Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Solo Sailor David Kenefick Completes Second Figaro Race

3rd July 2014
Solo Sailor David Kenefick Completes Second Figaro Race

#fullrish –  Irish solo sailor David Kenefick shares some thoughts at the end of his second Figaro which I finished yesterday in Cherbourg.

The season

This was my second year and my biggest take out from the first year was to keep it as simple as possible. This is already a complicated project without making it harder for myself. Looking back at it now I am pretty satisfied that I wouldn't have changed anything in my preparation if I had to do it again.

I set myself the primary objective of wanting say to myself that I was satisfied with my season and my race when the project was done. Here I am the day after finishing my second Figaro season, four Fastnet races in a month singlehanded on a 32-foot boat SATISFIED. No question about it.

At the beginning of the year I realized I had a 50% chance of doing better than last year's result (28th). I know I sailed much better this year, I was confident with the boat, I had my moments of brilliance that lasted sometimes five minutes sometimes a whole afternoon, sometimes across a couple of days. I know it is about the result at the finish but I also knew inside myself that I sailed well most of the time.

I finished 23rd this year and I know exactly where I made mistakes and exactly how much they cost me. I also understand more and more why this race is so special and so tough. Jeremy Beyou won this year's race, his third victory in 13 attempts. He told me last night it took him nine years to get on the podium for the first time! My biggest lesson this year is quite how hard it is to do well, much harder than I thought this time last year and before I ever began I had no idea what this was about. But that is what makes it special, until you have done it you can't possibly imagine what its really about. Only people who have done the race will understand what I am talking about.
The whole experience was much more enjoyable than last year, of course because I had a vague idea of what I was getting into. Interestingly I slept a lot less this year during the race than last year but I know I am fresher now than this time last year.

Highlights and low points

Without a doubt the start at Deauville was my highlight. Nailing the pin end and rounding the top mark in third and holding all the way round the inshore course until out of sight of land was pretty special. Having my Dad Neil in the spectator fleet there too, watching made it extra special because the whole family has supported me so much in this project.
Probably the next high point was the exciting reach towards the Chausée de Sein in Leg 3. The weather wasn't very nice, drizzle, misty, all a bit tired but the boat going fast in a nice breeze with the big spinnaker set. Then we were hit by a big squall of over 35 knots. Luckily I had put my ballast snorkel down and so the boat filled up with water on the right side just in time and I just hung on driving it hard through the waves at ridiculous speeds on the edge of control whilst most boats around dropped their kites or broached out of control. I noticed Alan Gautier (a past Vendée Globe and Figaro winner) and Xavier Maquaire (2nd in Figaro last year) amongst these boats. I survived the squall, made the mark, gained some places and had a great buzz inside that I had controlled the situation well and made the most of it. Those are the kind of memories you will keep forever.
Then the low points, the scary moments. The first really downer was in leg three approach the BXA mark near Bordeaux. We had been at sea for three days and three nights at that stage, everyone was shattered. I was three miles from the mark which was a 90 degree turn to the North. Normally you are wide awake on the approach to the marks as there are plenty of things about to happen. Anyway, one of our fellow competitors Thierry Chabignet just sailed right past the mark and headed on towards the shore. No one could contact him and his boat sailed on for 30 minutes before we knew what was going on. The only reason that someone doesn't respond or sails past a mark is because they are not on the boat. We all had visions of Thierry floating past us in the water as we approached the mark. One of the escort boats finally got up close to his boat, he woke up and immeadiately put the boat back on course. It turns out he had slept through his alarm his boat had sailed the right side of the mark and just kept going.
On my own boat the scariest moment was on the last morning. We were approaching the West side of Guernsey to get out of the tide. Sailing upwind I had decided to get 15 minutes head down and I must have slept too long. I woke up with a start went up on deck and I swear I was doing six knots two or three boat lengths from a big rock sticking out of the water!!!!
Crash tack, ballast and jib on the wrong side but I saved it. I'm sure my keel was in the weed! If I had slept for 10 seconds more it would have ended differently. Of course on recovering from that I had to tack straight back into the rocks to get out of the tide again, but not sleeping again until last night when I finally got ashore.
The race is rich with stories like this. They are shared with all other competitors and everyone has their's to tell.


It's dangerous to comment on the future the day after you finish this race. I will definitely do this race again. Not sure when but it is too special not to want to do it again. But for now I need to reflect on a lot of things in life. I need some time to recover and reflect on the last 18 months of my life, which frankly have been a whirlwind. I'm a bit tired of being alone and eating meals on my own. I need to reintegrate into society a bit for a while. Right now I have absolutely nothing planned after next week. This is probably the first time in my adult life that this has been the case, a weird feeling but great too.
I will repeat saying this until the day I die, you just can't describe how special this race is. It is brutally hard. Alan Gautier and Jeremie Beyou will tell you it is way tougher than the Vendée Globe, their words not mine. Racing against a clock makes it weird. Anyone out there needs a real mental and physical challenge in their lives needs to tackle this scene. The sense of community amongst the sailors at sea and ashore is also unique. Friends for life, respect for life.

Published in Figaro Team

About The Author Team

Email The Author is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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.

2023 La Solitaire du Figaro Course

Stage #1 Caen – Kinsale : 610 nautical miles
Departure August 27 (expected arrival August 30)

Stage #2 Kinsale – Baie de Morlaix : 630 nautical miles
Departure September 3 (expected arrival September 6)

Stage #3 Baie de Morlaix – Piriac-sur-Mer : 620 nautical miles
Departure September 10 (expected arrival September 13)

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2023

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating