Two Irish skippers are among the 71 'pre-entries', including 24 rookies, for the La Solitaire du Figaro race.
Paul O'Riain and Mick Liddy, both from Dublin, will race back into their home port on the only foreign leg of the race course when it calls her in this August.
An increasing number of non-French sailors and some big names in offshore racing, the Figaro, promises to deliver exceptional racing for the 42nd edition of the race over the 1,695 mile-course.
The return of past winners
Confident with last year's victory, including three out of four leg wins, Armel Le Cléac'h returns to defend his title once more. Following a very good 2010 season, the French skipper returns with the intent of equaling the record held by some of his predecessors, Philippe Poupon, Jean Le Cam and Michel Desjoyeaux, to make it a hat trick by winning the Figaro circuit's crowning event. "The Solitaire is an interesting race in sporting terms. To date, there are two of us who could make the hat trick in 2010, Nico (Troussel) and myself. If I am at the start this year, my goal is to do as well as in 2010! " Said Armel Le Cléac'h.
Three winners of previous editions will be at the start: Eric Drouglazet (winner in 2001), Jérémie Beyou (winner in 2005), and Nicolas Lunven (winner in 2009). There are many other contenders aiming for the top spot on the podium, including Gildas Morvan, Thierry Chabagny, Gérald Véniard, and Frédéric Duthil...Have registered their entry alongside so many other competition regulars.
The mainstays of the Figaro Bénéteau Class, which include other candidates for the podium, have also registered entry: Eric Péron, Thomas Rouxel, Laurent Pellecuer, Jeanne Grégoire, Erwan Tabarly,Romain Attanasio, Nicolas Berenger, Marc Emig... Jean-Paul Mouren returns to compete on a record 25th edition.
The young emerging talent will be forces to be reckoned with, Adrien Hardy, winner of the third leg last year, Fabien Delahaye 1st rookie 2009), Paul Meilhat, Anthony Marchand (1st rookie 2010), Yoann Richomme ... No matter how many miles sailed, they know that victory is gained only after crossing the finish line, and fully intend to apply the lessons learned in their previous editions.
Record: 24 rookies in the running
This year is also marked by an absolute record number of rookie entries; 24 pre-entries with some impressive CVs, who will present serious competition for the old hands at the event. Some of the best skippers in the Mini class, such as Xavier Macaire, Charlie Dalin, David Sineau and Luce Molinier will compete for the first time in La Solitaire du Figaro. Other very promising young skippers are also on the list, such as Alexis Littoz-Baritel, 2008 Match Racing French Champion, Morgan Lagravière with a background in Olympic 49er racing and Camille Square from the F18. Each will want to demonstrate their full potential along each of the 4 legs that lie ahead of them this Summer.
La Solitaire du Figaro attracts an increasing number of international competitor's. No less than 5 nationalities will be represented on the event this summer. From Ireland, Paul O'Riain and Mick Liddy will race at home on the only foreign leg of the race course (Dún Laoghaire near Dublin). There will be many English skippers this year: Conrad Humphreys, accustomed to racing on the most prestigious ocean races, will be participating in his first Solitaire du Figaro. Nigel King is back for the third time. One rookie will be selected among the 5 from the Grande Motte Mediterranean Training Centre: Nick Cherry, Sam Goodchild, Nick Houchin, Olivier Young, Simon Hiscocks, double World Champion 49er, and Phil Sharp, who won the Route du Rhum 2006 in Class 40, to step forward to compete on the Figaro. The Portuguese solo sailor, Francisco Lobato, and the Franco-German Isabelle Joschke also return to race.
"There will be fierce competition..."
Race director Jacques Caraës considers that, "There will be fierce competition... on this 42nd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro. Eric Bompard Cashmere, the new main partner, could not hope for a more impressive line-up of skippers: four former winners of the event will be competing, two dozen contenders for podium places, 24 rookies, a sign of prosperity in this great classic of the summer season, especially with strong participation of foreign entries. Five nations will be represented, including the particularly competitive British-American. They will certainly have to reckon with the talented Portuguese Francisco Lobato, strengthened with the experience gained last season. There will be fierce competition...."
At six months from the start, given the upcoming programme and potential of the candidates, the pressure is already starting to mount. As every year, the competition looks particularly intense, and the entertainment captivating - a memorable experience for competitors as well as for those who will follow this 42nd edition closely.
Village opens: Saturday 23rd July
Eric Bompard prologue: Friday 29th July
Start of the 1st leg: Sunday 31st July
CAEN (320 miles)
Expected arrival of the boats: Tuesday 2nd August
Start of the 2nd leg: Sunday 7th August
DÚN LAOGHAIRE (470 miles)
Expected arrival of the boats: Wednesday 10th August
Start of the 3rd leg: Sunday 14th August
LES SABLES D'OLONNE (475 miles)
Expected arrival of the boats: Wednesday 17th August
Start of the 4th leg: Sunday 21st August
DIEPPE (430 miles)
Expected arrival of the boats: Wednesday 24th August
Closing regatta: Sunday 28th August
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