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Exciting finale for the second leg of the 41st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro

6th August 2010
Exciting finale for the second leg of the 41st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro

No wonder that he's called "the Jackal", Armel Le Cleac'h is showing such a determination and mental strength in La Solitaire du Figaro that he surely deserves the nickname. On Friday August 6th at 2 hours 44 minutes and 40 seconds he crossed the finish line in front of the Moulin Blanc harbour, in Brest. It took Brit Air's skipper 2 days, 44 minutes and 40 seconds to sail the 385 miles long leg from Gijón to Brest, at an average speed of 6.34 knots. Le Cleac'h, left no options to his more direct adversaries, François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010) and Jérémie Beyou (BPI) who were left to duel for the second place. Fourth on the line and first female skipper a happy Jeanne Gregoire (Banque Populaire) who crossed a mere 11 seconds earlier than Yann Elies (Generali – Europe Assistance).

A determined and convincing Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM) finished 6th overall and is the first rookie, getting also a special prize awarded by Bénéteau, and regaining morale after his disappointing first leg.
Despite loosing some ground on the final stretch to Brest, Italian Pietro D'Alì got a good 16th place, whilst other non French skippers were Swiss Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat) in 23rd  and Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) in 27th.

A fatigued Jonny Malbon finally crossed the finish line in last place at 12.36 on Friday. Reaching the pontoon, he was warmly welcomed by several of his competitors, by the public and the media, where, despite being visibly worn out he gave a very lucid account of what happened to him, explaining that just two hours after the start form Gijon his pilot failed and he had to steer for the following three days, without being able to sleep, rest, eat or drink. Physically and mentally exhausted he also suffered from allucinations.

Quotes from the skippers upon their arrival in Brest:
Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air), winner of the leg and leader of the overall ranking
"it's becoming a nice tradition this champagne bottle... What an intense race, endless I would say. Towards the finish I was a bit stressed, but crossing in first is such a joy." And about the race: "We had to manoeuvre a lot, change sails, make strategic choices. I took my chances and seized the initiative, tried to be one step ahead and I realized the my opponents in a way were following me... that's why I could stand up to the finish. I had to be careful with François (Gabart) and Jérémie (Beyou) which were with me in the front with me. And I can keep my first overall. It was very physical, very tiring up to SN1, we had 35 plus winds, heavy swell, you had to steer and it was nearly impossible to sleep. You had to endure all that. Luckily after Groix, the swell eased off and I could have some rest, taking 20 minutes max naps. All in alla I think I slept 3 or 4 hours."
On his victory, Le Cleac'h commented: "I'm exhausted and thrilled because the last months have been fantastic for Brit Air and it proves that all the work we've done with the team is paying us back.  As for now I'm contented with the result, we're only half stage, I guess I have to wait until Kinsale, it's too early to judge, I need to go on sailing well and enjoy the race.

Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM) - 6th overall and first rookie
"I'm really satisfied, tired but happy as I reached my target. For the first time in the Solitaire I've always been in the leading group. The hardest part was at the beginning where I could not get any rest, had to helm all the time and I was pretty exhausted, I found it difficult to get into the race's rhythm. I slept for hours total, I guess. I'm still on a learning curve, grasp something new everyday, especially from the "experts" and that's why is so important for me to be here. I still make small mistakes and in this class you pay for each of them dearly. The final part was brilliant as I could make up ground to the leaders."

Pietro D'Alì (I.NOVA.3) – 16th overall
"I did a good race, all in all. I've recovered well from the OCS at the start, was fast and could stay in the front of the fleet, among the top ten. We had fairly hard conditions, some bad squalls. During one I was sailing with the spinnaker in Eric Drouglazet's company when the wind gusted suddenly to maybe 40 knots, the boat went 90° off course and I had to rush forward to take down the spinnaker and hoist the genoa, in the process the boat was lying on one side... we got pretty wet and lost some ground. You can't afford any of that in the Figaro. My race was all right up to the Groix, then I tried to "make a coup" and get closer to the podium."

François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010) second placet at 16'55' from the leader
"We had two incredible legs. On the first night we were crossing the ridge, in light airs, the day after we hd 30 knots and on the third day we were wearing only our T shirts. This is the Solitaire, being able to have so many different conditions in just one leg. Moreover, I sailed well. After the start I was not in the leading group and I focussed on speed. Jérémie (Beyou) took me over last night at Belle Ile and then we've been fighting like mad. Just imagine that at the Goulet (a few miles before the finish ed. note) we were only three lengths apart but when we arrived into the gulf I managed to catch him up, Wha ti like best it's the sensation that I'm learning and progressing. I'm no longer what I was last year and for a sailor that's a very positive sensation to be better than before. Armel is very strong but we'll do our best to stop him."

Jonny Malbon (Artemis) last placed in Brest
"Just after the start in Gijon the autopilot started misbehaving. I went on the process of checking everything, the terminals, the connections, the link to the instruments but the thing was dead. I tried to continue as best as I could with no pilot, it was horrible. The scariest thing for me was changing from the genoa to the solent in big, big seas in 35 knots, it was horrendous, not very much fun... I'm just absolutely exhausted, it feels horrible, I'm happy to be here but being flat last is not good. I haven't slept at all, or better I must have been asleep but I didn't realize. I haven't been down below at all, haven't eaten very much. I've crashed tacks so many times and gibed involuntarily trying to use the pilot. I'm happy to be here and I hope we can fix the problem and get on with leg three. It's quite strange actually and it may sound like I'm crazy but I had hallucinations, all sorts of things: the waves take funny shapes, the boats and lights merge, they all merge into one and the look like cars... The worst time was when the weather got worse, Tuesday I guess, and we were having 35 knots in the evening. I spent all day thinking I don't want to change the sail because it's not windy enough. I waited and waited and changing the genoa in about 28 knots is really frightening...the waves are huge and at that point I wish I had done it sooner. To do that I turned the boat into the wind and the tiller was not operating, that was ok to go forward and change the sail or put a reef. I'm very, very tired and I'm upset that I lost a leg, I just can wipe leg 2, it's gone and that's going to affect me overall. Sad because I started well I was with the rest of the fleet on the right side of the course. I've virtually lost the race, I'm flat last with no chance to recover. The next two legs are just about me doing my best..."

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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.

2023 La Solitaire du Figaro Course

Stage #1 Caen – Kinsale : 610 nautical miles
Departure August 27 (expected arrival August 30)

Stage #2 Kinsale – Baie de Morlaix : 630 nautical miles
Departure September 3 (expected arrival September 6)

Stage #3 Baie de Morlaix – Piriac-sur-Mer : 620 nautical miles
Departure September 10 (expected arrival September 13)

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