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Armel Le Cléac'h Wins Figaro Race

20th August 2010
Armel Le Cléac'h Wins Figaro Race

Armel Le Cléac'h crossed the finish line of Leg 4 of La Solitaire du Figaro to Cherbourg. It took to Brit Air's 54 hours, 30 minutes and 24 seconds to cover the 435 miles of the last lap at an average speed of 7.98 knots. This summer le Cleac'h proved to be the man of all records. At 33 years of age he conquers this 41st edition after having heavily dominated the race with 3 leg wins and enters the very selected club of double winners, thanks to his first victory back in 2003. François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010) jumps on the second step of the podium after a very consistent race and Corentin Douguet (E.Leclerc Mobile) gets an unexpected, but still well deserved, bronze medal.

Armel the master - From Le Havre to Cherbourg, sailing to Gijón, Brest and Kinsale, Le Cleac'h showed exceptional speed and focus, he was clearly in harmony with himself an his boat, in control of his strategy. This was his karma and his Solitaire, probably more than it was in 2003, when he first won with and historical lead of only 13 seconds on Alain Gautier. If it weren't for a minor mistake on the third leg to Kinsale he could have easily got a clear score. He "only" achieved three, which is already an outstanding performance. At his young age the skipper from Morlaix has already five leg wins and two overall victories in his cv, and he only raced his first Solitaire in 2000. He officially enters in the very selected group of skippers who won the race twice along with his longtime friend Nicolas Troussel and famous sailors such as Jean-Marie Vidal, Gilles Gahinet, Guy Cornou and Gilles Le Baud from the seventies and eighties. Called "Mémel" by his friends and "the Jackal" by his adversaries he's become by all mean one of the single handed offshore sailing celebrities, with his second place in the last Vendée Globe and two wins in the Transat AG2R, as confirmed by today's brilliant performance. By finishing in third place François Gabart obtained a second place overall.

Only 27 years old, he already took part three times to the Solitaire but this year confirmed to be come of age and a determination as strong as his older colleagues'. With his pale blue eyes and crop of blond hair, his good humour and excellent communication skills he will surely remains as one of the leading characters of the 2010 Solitaire du Figaro.Corentin Douguet's performance is no less impressive, by believing in his chances to be among the best ones, sailing cleanly and thanks to a clever race strategy he built his success. In the last and decisive leg he never left Le Cleac'h tracks and succeeded in getting in second in Cherbourg and third overall.

As for the non French skippers, Italian Pietro D'Alì on I.NOVA.3 finally took his revenge for a pretty unlucky and disappointing 2010 Solitaire. While on the previous legs he never had the chance to show his full potential, over the 435 miles from Kinsale to Cherbourg, Pietrino as his friends call him, was constantly in the leading pack and crossed the line in sixth. A result that not only pays him back from a rather unsatisfying race but allows him to go up in the scoreboard, finishing in 24th.

Young newcomer Portoguese Francisco Lobato is surely someone to keep an eye on for the future. Solid, technically very talented but mostly very determined, he paid dearly a first disastrous leg and a lack of experience. After having been among the leaders for two thirds of the last leg he lost ground and finished in 25th and 36th overall. Franco/German Isabelle Joschke got a 36th in the leg and a 31st overall while Briton Jonny Malbon was last into Cherbourg and 39th overall after, he too, suffered form a very unlucky second leg when his autopilot failed and he had to steer constantly for more than two days to reach Brest.

Quotes form the winners:

Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air) winner of La Solitaire 2010"I'm really proud. I can't believe it, I won three legs a sixth place in Ireland...Winning the Figaro like this it's pure joy. I came to take my revenge for last year's bad performance, I wanted to sail well on all the four legs. I was into the match and I somehow knew I could make it. I feel I have learnt something on how to control the race, to be in the lead. It's hard when you have 44 adversaries behind you, and all good ones! I managed to get in the lead, stay there and win, on all the legs bar one. Cool! I felt terrific onboard, the boat, the strategy all came easier than I thought. I enjoyed every moment, even here at the raz Blanchard, Corentin (Douguet ed. note) was not far but I wanted to get to the end and win this Figaro. Just one year ago things were quite different, I think I've grown up... I trained well and my shore team did a fantastic job. It's been a long time since I won an important race, this year it's been the Transat AG2R and the Solitaire. I will probably be feeling the exhaustion soon. I'm exhilarated by many things, I've been thinking a lot before the finish. My victory in 2003, the work done during winter, the sailing in bad weather, when its' cold. But you have to be well trained and ready... I need to make a break now, I've pushed hard and we had a bit of every condition: strong breeze, light air and it's tiring, haven't slept much...

François Gabart (Skipper Macif 2010), second placed"I'm a different man""I'm really proud and happy to be second behind Armel because he made an incredible race. He is a notch above everyone, untouchable, I would say. He's really strong and this year he was so self confident. I've made progress in every sector, speed wise, in the way I control the race and sail the boat. It's a nice feeling. I consider myself a better sailor than last year, I'm a different man and I reckon that if we made another leg I would be in it... I could make ten more and I would enjoy all of them." There were different conditions and I like it that way. For me being second is like winning, really. When you sail solo you need to be good at everything, you get better step-by-step, onboard and ashore. It's life, you grow up. I discovered more about myself: my desire to be in the lead, to win, to learn. I've been building this second place over the last four weeks. My aim was to have at least one good leg this year but, after going on the podium I told to myself, why not the overall? But until this morning I wasn't sure of anything..."

Corentin Douguet (E.Leclerc Mobile) Third placed"What an astonishing leg ! Being second behind Armel this year feels like being the first human. I'm super, super happy of my race, getting to Cherbourg and seeing my sons. Third overall, if anyone would have told me in Kinsale I would have laughed. I started to sail well in the last leg, coming in in the top ten, is terrific. I loved this Solitaire, I finished three legs in the top ten. I made some mistakes in the second one, but I have no regrets at all. Only once I thought I could catch up Armel, after Lizen Ven but I got stuck in the seaweeds and the wind shifted... I called Armel on the VHF shortly before the finish to congratulate him. His performance is simply incredible, pity he missed one or he would have done the big slam winning all four legs. This is my fifth Solitaire so I met five winners but Armel's victory is the most impressive of all. I'm proud to be in the very selected club of those who beat him this year in Kinsale. Bravo to François (Gabart ) too, he did a fantastic race. As for me after a very good performance in 2007 (a leg win in La Coruna and third overall ed. note) had two opaque seasons. But Douguet is not dead! Beside the results, second in the leg and third overall, I really, really enjoyed this race..."

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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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