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Marcus Hutchinson's Figaro Blog (Post Leg 2 Finish)

11th June 2013
Marcus Hutchinson's Figaro Blog (Post Leg 2 Finish)

#fullirish – The most important moment in Leg 2 turned out to be in the last 45 miles of the race. There had been plenty of things that went against the forecast up to that point but most of the sailors had adapted their game plans to the new reality of being able to sail close along the coast and remain in the wind, something that doesn't normally work and is not recommended.

Anyway on the last morning the fleet, most with pretty similar distances to run, were spread out laterally over about 10 miles, those furthest South about 10 miles off the coast of Spain. They were running on port pole with a nice breeze from the West. Those closest to the shore were sailing a shorter distance, those further offshore were conscious of the notoriously complex wind situation around the last headland, Cape Penas. The smart money always says to approach Gijon perpendicular to the coast...

The wind stalled, swung through the South and into the East and filled in again. During the transition which lasted different amounts of time depending on where you were it all happened, those closer to the shore, predictably, had the worst of it and some tried to escape to the North and take a lot of sterns, others dug themselves deeper into problems by heading further inshore.

The middle group, somewhere young David Kenefick had managed to intelligently position himself, were able to hedge their bets for the longest period and when the telltale signs started to filter through they kept offshore and escaped the clutches of the calms. Whilst looking to get back into the race from a fairly poor opening few hours David had picked away at the boats ahead of him one-by-one and was at one stage up in the top ten. He managed this through careful observation of what was happening ahead and how it was going against the forecast and the pre-race strategies. Watch and learn from the mistakes of others.

hutchinson

Marcus Hutchinson greets David Kenefick at the end of leg two. Photo: Brian Carlin

On the last morning he had positioned himself in the middle of the lateral group with serious Rookie opposition on the extremes on both sides. Jackson Bouttell and Claire Pruvot were offshore and Simon Troel was inshore. Without being sure as to exactly how is was going to pan out David was one of the last to escape offshore to the new Easterly wind and although he lost contact with Claire he managed to come home second in the Rookie division just ahead of Jackson and several hours ahead of Simon Troel. David finished 18th out of 41, definitely in the first half of the fleet and a really positive result. He slept a lot, he learnt a lot and he managed himself and the boat well.

Five of the six strong Artemis group, of which David is a part for this race, finished in the top 20 which is a great result for all, but until the final finish line in Dieppe it means nothing at all as the race is on, as much ashore during these extremely short stopovers, as afloat, and what lies in store over the next two legs is far from clear.

"Knowing you have made an error like that and having to live with it for the next two days is really harsh. This is a cruel sport".

The race for the skippers ashore is to sleep and eat and rehydrate, and sleep some more and eat some more and then start thinking about the weather for Leg 3. Those that finish the previous leg early have more time in bed. Those that stay on the course a little longer have the double whammy of realizing this and when you sail into the harbour at the end of a leg and realize that most of the fleet is already tied up and their skippers are resting it doesn't help. This was the case for Ed Hill who finished in the dark more than six hours behind the leaders. A small error of judgement compounded into a massive deficit for poor Ed as he rounded Cape Finisterre much further offshore than what was ultimately necessary meant that the rest of the fleet slipped away into a new breeze. Knowing you have made an error like that and having to live with it for the next two days is really harsh. This is a cruel sport. Ed will bounce back and come out fighting for Leg 3 in two days.

Probably the best thing to start coming out of the young sailors mouths in the moments after docking and as they all sit down around a bowl of hot soup with their fellow competitors and share stories, is how much and when the Artemis skippers slept, what they are eating and how they plan their decision-making. There was plenty of warning about the complexity of this past leg and most of the skippers racked up a lot of sleep early in the leg and even on the last night knowing that there would be important strategic decisions to be made on the last day. Some of the skippers are now realizing that the autopilot is an amazing tool and can often do a far better job than the skipper steering the boat in relatively stable conditions when the night is dark and the eyes are tired.

Food choices to take offshore are now tending more and more towards a really balanced diet as opposed to the sugary things. Gone are the cans of Red Bull and Coke and sports bars. In have come the small tins of tuna salads, fresh pasta and soups. Its been a long road and in spite of pleading with skippers to take diet seriously sometimes it is best for people to work it out for themselves the hard way rather than ignoring the constant nagging from those of us that apparently know better!

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.

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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