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Three Irish Skippers Will Have Light Winds Start To 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro Today

21st August 2022
The young talents and top internationals set to shine on the 53rd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro include three Irish skippers; Conor Fogerty, Kenny Rumball and Tom Dolan
Young talents and top internationals set to shine on the 53rd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro include three Irish skippers Conor Fogerty, Kenny Rumball and Tom Dolan Credit: Alexis Courcoux

The 34 skippers of the 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro and their Figaro Beneteau 3s left Nantes on Saturday, August 20th lunchtime and to sail down to Saint-Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire. They docked there for the night making ready for Sunday’s start off Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef at 1540hrs local time.

Winds for the start of the 644 miles Stage 1 north to Skokholm island off Wales Pembroke coast look set to be light, the precursor to what looks like a complicated leg with many transitions and several small weather features to negotiate.

As previously reported, Ireland is fielding three (not two as reported elsewhere) for the marathon solo race.  French-based Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) moved to France 12 years ago to pursue his dreams of top level solo racing. He scored a fifth overall in 2020, the best finish by any non-French skipper for nearly 20 years and is looking to go better this time after a disappointing 16th last year.

Dun Laoghaire’s sailing coach, sailing school owner Kenny Rumball (Offshore Racing Academy), 35 is back for a second attempt after racing as a rookie in 2020. And Howth entrepreneur and amateur offshore racer Conor Fogerty, 51, (Immunex365.co.uk) is out to complete La Solitaire du Figaro for the first time as a learning experience.

Yann Chateau, 43, is the new Race Director of La Solitaire du Figaro taking charge of this edition after the baton was passed from Francis Le Goff with whom he served as Assistant for many years.

Yann Chateau says, “The conditions will be quite calm at the start with a moderate to weak wind flow from west to southwest between 6 and 10 knots. The boats will move west and west of Sein with a first night that is still fairly calm. Then, they will progress a little more quickly towards the Celtic Sea in winds of 10 to 15 knots. For the moment, there is a little uncertainty on the return with a transition phase which is not well modelled".

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.

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