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Royal Cork's Kenefick Takes 17th in Solo Maitre Coq, Great Start to 2014 Figaro Season

15th March 2014
kenefick solo maitre coq
David Kenefick's Full Irish edges to a lighter air finish in the Solo Maitre Coq race this morning
Royal Cork's Kenefick Takes 17th in Solo Maitre Coq, Great Start to 2014 Figaro Season

#fullirish – David Kenefick has finished 17th out of 35 starters in the Solo Maitre Coq race. The mid–fleet finish in the 270–mile opener to the 2014 season is a strong result for the Irish Sailor of the Year.  Here the Royal Cork sailor recounts his race, a game of four quarters.

The first part was light, very light and so light that for long periods we just hung there waiting for something to fill in. The race committee needed three starts to get us all off the line. I had had two great starts in the middle of the line as you can see from the photo, but the third was not my best. The line was short for 38 boats and that makes it even more critical to get off in good shape. I really struggled to get going on the first beat and as the wind was dying I struggled more. By the time I got to the first mark I was one of the tail-enders and it was looking like a long race. But I've learnt from last year that these races often yield real opportunities to get back into it. This 270-mile race, with two laps of a figure of eight course around the island of Yeu and Ré passing by a gate in Les Sables in the middle, was going to be full of transitions, corners and lots of tidal things to manage. On top of that a ridge of High pressure was going to pass overhead from the North to the South.

The ridge axis was overhead at ile d'Yeu in the middle of the night and with a cardinal mark right on the shore to go round, plus plenty of unlit fish-farms to get around and a nice knot or so of current, navigation was tricky. I approached almost last into here and found most of the fleet already anchored struggling to get around the buoy. So I was back in the group now and stayed close to others for the next legs, which took us back to les Sables through dawn on Friday.

By mid-afternoon the ridge was well and truly to the South of us putting us in a decent Northerly wind that slowly moved to the North west over the rest of the race and stayed always above 12 knots. I slept nicely on the straight line downwind legs and pulled back into the next group on the beat away from the bridge at ile de Ré. The boat is going well and I was comfortable with all parts of my game, navigation, tactics and speed. Now it was just a case of staying in the match through the second night, and not burn out. I could see that others had dropped off the race pace and I suppose my experience from last season is really starting to drop into use now.

It was a tough second part of the race and it is always tough going into a second night at sea but I'm really pleased with how it went. I crossed the finish line this morning in 19th place but hear as I come ashore that two boats that were ahead of me get the mandatory two hour time penalty for being over the line in the last minute to the start. So I finished 17th out of 35 boats, which if I'm not mistaken is officially the top half of the fleet!

Looking forward to the next big race, which is in six weeks in Concarneau. Between now and then I'll deliver the boat back to Lorient this evening after the rugby match and the prizegiving and then we have some more coaching sessions with Tanguy Leglattin in April. I'll also be working on my fundraising too as I haven't yet reached my budget commitments for the year.

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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