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Kenefick Well Placed on Cork Coast as La Solitaire Race Passes Ireland

16th June 2014
Kenefick Well Placed on Cork Coast as La Solitaire Race Passes Ireland

#fullrish – The La Solitaire du Figaro fleet which includes  sole Irish entry David Kenefick's 'Full Irish' has been racing hard for 33 hours now and although it hasn't been hard physically it has been a drain on the mental side as the leaders stretched out nicely ahead of the back markers since leaving Plymouth writes Marcus Hutchinson.

The start, originally scheduled for 18:30 had to be delayed due to the dropping sea breeze and the tardy return of the gradient wind.

David made a great start at the pin end again but rounded the top mark in the pack. In the failing light the second short upwind leg in Plymouth Sound gave the first real tactical choice and David leapt at it taking the left hand side of the course out of the tide and with several other boats rounded the last upwind mark in the top ten.

The long leg across from Prawle Point to The Lizard in the Northerly gave the fleet the chance to decide how close to the Lizard they would sail as they headed West. Too close, inspite of a favourable tide, would mean sailing into the wind shadow of this high point, too far South and there would be a lot of extra distance sailed. In the end the Southerly option paid handsomely and unfortunately for David he missed out on this and dropped back into the mid-20s again.

The Scilly Isles and the TSS around them were the next obstacle and spinnakers were dropped around the lonely islands before the fleet headed out across the Irish Sea.

The leaders pulled further ahead for most of Sunday but as the first boats got half way across the wind started to drop in front and the rest of the fleet caught up.

At first light on Monday on approaching the Irish coast pretty much the whole fleet was in sight of each other.

First around the Stags Buoy was Yann Elies at 07:00 and a simple broad reach for the 15 miles down to the Fastnet Rock followed. David's dad and brother along with Afloat.ie photographer Bob Bateman came out to see him and get some shots. Hopefully these will make it back to Afloat quickly to go with this story.

The Fastnet marks the halfway point for this leg and the first boats around are likely to stretch out again as the reach back to France in a slowly building breeze.

ETA at the finish in Roscoff is currently Wednesday morning.

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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