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Delahaye wins on Home Waters and Britain's Phil Sharp Seventhth

3rd August 2011
Delahaye wins on Home Waters and Britain's Phil Sharp Seventhth

At 13:14:36 on Tuesday 2nd of August, Fabien Delahaye crossed the finish line to win the first leg of La Solitaire du Figaro between Perros-Guirec and Caen in first place.  The Normandy skipper sailing on Port Caen Ouistreham took just over 2 days, or 50 hours 14 minutes and 36 seconds, at an average 5.83 miles an hour to cover the 293.1 miles course that was full of surprises. The final stages of the race were played out overnight on Monday in the light conditions and currents off the Cotentin coastline.  Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert), the highly experienced Figaro sailor, finished just behind to take the second place whilst Jean Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) takes third to complete the podium.  Xavier Macaire (Starter Active Bridge) comes in first rookie in 5th place, barely a minute ahead of Phil Sharp (Spirit of Independence), the first British sailor to finish, crossing the line in 7th and just 15 minutes and 4 seconds behind the leader.  The first thirty skippers to cross the finish line are within an 60-minute time deficit on the leader.

The first leg win goes to a native Normandy sailor, Fabien Delahaye (he lives in Caen). At only 27, this  fresh -faced  blond man with piercing blue eyes wins his first ever leg on on a  Solitaire race.  In 2009, Fabien made his mark on the Figaro by winning the rookie or newcomer rankings.  Over the past two participations Fabien has improved thanks to his very methodical work, clear mindset and is regarded as one of the young hopefuls who will set their mark on La Solitare du Figaro race.  This win at home could be the first of more to come.

On the finish line in Ouistreham, the tension was palpable as nothing had been decided and all was to play for over the final miles of the race.  The very low and variable wind direction together with the 2 knots of current from the tides brought the fleet back together.  Fabien managed to control his opponents and beat them to the finish over the final miles of the race. Seasoned sailors, Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and Jean Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.

The first rookie to finish, a mere 14 minutes behind the winner in 5th place is Xavier Macaire (Starter Active Bridge) being pursued by Britain's Phil Sharp on Spirit of Independence, who finishes 7th overall and just under a minute behind the first rookie.  The Franco-German sailor, Isabelle Joschke shines out for her consistency on the leg; she finishes 15th and 40 minutes from the winner.  Conrad Humphreys (DMS) from Plymouth finished in 22nd place and 45 minutes from the leader.  The turnig tide and dropping breeze have made it a real struggle for the second half of the fleet.  Portugal's Francisco Lobato finishes 36th at 16:30:35, whilst Nigel King from Lymington, sailing on E-Line Orthodontics finishes in 39th at 17:09:28.  The British  sailor, Sam Goodchild (Artemis), youngest competitor this season, crossed the line at 18:36:47 in 45th place.

Quotes from the skippers upon crossing the finish line in Caen:
Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen-Ouistreham) winner in Ouistreham-Caen
This is the first time I win a leg and to top it off I do it at home!  Last night was key for the race.  You really had to keep on top of things and position yourself well and I just grabbed any opportunity that came my way.  I managed to position myself well throughout the race, except maybe at the passage at Portland Bill, which I found difficult.  Then I managed to climb back up to the leading pack on the return Channel crossing with Gildas Morvan and then built my lead after the Cussy cardinal mark.  When everyone had to anchor this morning to avoid going backwards in the current I had 48 metres of depth so just had to fight it out and look for the puffs of wind.  This is probably played in my favour as I managed to get away, so I would not say that it was just a matter of knowing my home waters!"

Gildas Movan (Cercle Vert) – Second in Caen and 11 minutes and 9 seconds behind the leader
The whole first leg has been really quite tough because although we had a nice first night sailing under spinnaker to cross the Channel, it has been nothing but easy.  From Hands Deep the wind would just come and go and then it just got really soft.  It was a matter of constantly having to gybe and do manoevers.  The worst bit must have been last night as we were crossing the Channel and the wind just completely dropped and went all over the place.  I tried to hang on with the spinnaker up because the minute you go and anchor it takes forever to get started again.  I then hooked on to a thread of breeze that got me off on the approach to Cussy, the same one Fabien grabbed on to and then the tide was favourable and the wind picked up.  If you look at the time deficit I have on the winner it is not all that much, but then each and every minute counts!"

Jean-Pierre Nicol (Bernard Controls) – third place on the first leg Perros-Guirec to Caen:
"What a leg! There were so many pitfalls and you just had to be constantly on guard to not get caught out.  When you look at the course on paper it seems easy, but then doing it is something else.  I am shattered and found it so hard to mange my sleep.  It was snakes and ladders, each time I nodded off I would loose ground, so would have to work my way back up and fight against the exhaustion.  It has not been the easiest way of getting in to the race, but then last night everything just went like a dream...I managed to get away whilst everyone else was just stuck.  I have managed to limit the time deficit on the leader by just a few minutes so am really happy."

Xavier Macaire (Starter Active Bridge), 5th overall and first rookie:
"I had a great climb up the fleet last night which all started from the Fairway mark.  I did some good gybes and I must say that Phil Sharp set the bar very high for the rookie rankings.  I had to get after him.  I did have to anchor last night, but it just would not hold, so just fought against drifting too much.  Finishing in this position is just fantastic and I am so pleased.  I had set myself the target of getting to be among the top three in the rookie ranking, so that is a good start.  This is just an amazing event with 47 great sailors, wonderful organisation and to have the French naval ship, PSP Cormorant with us, is a real honour."

Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence), 7th overall, 15 minutes and 4 seconds behind the winner and first Briton to finish:  "I'm feeling great, It's kind of incredible really, the whole race, I didn't expect to be so near the front and tussling with some of these top guys. I've learnt so much., it's been incredible excitement all the way through.  I'm so pleased to have got my first decent Figaro result.  Top 10 was way above my expectations you know. Consistency is the name of the game but it's always great to have one result. It's going to be hard to keep getting top ten's now!"

Conrad Humphreys (DMS):  "It was an incredible race, it had everything in it, absolutely everything, from calms to some good wind, lots of sail changes and the fleet were so close all the time. I don't think the first twenty boats were ever more than three miles apart.  I didn't sleep very much this race and I think it caught up with me on the last day. It's difficult to get into a routine in this race and I think for the next leg I need to be a little more disciplined about my sleep."

Francisco Lobato (ROFF), 36th overall and with a 3 hour and 15 minute time deficit on the leader
"I was doing ok from the start and then just lost contact with the leading pack along the South coast of England.  Those following hours were tough because you end up doing radical things to try and catch up and I got caught out in Lyme Bay and then just lost further ground.  It has helped me see where I need to improve, but honestly I know I can be there and improve for the next events.  On the positive side, I am really happy with the manoevers and general boat speed."

Published in Figaro
Afloat.ie Team

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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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