At 1300 CET on Sunday 19th June, Leg 1 of the 2016 Solitaire du Figaro will kick off from the historic French town of Deauville. Unfortunately, for Irish fans, after a string of Irish stopovers at Howth, Crosshaven, Dingle, Kinsale and most recently Dun Laoghaire there will be no Irish stopover this year nor is there any Irish sailor involved.
As many as 40 brave skippers are expected on the Solitaire start line next year, as a fleet formed of the world's best ocean racers and ambitious young Rookies prepares to take on 1,525 miles of Europe's roughest waters - single-handed.
"This edition of the Solitaire will be particularly challenging," Race Director Gilles Chiorri explained. "The coastal route will throw the game wide open, with skippers left to decide whether to stay closer to shore or go further offshore. To be successful around this course, the competitors will need seasoned offshore experience and tactical intelligence, enabling them to play the tides and weather to their advantage."
Director Mathieu Sarrot: "As 2016 is a Vendee Globe year, the Solitaire's most experienced skippers may be absent. This means the stakes will be high among the intermediate skippers, the skippers who consistently finish top 10 on a leg, but can't quite out sail the Yann Elies and Jeremie Beyous among the fleet. This is the year of the Solitaire regulars, their time to shine."
The 2016 course - 1,525nm:
Leg 1: Deauville - Isle of Wight Cowes (via Wolf Rock), 510nm
Leg 2: Isle of Wight Cowes - Paimpol (via Lands End and the Celtic Sea), 475nm
Leg 3: Paimpol - La Rochelle, 410nm
Leg 4: La Rochelle - La Rochelle (via the Ile d'Yeu), 130nm