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Figaro Says Goodbye to Dún Laoghaire (Photos Here)

14th August 2011
Figaro Says Goodbye to Dún Laoghaire (Photos Here)
At precisely 12:00 on Sunday 14th August, the Race Committee fired the start signal of the third leg of the Solitaire du Figaro, 477 miles from Dún Laoghaire to Les Sables d'Olonne, as public crowded the pier to wave goodbye to the sailors and dozens of boats enjoyed the show. But soon the sunny, warm, pleasant conditions sunny gave way to the rain, wind gusts and a roulette game for the 46 skippers.

Who thought that the most thrilling part of the third leg would be the finish? It's maybe too soon to tell, but clearly the 8 mile long inshore course and the following run along the green Irish cliffs delivered enough surprises for a whole leg, with continuous changes at the top.

figarodepart

The fleet depart Dun Laoghaire in a rain shower. Photo : Courcoux/Marmara. More Photos on the gallery here

This morning on the pontoons of Dun Laoghaire, an unusual fatigue marked the sailors' faces, as everyone talked about the latest weather forecast. The hint was "be wary" of the apparent simplicity of the 477 miles to Les Sables. And wary they had to be since the very first minutes of the inshore race the situation appeared to be not the simplest one.

In extremely tricky conditions, breeze shifting, coming from all directions and going from 5 to 15 knots in a matter of seconds, it was hard for the sailors to "read" on the water where the next puff was going to come from and going from the top to the bottom of the fleet was just a question of not be stuck in a bubble of light air.

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Photo: Michael Chester

At the Radio France mark a trio formed by Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham), Vincent Biarnes (Prati'Bûches) and Jeanne Grégoire (Banque Populaire) had a huge lead on the rest of the fleet, but then shortly later everything changed dramatically. As confirmed by Jeanne Gregoire's word: "For once I started well but now I'm trailing at the back of the fleet. It's a mess but you have to have fun anyway...When I was going downwind under spinnaker to the Radio France mark, I crossed Isa (Isabelle Joschke) and I told her: don't  worry there is always the CLS ranking. I had two or three miles lead on her but she just flew past me... Now I've got 25 knots and two minutes ago I had 2!"

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Photo: Michael Chester

According to the latest position report, at 16:00 it was Portuguese Francisco Lobato (ROFF) to have a slight advantage on experienced Gildas Morvan (Cercle Vert) and on overall leaderboard leader Jérémie Beyou (BPI). First British skipper was reported to be young Sam Goodchild (Artemis) in fourteenth position and third in the special newcomers' "rookie" standing, chased by Jersey based Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence), also racing his first Solitaire du Figaro. Conrad Humphreys (DMS) was in 21st position while Nigel King (E-Line Orthodontics) in 42nd.

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Photo: Michael Chester

Up to the next mark at Wolf Rock (at the tip of Cornwall), that is to say over the next 180 miles, it is likely that the fleet will keep on sailing on a long starboard tack and positioning oneself well on the course will be key.

But, for now it's impossible to say who will take the best option. The answer will only be known tomorrow, around noon, when the sailors will be approaching the Scilly Islands.

Skippers' quotes

Fabien Delahaye (Port de Caen Ouistreham): "An Irish kind of start..."
"Another Irish kind of start... Actually it's like starting all it over again. We had light wind, current, rainstorms. It's not so funny, I'm no longer in the lead. I hope this is going to settle and the wind stops to do the yo-yo, as long as we're we're sailing leeward of the Irish coast you have to get what you get."

Vincent Biarnes (Prati'Bûches): "Now it is gone"
"The breeze has been increasing since we passed the Radio France mark. Fabien and I we had such a lead, but now, it is gone. The wind turned so quickly, could not manage to take the spinnaker down and the boat was going her own way! It's very shifty and the air coming down the cliffs is strong and gusty. Fabien overtook me just before the mark, he got a better puff and jumped ahead, no more than ten seconds enough to cross the line in front of me."

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Photo: Michael Chester

Phil Sharp (The Spirit of Independence) on the eve of the start commented:
"I'm quite pleased for how things are going actually. It's great to be up there with the front group, I've had a bit of a heck just before the finish of the last leg, lost lots of places there but I'm very confident on how things have gone. I'll try and keep it going, hopefully finish in the top ten another couple of times, it would be very nice. Keep things clean, that's what we have to do in this race. Keep the pace and be consistent, make the right decision make sure you don't burn yourself up for the finish. We're probably going to have south westerly so it's going to be reaching or close reaching, not much chance to use our spinnaker, not until we get to Brittany, and it's going to be tactical all the way. Some very interesting choices to make and particularly when we look at the time we will be approaching the raz de Sein which are crucial points to go around. That tack could change everything in the race, if you make a mistake there it can be very costly. Hopefully the tide will be with us, otherwise we won't be moving very quickly. I think you have to do a strategy to minimize the risk. I'm going to go for speed but keep risk very light. It's just not all or nothing. Having yourself in the top ten near the finish and making sensible decision to keep in there... Better than going for a wild strategy early on and then find yourself in the back of the fleet and be forced to make up two hours."

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Photo: Michael Chester

Sam Goodchild (Artemis)
"Looks like there will be less wind so it will be more racing than survival. That should be good, hopefully we keep moving all the time, but it's not guaranteed at the moment. I've got my spinnakers back. I don't really know why they keep breaking. We've reinforced everything we know that might break it and we've just got to try not to break them through Leg 3. I've learned a lot about management in the previous leg, learning about yourself, the boat, how to go fast, get the right way, it's a steep learning curve. Generally it's enjoyable, it's up and downs, you try to enjoy it, sailing is what I want to do so...."

Published in Figaro
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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 celebrates 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.

The race has previously called to Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

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 will have two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who join the rookie ranks and keep the Irish tricolour flying high in France. 

The 2019 course is more Than 2,000 miles between Nantes, Kinsale (Ireland), Roscoff and Dieppe and is the longest in the race's history.

 

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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