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Ireland’s Joan Mulloy Encouraged by Special Adversity Award from Spain as Figaro fleet Race Stage 3 Back to France

9th September 2018
An emotional moment – Ireland’s Joan Mulloy receives her Special Award for overcoming adversity from the communities of Ria de Muros An emotional moment – Ireland’s Joan Mulloy receives her Special Award for overcoming adversity from the communities of Ria de Muros Photo: Daria Blackwell

Joan Mulloy of Mayo overcame the setback of a broken main halyard to get back in the hunt in Stage 2 of the Solo URGO Figaro from Saint Brieuc in Brittany across the Bay of Biscay to Ria de Muros in northwest Spain, and on Friday – the fleet’s final full day in a Spanish port – her spirited approach was rewarded at an emotional ceremony with a special Adversity Award from the local community of €1,000 writes W M Nixon.

Yesterday’s start of Stage 3 back round Cape Finisterre and northeastward to Saint Gilles Croix de Vie on France’s Biscay Coast was delayed by local calms, and when the fleet finally got away it was to race a course shortened by 30 miles to make it 410 miles – straight to Ile d’Yeu, then the short hop to St Gilles, with the expectation of calms in the middle of Bay of Biscay dictating this distance reduction.

But off northwest Spain, once the breeze settled in it became the inevitable north to northeast wind which prevails at Finisterre in summer, and generally, the fleet kept in a close group with short tacks as each tiny curve in the coastline favoured one tack over another. However, off Corme early this morning, one group decided to take a more marked stab offshore, and it paid, so much so that fancied Scottish sailor Alan Roberts – usually a front-runner – found himself back in 35th position through staying inshore, and among those ahead of him was the reinvigorated Joan Mulloy.

Ireland’s Tom Dolan has been doing even better, finding good speed to stay with the offshore group, and as of 1430hrs this afternoon, the leaders are due north of Coruna, with Frederic Duthil on Technique Voile in the lead with 325 miles still to sail and a speed of 6.8 knots, while Tom Dolan is in 12th place, just 2.5 miles astern of Duthil, and for the moment marginally slower at 6.4 knots but though the morning he had been pushing 7.

Nevertheless the reality is that the entire fleet have been benefiting from the localised northeasters off Galicia – there’s a great big gap in the wind between their present location and Saint Gilles.

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Published in Figaro
WM Nixon

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WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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 celebrates 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.

The race has previously called to Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

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 will have two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who join the rookie ranks and keep the Irish tricolour flying high in France. 

The 2019 course is more Than 2,000 miles between Nantes, Kinsale (Ireland), Roscoff and Dieppe and is the longest in the race's history.


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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