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Kenefick Makes Solid Start on Leg Three of La Solitaire Du Figaro

23rd June 2014
Kenefick Makes Solid Start on Leg Three of La Solitaire Du Figaro

The morning after the first night at sea on leg three of the La Solitaire Du Figaro Cork's David Kenefick is in 14th place as the fleet of 37 Figaros race across the West of Brittany and past the Glenan Islands on their way to Belle Ile writes Marcus Hutchinson.

The start yesterday afternoon in 18 knots of breeze from the North East gave spectacular sailing conditions and it wasn't long before the whole fleet was racing at speed downwind with spinnakers up. The North Easterly is forecast to stay with the fleet for most of the next couple of days with just a few transitions in and out of sea breeze which will need to be handled carefully.

David has had a solid first part of the race and will be happy to be still in the mix this morning. Overnight the lead has gone to Britain's Sam Goodchild as the fleet passed through the Raz de Sein and past Audierne and PenMarch.

The fleet will leave the coast past Belle Ile this afternoon and head out into the middle of the Bay of Biscay to a weather buoy 150 miles offshore.

This buoy will prove to be tricky to find as it is moored in 4000 metres of water and has a mooring chain of nearly 12000 metres which means it 'wanders' a bit! The long term forecasts, the only information the skippers can leave with, are still fairly vague on exactly what the wind will do and hence it will be difficult to make strategies other than conservative ones for this leg. For now it is about speed and getting as much sleep as possible so as to be able to think straight when the important decisions need to be made.

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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