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Figaro “Final Sprint” is an Intense Slow Burner  

14th September 2018
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Ireland’s Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa (15) on port tack shortly after the start Ireland’s Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa (15) on port tack shortly after the start Photo: Alex Courcoux

The final 165-mile stage of the Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018 – which began last night at 1830 hrs - is envisaged as a sprint of less than 24 hours in which the 36 solo skippers will do entirely without sleep as they make the final push to prove who is King of the Bay writes W M Nixon. But with light nor’east winds and localised calms persisting, the pace has sometimes been less than blistering, though the concentration is always white hot. The course, which starts and finishes at Saint Gilles Croix de Vie and includes a couple of westerly turning marks well out at sea on the north-going leg, is a clockwise circuit to include the Ile de Re to the south and the Ile d’Yeu to the north.

At the start after its short first windward leg, there was a theory circulating that slightly stronger winds might be found offshore for the leg to Ile de Re, and Ireland’s Joan Mulloy with Taste the Atlantic and Scotland’s Alan Roberts were in a group taking this option. But it proved to be a false trail, and by the time the front runners were passing Les Sables d’Olonne eight miles down the coast, the inshore leader Charlie Dalin had a couple of miles in hand on those offshore.

For Dalin, a good result in this concluding Stage 4 is important, as he had a frustrating performance in the long Stage 3 from northwest Spain to Saint-Gilles. He has a new IMOCA 60 in build for the 2020 Golden Globe, and sponsors need encouragement at the stage, something which they’re having in abundance with Simon Sebastien, current overall leader, who likewise has an IMOCA 60 on the way for 2020’s big one.

"Joan Mulloy has picked up a place to 34th"

Ireland’s Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa stayed with the inshore fleet, but found difficulty in hitting the pace he’d built up in Stage 3 when he was 11th overall and First Rookie, and off Les Sables he was back in 21st. This morning, with the fleet in the north-going sections up to Ile d’Yeu after the at-times challenging rounding of the Ile de Re, Dolan may be shown in 20th and making 6 knots. But he is only 2.6 miles astern of the current leader Benjamin Dutreux, who has Anthony Marchane and Charlie Dalin close by in second and third they beat to windward towards the Ile d’Yeu after putting the most westerly mark astern.

joan Mulloy FigaroJoan Mulloy prepares for the final start Photo: Alex Courcoux

Meanwhile, Joan Mulloy has picked up a place to 34th, she has the westerly mark astern and is on the wind beating for Ile d’Yeu with 6.6 knots on the clock.

Race Tracker here

Published in Figaro
WM Nixon

About The Author

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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