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La Solitaire du Figaro Yacht Race. French Solo Sailing Event News

Following last year’s performance of ‘Flying Irishman’ Tom Dolan and pioneering woman Joan Mulloy in their Solitaire du Figaro debuts, now the renowned solo offshore race is coming to Ireland.

The Solitaire URGO Le Figaro is set to return to Kinsale this summer for the first time since 2009 for its 50th gala edition, with a course that takes in a rounding of Fastnet Rock to Kinsale on the weekend of 8-9 June to end its first leg out of Nantes.

The racing fleet continues on a “marathon run” around the Irish coast through the Irish Sea, around the Isle of Man and back down the west coast of Great Britain to Roscoff in northern France.

Stage three is a loop of ‘La Manche’ back to Roscoff before the final stage, via Wolf Rock and the Isle of Wight, to Dieppe. In all the course covers 2,130 miles (not accounting for weather-related changes).

Tom Dolan has already pledged his return for his second Figaro, this time in his new Figaro 3 boat, while the presence of Joan Mulloy — Ireland’s first female entry in the race — will further buoy Irish interest in the challenge as it takes in our coast.

Dolan tells Afloat.ie that he is “itching to get going after three months of computers and meetings!”

Solitaire 2019 route

Race organisers add: 

The Solitaire URGO Le Figaro is set to enter a new era this year, with the introduction of the new Figaro Bénéteau 3 for the 50th edition of the annual solo sailing race. Starting from the French city of Nantes on June 2nd, 2,130 nautical miles of challenging offshore racing around some of Europe’s roughest waters await the Figaro skippers, including a return to Ireland with a stopover in Kinsale.

Owned and organised by OC Sport’s French subsidiary OC Sport Penduick, the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro is one of the world’s toughest sailing competitions. Fiercely competitive, the race is recognised as the unofficial world championship of solo offshore racing, with the course taking just over a month to complete. Requiring a unique skill set, the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro pushes competitors to the edges of their physical and mental limits.

OC Sport Pen Duick Event Director Mathieu Sarrot commented: “This anniversary year of the Solitaire is set to be an historic edition and we are expecting a diverse fleet including previous winners and new comers to the new Figaro Bénéteau 3. This means the stakes will be high with everyone out to prove themselves in a new boat.

“On the water it will be particularly challenging,” Sarrot continued. “To be successful the competitors will need seasoned offshore experience as well as coastal knowledge. But also sheer grit and determination. With the ongoing support of our title partner URGO, it’s set to be an incredible 50th edition."

The fleet will start leg 1 under the striking bridge of Saint-Nazaire following a passage through the river Loire from the historic city of Nantes in Brittany. After rounding Île d’ Yeu, they will head across the Celtic Sea before passing the legendary Fastnet Rock and heading to the port of Kinsale, Ireland. At 500 nautical miles, the fleet will be immersed in a tough race from the off with a drag race through potentially choppy seas to keep the solo skippers on their toes before they arrive in Irish waters.

Speaking on behalf of the Kinsale Chamber of Tourism and Business, Board Member Ciaran Fitzgerald and Chairperson Guny Patel commented: “Kinsale Chamber is delighted with the announcement that the 50th Anniversary of the prestigious La Solitaire Le Figaro yacht race has been awarded to Kinsale for June 2019.

“This is an amazing event for Kinsale to host and welcome back having hosted this world famous single handed race more than any Port over the 50 years of the race. Kinsale Chamber looks forward to welcoming the sailors and visitors for what will be an incredible spectacle on sea and land over the five days of the stopover. Congratulation to Enda O'Coineen and his team for bringing this event to Ireland.”

Expected to arrive in Kinsale on Wednesday 5th June, the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro fleet will stay in Ireland until Sunday 9th June, when the skippers will set sail on the longest 630-nautical mile Leg 2 to Roscoff in northern Brittany. In a first for the Figaro fleet, this marathon stage will take the skippers along the stunning Irish coast and through the unpredictable, and at times dangerous, Irish sea before rounding the Isle of Man. A long descent along the rugged western Welsh coast, followed by a passage between Land's End and the Scilly Isles, before a crossing of the English Channel towards Roscoff will conclude what is sure to be a gruelling leg.

From Roscoff, the fleet will stay in the familiar waters of Brittany where they will tackle a 450 nautical mile coastal course that will require them to use all of their technical and tactical prowess in the strong tidal currents, before returning to Roscoff on Wednesday 19th June.

To end the 2019 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, the increasingly exhausted fleet have a double Channel crossing to contend with. At 500 nautical miles, the final leg will see the competitors leave Roscoff on Saturday 22nd June to head across the channel towards Land’s End via a starboard rounding of the south cardinal navigation mark off Portsall. From there, they will have to negotiate the difficult conditions along the south coast of England before skirting the Isle of Wight, and crossing back into French waters through one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. With fast depleting energy, the skippers will need to keep their wits about them as they head to a mark off Barfleur, before the final sprint into the Normandy fishing port of Dieppe.

The skippers are expected to arrive in Dieppe on Wednesday 26th June, with a non-points scoring postlogue race planned for Saturday 29th June allowing the public to see the new Figaro Bénéteau 3’s in action before the official prize giving where the winner of the 2019 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro will be crowned.

As many as 40 Figaro skippers are expected to compete in this 50th anniversary edition, including former winners alongside a plethora of young talent. At 2,130 nm, the 2019 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro course is one of the longest in race history and it will take everything in the skippers’ solo offshore arsenal to get them to the finish line.

