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Dingle to Dieppe - Last Leg Starts Tomorrow

16th August 2009
Dingle to Dieppe - Last Leg Starts Tomorrow
The fourth leg of this year’s Solitaire du Figaro sets off from Dingle at noon local time tomorrow, at 511 miles the longest and the last of the series, and another classic mix of coastal and offshore sailing. After nearly three weeks of fantastically close racing, and the top fifteen skippers within one hour of accumulated time, there is everything still to play for, and the identity of this year’s champion will not be revealed until the very end

From the traditional ‘around the cans’ course in Dingle Bay the 52 boat fleet will retrace its steps along the coast of Ireland to the Fastnet Rock, leaving it to starboard and embarking on the 160 mile trip across the Irish Sea. The next mark is the Wolf Rock, eight miles off the tip of Cornwall, to be left to starboard, and from there another inshore passage along the English coast right up to the Needles Fairway buoy at the entrance to the Solent. The last 80 miles takes the fleet across the English Channel to their ultimate destination, the port of Dieppe in upper Normandy.

Weather conditions look set to be just as varied and uncertain as on the previous three legs. After fighting their way into a 15 to 20 knot south-westerly wind to leave Dingle Bay, the fleet may be able to break out spinnakers for the first stretch along the coast to Mizzen Head, followed by a fast reach all the way across to the Lizard, the breeze sometimes gusting as high as 25 knots. Sea conditions here are expected to quite robust, with waves of around a metre and a half. Once into the Channel the picture becomes much less clear, but certainly calmer, as the fleet falls under the influence of a high pressure system. Two possible scenarios present themselves: the first of light winds, under 5 knots, for anywhere between 100 and 200 miles along the English Channel, the other for slightly brisker but flukier breeze from the easterly and northerly sectors. In such uncertain conditions the portion of the course at the western tip of the Isle of Wight could prove particularly difficult, where currents of up to 3 knots could have a significant effect on the boats’ progress.

Yann Elies, lying in second place overall, and only 5 minutes 59 seconds behind Nicholas Lunven, is fully aware of the big question mark, and of what is at stake: “After Wolf Rock, I don’t really know how we’re going to get to Dieppe: pushing, rowing or swimming… but I like the fact that there will be a few cards to play, some current, the chance to pull off a few strokes. In any case, it will be sudden death or glory this leg.”

Preparing for La Solitaire du Figaro here

Latest news for La Solitaire du Figaro here


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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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