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Low pressure springs surprises for Figaro

13th August 2009
Low pressure springs surprises for Figaro
Equipped with only the most limited means of communication with the outside world, life can be full of surprises for the solo skipper in La Solitaire du Figaro – and not all of them welcome. Just one such bolt from the blue was delivered last night by a small disintegrating low pressure system, taking an unexpected dive south from its confidently predicted trajectory to land squarely on top of the front runners in the 52-boat fleet as they neared the southern coast of Ireland

Bringing a whole new array of light airs and windless traps to add to an already fluctuating regime, the result has been a comprehensive shake-up to the pack, with some notable slides down the rankings, and some narrow escapes. With the  leaders expected to arrive in Dingle around 1900 (local time) this evening, there is little runway for dramatic comebacks.

The picture this morning was a very different one to that expected by the skippers. Jérémie Beyou (Bernard Paoli) doubtless spoke for many at the 0430 radio session: “I’d love to know what’s happened, there was a drop in pressure which has turned everything on its head. I was waiting for the south-westerly, which I certainly haven’t got, instead the wind ended up  dying. It’s difficult not knowing what you’re going to have locally in terms of strength and direction.”


The effect of the change to the forecast  conditions was most marked on the two rival groups which were tussling for  the lead yesterday; a southerly group led by Armel Le Cléach (Brit Air) [pictured above] and Charles Caudrelier Benac (Bostik), and that in the north led by Antoine Koch (Sopra Group) [pictured below] and Armel Tripon (Gedimat).


In the event it is the southerly group, seemingly best positioned to take advantage of the  predicted change in wind direction, who have suffered most. Bostik now lies in 13th, while Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) is 20th, and Armel Tripon, who yesterday was savouring the new experience of being at the front of the fleet, has tumbled to 24th. Only Le Cleach seems to have borne a charmed life, pressing on regardless to fight it out with Koch for the top spot.

To add to the entertainment the Figaro fleet has crossed paths with that of the Fastnet Race, the need to keep a close look-out in the poor visibility adding yet another dimension to the harassed solo skipper’s lot. The night has also produced more significant gaps between boats that has previously been the case.

Now only eight other skippers are within five miles of leader Antoine Koch, with only Le Cleach right on his coat tails, 0.8 of a mile behind. Included in this group though are the likes of Nicolas Lunven (CGPI) and Yann Eliès (Generali), currently first and second in the overall cumulated rankings.

The second significant group are now six or  seven miles down the track, while many of yesterday’s proponents of the westerly option are in yet a third rank, eight to ten miles from the front. From first to last the distance is some 60 miles, the largest yet seen in this edition of the race, the bottom end of the fleet unlikely to reach Dingle before Friday morning.

British skippers Nigel King and Jonny Malbon have continued to lose ground, if not places. King is 43rd at the 1600 position report, 26.8 miles from the leader, while Malbon is in 45th, with a deficit of 30.2 miles.



Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here
Published in Figaro Team

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Ireland & La Solitaire du Figaro

The Solitaire du Figaro, was originally called the course de l’Aurore until 1980, was created in 1970 by Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault.

Half a decade later, the race has created some of France's top offshore sailors, and it celebrated its 50th anniversary with a new boat equipped with foils and almost 50 skippers Including novices, aficionados and six former winners.

The solo multi-stage offshore sailing race is one of the most cherished races in French sailing and one that has had Irish interest stretching back over 20 years due to the number of Irish stopovers, usually the only foreign leg of the French race.

What Irish ports have hosted The Solitaire du Figaro?

The race has previously called to Ireland to the following ports; Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

What Irish sailors have raced The Solitaire du Figaro?

So far there have been seven Irish skippers to participate in La Solitaire du Figaro. 

In 1997, County Kerry's Damian Foxall first tackled the Figaro from Ireland. His win in the Rookie division in DHL gave him the budget to compete again the following year with Barlo Plastics where he won the final leg of the race from Gijon to Concarneau. That same year a second Irish sailor Marcus Hutchinson sailing Bergamotte completed the course in 26th place and third Rookie.

In 2000, Hutchinson of Howth Yacht Club completed the course again with IMPACT, again finishing in the twenties.

In 2006, Paul O’Riain became the third Irish skipper to complete the course.

In 2013, Royal Cork's David Kenefick raised the bar by becoming a top rookie sailor in the race. 

In 2018, for the first time, Ireland had two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who joined the rookie ranks and kept the Irish tricolour flying high in France. Mulloy became the first Irish female to take on the race.

Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa competed for his third year in 2020 after a 25th place finish in 2019. Dolan sailed a remarkably consistent series in 2020 and took fifth overall, the best finish by a non-French skipper since 1997 when Switzerland’s Dominique Wavre finished runner up. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy.

Dolan finished 10th on the first stage, 11th on the second and seventh into Saint Nazaire at the end of the third stage. Stage four was abandoned due to lack of wind. 

Also in 2020, Dun Laoghaire’s Kenneth Rumball became the eleventh Irish sailor to sail the Figaro.

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

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