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David Kenefick Blog #4 – 'I Made a Mistake, the Biggest of My Figaro Race and it Cost Me'

6th June 2013
David Kenefick Blog #4 – 'I Made a Mistake, the Biggest of My Figaro Race and it Cost Me'

Irish Figaro race rookie David Kenefick describes his first leg in which he finished 33rd from 41 starters

The first night I was exhausted. I guess it was the week-long build-up in Bordeaux, all the stress of moving from Bordeaux to Pauillac - the crowds, my family, media engagements, sponsors - all part of it but nevertheless exhausting. I knew I had to get a lot of sleep in early in this race as we wouldn't be doing much at the end.
But I wasn't in a great space off the start line and I took my time to get going. I actually hit something that wasn't on a chart in the river estuary. We'll get the boat out tomorrow and fix up the keel.

So bad start, tricky exit, hit something that wasn't on the chart in the river, then I waited and waited for the opportunity that I knew would be coming at Cape Finisterre, I got it and it worked out great. But then I made a mistake, the biggest mistake of my race and it cost me. It's a shame because I waited two days for my opportunity and when it came, I blew it.

The strategy for the race was: to get safely out of the Gironde in one piece without too much of a deficit, to sail extremely fast across the

Bay of Biscay to the point where a gybe in the freeing wind would line you up for the right trajectory around Cape Finisterre, to be ready for the big breeze that would hit the fleet at that point but to make sure not to cut the corner too tight and run out of wind in the lee. On top of that the small depression centred around the corner would mean a total shut down of wind and it would probably pay to be further west. Don't get trapped. The last part of the race sailed down the Portuguese coast would be sailed in light winds. The key message was that regardless of what happened inshore and how attractive it might look, eventually the offshore route would pay.

We had 35 to 40 knots of breeze off Finisterre. My mistake was I didn't sleep when I had the opportunity, I was too focused on keeping it together through the night in that breeze. I had never sailed in conditions like that for such a long time before. And my mistake was accumulating too much fatigue that would have to be dispensed with later on, and I couldn't afford to later on as that was the most important part of the race. I then started going for naps and I obviously went for one that was a bit too long. Probably woke up two hours later. I'm not sure what happened to my alarm it is usually really good at waking me up eight minutes after I've set it. I'm fresh as a daisy now!!!
I was very lucky but I was stupid. I'm not sure what happened, whether I just sat down for a few minutes or whether I'd planned to do it but I must have slept for two hours straight. When I woke up it was dark, I couldn't see anyone around me except fishing boats. I was completely disorientated.

"I couldn't see anyone around me except fishing boats. I was completely disorientated"

By now I was stuck in a hole in no wind. The bunch I was with got away from me at this point and of course I never saw them again. I believe Morgan Lagraviere, who was just behind me at the time finished 12th. I wouldn't have minded that!


David Kenefick meets the press after leg one

Anyway the important things are that the man and the boat are both in one piece. Everything worked fine. I'm really pleased to be here and fresher than a lot of others I can see around me so hopefully that means I'll do a good job on the next leg. Interestingly my buddy Jackson Bouttell who won the Rookie prize for this leg pointed out to me today that the three events we have already done this year plus the leg we have just finished are less in combined distance than what we have still to sail over the next three legs. I might need to avoid thinking about that too much!!!

Leg Two from Porto to Gijon (452 nautical miles) starts on Saturday 8th June.

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Published in Figaro 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.

2023 La Solitaire du Figaro Course

Stage #1 Caen – Kinsale : 610 nautical miles
Departure August 27 (expected arrival August 30)

Stage #2 Kinsale – Baie de Morlaix : 630 nautical miles
Departure September 3 (expected arrival September 6)

Stage #3 Baie de Morlaix – Piriac-sur-Mer : 620 nautical miles
Departure September 10 (expected arrival September 13)

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