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Figaro Start Pics from Kinsale

16th August 2010
Figaro Start Pics from Kinsale

Under a grey sky the 44 skippers taking part in La Solitaire du Figaro, left Kinsale for the fourth and decisive leg. Tension was high and the Committee was forced to give two general recalls. Swiss Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat) and French Matthieu Girolet (Entreprendre) were involved in a collision and suffered from serious damages to their boats. Both decided to abandon racing.

Excellent start for young Portuguese Francisco Lobato and Italian Pietro D'Alì. Weather conditions are expected to be fairly tough, for a fast 435 miles passage to the finish in Cherbourg. A lot is at stake, for the leaders as for each one of the competitors to the 2010 Solitaire and tension builds easily. That is especially the case at the start of the last and decisive leg. And today the 44 skippers were eager to leave Ireland, apparently. So much that the Race Committee was forced to hoist the general recall flag twice before getting a clear start. And, it was when tension ran so high that between the first and the second start that a violent collision occurred involving Swiss Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat) and Matthieu Girolet (Entreprendre).

As boats suffered from serious damages to their hulls both skippers decided it was not safe to continue racing and abandoned the Solitaire. Stamm's Figaro had a conspicuous hole on the bow and despite all the other competitors' shore teams immediately started working on it in a solidarity effort, the damage was too extensive to be repaired in a reasonable amount of time. Girolet's breakage was equally evident, and he also reported to have some parts detached inside the boat and doubted also that the rigging was still efficient. Stamm will be given a DNF in the final ranking which means the last's time plus two hours.

Racing continued for the other 42 skippers, who, before heading offshore had to sail a windward/leeward course between the Seamobile and the Radio France Marks, with a good breeze of 10 to 12 knots. Racing was very close and intense and gaps reduced to a minumum. At the Radio France Mark, located near Bulman, it was Laurent Pellecuer (Arnolfini.fr <http://Arnolfini.fr/> ) to round in first, very closely followed by Jean Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) and by a brilliant Francisco Lobato (ROFF/TEMPO-TEAM) who showed very good speed under spinnaker.

It was then the turn of Jérémie Beyou (BPI) and Yann Eliès (Generali Europ Assistance). Behind them boats arrived grouped together, creating a pretty confused mass with more collisions and protest flags. The other non French sailors were Pietro D'Alì (I.NOVA.3) in 11th, Jonny Malbon (Artemis) in 15th and Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) in 27th. Competitors will now have to sail along the Irish coast to reach the famous Fastnet lighthouse that lied 45 miles away, leaving it to port side. The leaders should get there around midnight. According to the weather forecast by Météo France's expert Sylvain Mondon, after having rounded the Fastnet on their way to Lizen Ven, the fleet will encounter stiffer NW breezes topping 25 with gusts over 30 knots.

Quotes form the skippers:Bernard Stamm (Cheminée Poujoulat) "The accident was quite unfortunate. I heard on the VHF that the Committee was announcing a change of the pin end, I was trying to find a right spot to check and all of a sudden I saw Matthieu's transom. It was too late, there was nothing I could do to avoid the crash. I was sailing pretty fast, 6 or 7 knots, ballasts full and couldn't change my course. It all happened in seconds. It was a big, loud crash. It's a pity, I'm really sad and disappointed." Matthieu Girolet (Entreprendre)"I'm really sorry, it was my fault no doubt about it (he was sailing on port tack when the accident occurred ed. note). I couldn't see Bernard coming because I was paying attention to the many spectator's boats around, trying to avoid them and did not see Bernard coming. I should have because I was on starboard tack. I definitely can't start again, my boat is badly damaged, I guess it would be unsafe and uncosiderate. We fight and train all year long to be in the Solitaire and it is just sad, disappointing, to be finishing like this."

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Preparing 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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