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British Sailor Nigel King's Ready for Solitaire Du Figaro Start This Weekend

29th July 2011
British Sailor Nigel King's Ready for Solitaire Du Figaro Start This Weekend
Seasoned Beneteau Solitaire du Figaro sailor Nigel King, from Lymington UK, is currently in Perros-Guirec, Northern Brittany, preparing for the Solitaire du Figaro, which starts this Sunday.

King who is no stranger to this annual, French 1,695-mile marathon, having competed in it twice before (2007 and 2009) has put a lot of work into this particular campaign in an effort to improve on his previous performances. Now, with support from his sponsors including title sponsor E-line Orthodontics, and the Artemis Offshore Academy, King says he is fairly happy with preparation for this race and is now looking forward to getting started.

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Chatting from the dockside this morning, King commented: "I am actually really excited about the prospects of this one, and thankfully less nervous than I was in 2009. I think because I'd had such a bad one in 2007, when I had to abandon the race, I had a lot of pressure to improve. Thankfully I had a decent result finishing 23rd, but I am now keen to improve on that."

King admits to having set himself a much harder target for this race, but because he has learnt such a lot over the last two years and knows what to expect from the race, he says he has more confidence in his own ability. "I now feel it is achievable and realistic to get a good result but to do so, I am going to have to sail the best I've ever sailed in a Figaro as there are some exceptionally talented sailors out there."

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One of King's most recent successes was finishing a creditable second place overall in the solo Transmanche Race aboard E-line Orthodontics where many of the top Figaro sailors were competing. Before heading to France for the Solitaire du Figaro, King completed the Transatlantic Race as skipper aboard Chris Bull's Cookson 50, Jazz, finishing first overall in IRC Class 2.

The Solitaire du Figaro however, is the key event in the Figaro circuit, which means the competition is always extremely high. Racing takes place in identical Figaro Bénéteau 2 class yachts to a strict, one-design rule to ensure the racing is fair as possible but because the four-leg race spans over a month (from 31 July- 28 August), and the course takes the fleet to and fro across the Channel, it is tactically extremely challenging.

Commenting on the start and the first 320-mile leg of the race from Perros-Guirec to Caen, northern France, King says it will be interesting: "The current weather situation shows light winds not only for the Prologue later today, but also for the start on Sunday. It seems like we won't get much more than 10-15kts which means the tidal effects will play a big role."

Although it hasn't been confirmed yet, the course of the first leg is likely to take the fleet from northern France to a waypoint at the Needles Fairway off the Isle of Wight. Having started at 1100 local time on Sunday, the estimated time of arrival at the Needles will be sometime on Tuesday, which means anyone in the vicinity should get a spectacular sight of the fleet. If the long-term weather forecast remains light, however, the fleet will be sent directly to Caen.

Follow Nigel King's progress aboard at nigelkingyachting.com, or follow the race at www.lasolitaire.com/EN

Published in Figaro
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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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