Ireland will host the 50th Figaro Race 6th/ 9th June next. Two Irish Skippers, Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan will compete in the event that for the first time features a new foiler one-design boat. Full details were announced on Thursday in Cork by Jack Roy, President of Irish Sailing.
The Figaro has been described as the “ Tour de France” on the ocean. It will be organised by a locally based voluntary committee, chaired by Tony Small assisted by EnCircle Na Farraige, an event management company. It will also be supported by the Atlantic Youth Trust, whose mission is to connect youth with the ocean and adventure with a schools youth activation programme promoting the Figaro, Seafest and the maritime.
“It's exciting and will be a major boost for Kinsale, Cork and Seafest. And now, that we have won the opportunity to host the event, it's critical now to win the support of all tourism, business and community interests in the area” Tony Small said. He added that facilities to be provided by Castlepark Marina and the positive attitude of the business community in Kinsale was great, but it now needs to be converted to action.
“Being the 50th running of the event I remember it as a child, sailing my Mirror when these amazing Figaro sailors arrived?” Ciaran Fitzgerald, Kinsale Chamber and of the Blue Haven said.
Spread over a month, The Figaro route is tough. The first leg is 550 miles from Nantes and around the Fastnet Rock to Kinsale. From here a short prologue to Cork Harbour and then its 615 miles around the Isle of man Roscoff. From here it’s a 450 mile Channel course around the Scilly Isles and Jersey back to Roscoff and then a final 450-mile leg to Dieppe for a Grand Finale.
In the build-up to the event, it is hoped that Schools Programme around Cork and Munster will visit schools to promote the event, backed with a social media campaign, print and digital activation. This would be co-ordinated through the Atlantic Youth Trust Charity. Also, it is hoped to bring maritime interests together and the backing of the Department of Marine, the Cork City Council Seafest organizers and Irish sailing and adventure sport tourism interests.
The idea is that on Sunday 9th a June a major on-the-water spectacle in Cork Harbour and Kinsale will be created. The Figaro Fleet would depart Kinsale in the morning in a Prologue Race to Cork Harbour. Each professional Figaro Skipper would have a group of selected Youth from the Schools Programme for the opportunity of a lifetime. Then in Cork Harbour, the youth would be taken off by rib and the major race would start with a plan to mobilize on the water every boat and it is hoped one of the Irish TV channels will televise it live,
The solo offshore sailing world has three or four flagship events, such as the Vendée Globe the Route du Rhum and the Mini Transat, but without question, the senior race amongst them all is the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. In 2019 the event will celebrate its 50th edition, and the race will be sailed in the brand new Figaro Beneteau 3 One Design Class
The annual event’s competition format is unusual in that it features four legs, each lasting three to four days, with a two to three-day stopover between each restart. The event is scored on cumulative elapsed time, that is to say, that the combined times for each competitor over the four legs will decide the final ranking.
Initially backed by the French national newspaper Le Figaro the goal at the time was to sell newspapers during the summer months with the amazing stories of the solo sailors. Fifty years later the event draws major coverage across all media. A professional sport and significant industry has grown up around this event over the past five decades, most French offshore sailing stars, now household names, have in turn gone on to win the other major solo offshore races from the experience and notoriety they gained competing in the ‘mother of all’ singlehanded offshore events.
Today the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro represents the pinnacle of the singlehanded offshore sailing sport, with teams training year round. The competition is sailed in identical 30 foot long One Design boats. The race is physically and mentally challenging with skippers needing to remain alert and on deck for the entire period, often getting little more than 2 to 3 hours sleep every 24 hours in little bursts of 10 minutes at a time.
The technologies used today are a far cry from even 20 years ago, with boats and sails built using advanced composites, skippers needing to be adept at getting the most from their powerful on board computers and software, used to optimise navigation and on board weather forecasting (no outside assistance is allowed), along with highly sophisticated autopilot systems. Significantly one of the spinoffs of the race over the years has been the development of safety equipment and seamanship techniques that are now widely adopted across all walks of the professional and leisure boating industry.
This year with the arrival of the new class of boat, the Figaro Beneteau 3, a foil-assisted lightweight high speed design, many of the past winners have decided to return to the class to line up against the newcomers and the class stalwarts.
The race has a strong affinity with Irish sailing too, not just because of visiting Irish waters but because six different Irish skippers have competed with distinction in the event over the past 30 years. This year two Irish skippers - Westport’s Joan Mulloy and Mullingar’s Tom Dolan - will both be competing for the second time. Other Irish skippers that have competed include Damian Foxall, Marcus Hutchinson, Paul O’Rian and David Kenefick.
Kinsale welcomes the event with open arms. The first boats to finish in Kinsale are expected sometime late on Wednesday 5th June. The skippers will relax and recover from the 600-mile leg from Nantes in France before making final arrangements for the start of Leg 2 from Kinsale to Roscoff in Northern France, which will take place on Sunday 9th June. Each skipper is supported by shore crew including technicians and press officers at each stopover, and when added to the race organisation staff the travelling caravan consists of more than 250 people. The pontoons where the fleet will be moored will be open to the public and the prizegiving ceremonies will take place at Market Square – likewise, on the Sunday Race start, a major spectacle in Cork Harbour will be created.
Further information Donal Small [email protected] and mobile: + 353831831057