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David Kenefick Blog #5 – Figaro Leg Two, 300 miles from Porto to Gijon

8th June 2013
David Kenefick Blog #5 – Figaro Leg Two, 300 miles from Porto to Gijon

#fullirish – So they are off on Leg Two, a shortened version of the original programme because of extremely light conditions forecast the leg is just 300 nautical miles long. The course is now very simple, sail North from Porto until you reach the corner of Spain and then turn right and sail East along the North Coast to Gijon. If only it was that simple. There are two complications, the first is very light winds and the second is the topography of the coast.

As the fleet leaves Porto in a SW wind heading North at a paltry five knots a simple front will pass over head and swing the wind round to the North West. On the back ide the wind will be more stable and a little bit fresher but nothing dramatic. The objective at the beginning of the race is therefore to cross the front as soon as possible and get to the other side first. The options that the leaders of the fleet have taken to do this aren't the same, this is a race and it will be interesting to see how this works out. Some have decided to foot off with spinnakers set to get as far North as possible before being headed and needing to tack, others will sail as high as possible until the shift comes against them and they can tack and get to the left more quickly.

Moving forwards a few more hours through the night the fleet will be sailing upwind tacking from time to time to stay to the West of the front but not going too far west as behind the front is a ridge of high pressure and the wind will start free the fleet again as it lifts them on port tack with spinnakers again appearing.

But all of this is going to be slow and require painful amounts of concentration from the 41 skippers. Around the top of Finisterre there will probably again be fog and depending on how quickly the westerly wind through the ridge appears will dictate how far offshore the smart money will sail as they head East along the North Spanish coast. Close to the shore and the high ground associated with North Spain there will be no wind and really unpredictable conditions.

The leg is likely to take three days so expect to see them sometime on Tuesday midday in the Spanish port of Gijon. The sleep programme is going to be extremely important and really difficult to know when to push on steering and when to get your head down. Those that are able to keep themselves motivated in the head-bursting fatigue stakes will be able to maybe make the killer decisions later in the race when others are struggling. Another classic Figaro leg is underway.


David made a cracking start at the pin end of the line as the photograph above proves. Regrettably half way up the beat he was relegated to the second half of the fleet as the pace around him, the timing and execution of light air manoeures let him down. David is in the pack, and needs to stay with other boats to be able to judge his speed and make adjustments when necessary.
Whereas Leg One was physical and then seriously light at the finish this leg will be light all the time and always mental and rarely physical. The concentration levels will need to rise and fall in parallel with the stretches of the course that are either difficult or straight forward.

Show your support for David on his Facebook page on Sunday, it will be his 22nd birthday. 

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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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