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David Kenefick Blog#3 – Cape Finisterre & Leg One of the Solitaire du Figaro

4th June 2013
David Kenefick Blog#3 – Cape Finisterre & Leg One of the Solitaire du Figaro

#fullirish – We are 45 hours into the first leg and the fleet are about eight hours ahead of the initial routeing calculations writes David Kenefick team manager Marcus Hutchinson. The fleet of 41 Figaros has been enjoying great sailing pretty much since the left the Gironde Estuary on Sunday night when the set their spinnakers. The wind has slowly swung around to the East as the High Pressure zone has moved North and they find themselves on the South side of the cemtre. As can be seen from the tracker on the official website the fleet started to think about gybing yesterday afternoon/evening and line themselves up for the approach to the North West tip of Spain. The wind freshened dramatically through the night as the isobars between a small depression just around the corner off the West coast of Spain and the bottom of the High squeezed it all together. The fleet have been enjoying some high speed downwind sailing in 30/35 knots of wind and from the reports from the race course it would appear that there have been quite a few broaches and spinnakers bursts. They also had a fairly big fishing fleet to deal with too!

The leaders have kept good pace but most significantly have had a long term view about tackling this depression mentioned earlier as they start to turn the corner. Mich Desjoyeaux has opted for a more Northerly and offshore route around the outside and will likely extend further his lead. Anyone who stays offshore will gain over the next few hours.

Further back down the fleet we find that the Rookies are having a tough time and not surprisingly many of them have gravitated towards their fellow rookie competitors to be able to judge their performance. Performance is not just about going fast now. The sailors are all into their third day and will certainly be tired and know that they have another 24 hours at least left to sail. Performance is going to be about being sufficiently sharp to make the right decisions with regard to timing for their gybe South and quite how far extra to sail to get around the top of Spain.

Young David Kenefick may have been stacking in a lot of sleep yesterday in anticipation of the two days still ahead of him as he frequently moved from one side of the fleet to the other side having initially been in the middle then heading out on his own to the South before later yesterday evening re-crossing behind the fleet again. The reality is that he would appear to be sailing at top speed. Although the rankings show him in 35 place at 10:00 this morning - the ranking during the race is a simple calculation of distance as the crow flies around the various headlands to the finish. The fleet is sailing near a big corner and the quickest route is going to be over a longer distance which is why many of the boats currently ranked closer to the finish and 'ahead' of David are going to drop in behind him later on. Currently David is probably in 30th position, surrounded by Claire Pruvot and Jackson Bouttell, the latter we have heard has blown out his big spinnaker and will suffer in the lighter winds expected later.

Eta in Porto is still for tomorrow Wednesday night, the first boats are currently about 10 hours ahead of schedule.

Keep up to date by checking the official website in English lasolitaire.com/en and the on the events excellent race tracker.

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.

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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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