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Mayo Solo Sailor Joan Mulloy Makes Progress Towards Figaro Race

14th January 2018
Joan Mulloy on her way back to Dun Laoghaire from Cowes in her Figaro race yacht Joan Mulloy on her way back to Dun Laoghaire from Cowes in her Figaro race yacht

At 18.00 on a cold Friday January evening, west of Ireland solo sailor Joan Mulloy tied up her new Figaro II up in Dun Laoghaire after a 48–hour sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

In what is a first for an Irish sailing, a female sailor is now one step closer to competing in what is often described as the most competitive solo race series in the world, the Solitaire du Figaro.

Joan has a  CV that begins with long hours working on the family mussel farm in Clew Bay, and then goes on to include professional engineering roles and in more recent times some sailing adventures and technical positions.

On her arrival in Ireland Joan said: “Having worked on other solo campaigns for the past few years it is a dream come true to now be at the helm of my own boat. We are a long way from the starting line and the goal now is to engage sponsors and supporters during our time in Ireland in order to allow me and my team to map out the season ahead.”
Joan is hopeful of securing a number of sponsors and partners that will then dictate the season ahead. To date a number of private individuals and companies have helped her get to this point but a lot more funding is required in the coming months.

The season will include various activation events for the sponsors along with intensive Figaro training in France and off the west coast of Ireland. The highlight of the season will be competing against approximately 40 other identical Figaro II boats in August off the north coast of France. Amongst Joan’s competition will be Vendee Globe skippers, mini transat sailors and aspiring solo circumnavigators.

Joan’s campaign is managed under the ‘Team Ireland’ brand first associated with Enda O’Coineen’s Vendee Globe entry. According to a statement,Team Ireland says 'it is providing the professional platform for solo sailors that will enable companies to have the confidence to back these exciting ventures'. Gregor McGuckin’s Golden Globe Race entry is also receiving support from Team Ireland as the countdown to that epic race draws near.

Joan will be in Dublin for the coming weeks and is welcoming anyone interested to come down and visit the boat. There will also be sailing opportunities for supporters and prospective sponsors. 

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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.

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)

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