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David Kenefick's Long, Light Leg Three of La Solitaire Du Figaro

26th June 2014
David Kenefick's Long, Light Leg Three of La Solitaire Du Figaro

#fullrish – Solo Irish sailor David Kenefick sends Afloat.ie this update from Leg three of  the La Solitaire Du Figaro race

That was tough, frustrating and it seemed to be long but in fact it wasn't excessive. I started nicely at the pin end and sailed a good inshore part of the course and enjoyed the fight. I find that its so much easier to start the at the pin end and make your way safely to the left of the course before the approach to the top of the course. If the line is biased to the left it works really well, if the line is neutral or tot the right there is plenty of room and you totally stay out of trouble and the worst position you'll have at the top mark is in the teens.

The first legs are always long, over two miles and I like to get settled into sailing fast upwind straight away and not being compromised by too many boats around me. But alas the Figaro is not about being well placed after an hour, its about being well placed after 72-100 hours. To be well placed though it helps to be in the front pack at the beginning because it is rare that the back-markers get all the way back to the front. I'm in fifth place overall for the inshore prize. Once in the front pack then it is all about two things, risk management and boatspeed. Boatspeed doesn't always come easily in a One Design class like this, there simply is no shortage of experience which I'm still looking to accumulate.

Risk management is a nice way of saying don't lose touch by going away from the group you are with. The race is about attrition. Over the days and nights the fleet gets spread out, its natural and its because you miss things or you are tired and not sailing at your best. If you manage to stay with the pack and sleep and stay sharp you will manage to last longer in the pack. Its taken me a while to work all this out, two years now and Leg 3 was going well for the first 24 hours. It got pretty complicated at Belle Ile where there was an almighty park up but I managed to get away in about the same place that I came into it.

The run offshore to ODAS was going well for me too but at around eight the next morning the boats just a few hundred metres ahead of us seemed to just get something first and started to sail away from everybody else. Very quickly this was a break and our group, the bulk of the fleet got left behind. It was terrible because there was nothing we could do except be philosophical about it.

At one stage the leading group was more than five hours ahead of us. 24 hours later and we had an opportunity to close the gap down when the leaders ran out of wind close to Ile de Ré on the last segment to the finish. We didn't pass them but the gap went back to one hour instead of five.

I finished mid-morning, I'm shattered and burnt and hungry. We have just over two days to turn it around and head back out again for the final leg to Cherbourg which starts on Sunday.

But tonight a Comptoir Irlandais Whiskey tasting event with my sponsors and fellow skippers.



Published in Figaro
Afloat.ie Team

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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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