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Kenefick Ready for Today's Solo Concarneau Race

6th May 2013
Kenefick Ready for Today's Solo Concarneau Race

Cork's solo sailor David Kenefick, along with the rest of the Figaro fleet, is tackling his last race before the Solitaire du Figaro next month. The event is called the Solo Concarneau. It starts at 14:00 Irish time today. The 340 miles long race sees the fleet race up and down the French coast almost as far as Ushant to the North and Ile d'Yeu to the South.

The disappointing thing about this race is that there is no tracker system so we are going to be a lot less informed about what is going on than our last reports from the Solo Arrimer race in April.

Nevertheless it will be interesting on many counts. below please find team maanger Marcus Hutchinson's  latest blog.

This is another race but with many differences. The sailors are better prepared than for the Solo Arrimer - they are by definition now twice as experienced as before - the weather is completely different and most importantly the chips are down. At stake is an entry in this year's Solitaire du Figaro. Winning the Solo Concarneau wouldn't necessarily guarantee a place but finishing 'down the pan' will certainly see an early exit.

An honest race is what is required from both the Artemis candidates. Honest in the sailors' ability to anticipate and react to the many obstacles and constant little challenges that are the solo sailor's lot.

They say that preparation is everything but until you see why some things are important and others less so it is difficult to know what to prioritise. There is no point being the fastest if you go the wrong way or get lost in the fog. There is no point sailing the perfect course if you don't have the energy to push the boat as hard as you can. There is no point having a smooth bottom and a fair keel if your electronics go down. In short there is no point being here if you aren't able to deal with adversity and rebound quickly.

The guys are far from perfect but they are better than before. The weather will be kinder to them this time too. It seems they have spent far too much time fighting 40-knot winds and not enough dealing with the subtleties of lighter winds and most significantly the transitional phases more commonly found in these conditions.

The competition is here again. This time there are 30 starters with all the usual suspects. The course also sees them sail through the challenging Raz de Sein, for the first time alone and, although we are in neaps, there will be quite a lot of tidal sailing to be dealt with.

The course sees the 30 boat fleet head upwind around the Glenan Islands before turning across the wind to PenMarch and then downwind North across the Bay of Audierne through the Raz de Sein and up and around Pierre Noire just South of Ushant. This hairpin bend will then see the fleet reaching South and then South East outside everything to the Brivideaux lighthouse, which is near the Quiberon Peninsula, before hardening up a little bit to head South down to and circumnavigating Ile d'Yeu. The return North to Concarneau and the finish is the longest single leg. It will start as a close reach and the fleet will be slowly headed as they come North and will finish the race upwind, maybe even short tacking along the coast for the last 50 miles!

The first part of the course will require some tactical nous and then some strategically strong decisions. The next part of the course from the Pierre Noires down to Yeu will require one overwhelming element. SPEED. The return leg will require force of character to stay fast, fight the fatigue and the ability to chose the right moments to sail high or sail low as the wind ultimately heads the fleet and turns a reach into a long beat.

There should be winds peaking in the mid-20s on Wednesday morning but other than that we should see a fairly medium-breezed race. What remains to be seen is if there will be any important transitional phases that fall between light and dark and light.

Regrettably this race doesn't have a tracker system running and so we will be reliant on AIS and Marine Traffic.com to see progress around the track along with the infrequent updates from the radar enabled Semaphore/Coastguard Stations that are still scattered the length of the French coast line. Finish time for the first boats is expected to be late afternoon on Wednesday, the stragglers can be expected a few hours later.

We have a busy few days immediately after the finish of the Solo Concarneau as some of the boats in this Anglo-Irish squad will be trying new sails and specifically sails with their Figaro Race livery, all especially for the camera of our resident photographer Brian Carlin. The two Artemis boys Ed Hill and Jackson Bouttell will be informed as to whether one or both of them will sail the big race, and then there is the preparation to move the whole show to Bordeaux by sea and road 10 days later.

Exciting times indeed. Keep this frequency clear!!!

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.

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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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