball of Dun Laoghaire Harbour will go head to head in the Figaro3 Solo race, an important season starter that will ultimately see both campaigns compete in the gruelling Figaro race rescheduled for this September.
The pair will compete in an international 30-boat fleet that has some of the biggest stars in French solo sailing.
Since relaunching at the beginning of June the Brittany based racer, Dolan, from Kells, has been accumulating hours on his Figaro Beneteau Smurfit Kappa and, as Afloat reported here, is now making final preparations for what will be the first race of the season.
This will be Kenny Rumball's race debut since launching his campaign for September's Figaro circuit, as Afloat reported here, with a daily training routine on Dublin Bay over the past month. Rumball is now heading back to France preparing for the 270-mile Solo Maitre Coq and his first taste of the French offshore circuit and bringing with him some domestic competition for Dolan.
The fleet is packed with offshore sailing stars including Armel Le Cléac’h the IMOCA world champion in 2008 and French champion in a single-handed yacht race in 2003. Le Cléac’h notably won the Solitaire du Figaro twice and has finished second twice in the Vendée Globe.
Dolan has previously raced the Solo Maitre Coq, an important race on the Figaro circuit, finishing mid-fleet in 2019 as has Royal Cork's David Kenefick who took 17th place in the 2014 edition.
The full 2020 entry list is here
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.
Dun Laoghaire's Kenny Rumball is skippering the Ker 40 Keronimo in the Round Gotland Race that started yesterday.
It's not Rumball's first time in charge of the Swedish Grand Prix yacht. Last month he steered her to second in RORC's Cervantes Trophy Race.
In a tongue in cheek race entry bio on the official Round Gotland website, the Dubliner is described as 'Chief Comforts Officer'.
Rumball is sailing without his regular offshore mate, Barry Hurley, also of the Royal Irish Yacht Club on this occasion.
Tracker is here.