With just over five months to go until the build-up begins in Nantes, the skippers will be using this valuable time to take delivery and train on their new Figaro Bénéteau 3’s. A full skippers line-up will be revealed in April.

La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro 2019 Schedule

May 27th: Arrival of the fleet in Nantes, France
June 2nd, Leg 1 start: Nantes, France – Kinsale, Ireland (via Fastnet Rock) – 500nm
June 9th, Leg 2 start: Kinsale, Ireland – Roscoff, France (via the Isle of Man) – 360nm
June 16th, Leg 3 start: Roscoff, France – Roscoff, France - 450nm
June 22nd, Leg 4 start: Roscoff, France – Dieppe, France – 460nm
June 26th: Anticipated arrival of first boats in Dieppe
June 29th: Postlogue and awards ceremony in Dieppe

Published in Solo Sailing

Irish female solo sailor Joan Mulloy has made a fundraising bid for her La Solitaire Urgo le Figaro campaign next season. Mulloy, who became the first Irish woman to compete in the Figaro this year is seeking €350k in sponsorship that includes naming rights to the racing yacht for the title sponsor.

It is another step towards her ultimate goal of competing in the French-based Vendee Globe 2020, the single-handed non-stop round the world race widely regarded as the Everest of offshore sailing with a campaign cost of €3.5m.

The Irish rookie completed the arduous four stage 2018 Figaro course along the French coast, finishing 28th from 36 starters. 

No Irish sailor has ever completed the Vendee Globe, and until 2017 no one had ever competed in the race.

Galway sailor Enda O'Coineen changed that in the last edition when he made it halfway around the world before being dismasted. He then repaired his rig and 'unofficially' completed the race by sailing the boat home and crossing the Les Sables d'Olonne finish line.

As part of Mulloy's sponsorship package is an affiliation with O'Coineen's Atlantic Youth Trust Charity. Mulloy also tells potential sponsors of the opportunities for international media coverage and a 'highly effective PR campaign'. Details were given in a 'commercial profile' in yesterday's Sunday Business Post newspaper.

Although she qualified for an important Vendee Globe qualifier last November, Mulloy did not compete in the Transatlantic Route du Rhum race citing lack of sponsorship for her withdrawal.

Published in Solo Sailing

Figaro Sailor Joan Mulloy from County Mayo sailed into the Royal Irish Yacht Club at Dun Laoghaire today fresh from her exploits in France where she became the first Irish woman to complete the famous French Solo Race.

It looks as though plans for Vendee Globe 2020 participation were set back for Mulloy recently, however. Despite making the qualifying standard for next month's Vendee Globe qualifier, the Route du Rhum, she will not now be on the start line due to lack of sponsorship, according to team management.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Mulloy was scheduled to speak last night at Mayo Sailing Club on her ambitions to be the first woman in the solo non–stop round the world race.

Published in Solo Sailing

Joan Mulloy will be at Mayo Sailing Club Friday, the 5th October at 7 pm to give a presentation about her recent experience in the single-handed endurance Solitaire du Figaro race, her other sailing and her ambition to go all the way around the planet in the Vendee Globe Race.

All are welcome. Joan is a great Ambassador for Ireland and we are all very proud to have someone participating at the very top level of international sailing.

Admission is €25 adults and €10 Juniors/Students.

A taste of the Atlantic mussel dinner and a glass of wine “compliments of the Mulloy family” are included. There will also be an open bar.

All proceeds will go towards Joan Mulloy’s Yacht racing project.

Published in Solo Sailing

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.

Rae tracker here

Published in Figaro

#ThisGirlCan has become a rallying cry for Joan Mulloy’s supporters in the Figaro Race writes Alex Blackwell in Galicia.  After suffering a failed main halyard just before the start, which could have meant the end of the leg 2 for her A Taste of the Atlantic entry in the highly competitive and gruelling single-handed La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro Race, Joan returned to base, where her team managed to pull a new halyard through the mast in record time. She returned to the start and clawed her way back into the fleet, which had about a three hour lead on her. 

The Second Leg of the URGO de Figaro required crossing the notorious Bay of Biscay – some 500 miles of strong tides, choppy seas and shifting winds through busy shipping lanes, from France to Spain. The fleet encountered a north-easterly air flow at about 20-25 knots which made for mostly downwind sailing.

Figaro fleetThe Figaro fleet in port Photo: Alex Blackwell

Three packs of sailors chose slightly different tactics. The two leaders from France, Sebastien Simon and Eric Peron, steered for A Coruna staying closer to the coast of Northern Spain, most likely hoping for a wind shift that would sling-shot them past the headland. Peron shadowed Sebastien much of the way. A second grouping heading straight for Finisterre experienced a wind shift forcing them to the west. A third grouping pointed yet farther offshore to avoid the fickle nature of winds at Finisterre, once thought to be the end of the earth.

The wind was forecast to die down to very little past Finisterre, with a slow upwind slog expected up the Ria de Muros y Noia in Galicia to Portosin. Maintaining speed as long as possible was the goal for the fleet. As evening closed in, it appeared that most of the racers would be finishing during the night when the substantial Galician fishing fleet was most active. Media representatives from France, Spain, Great Britain and Ireland settled in for a long night as the race marks for the finish were laid and the race village set up.

Near 3 am the tracking app showed that Sebastien Simon was still in the lead and approaching the finish line at the mole off the Real Club Nautico Portosin. Race officials, photographers and journalists raced off to intercept him as he tacked up the Ria to the finish. Simon crossed the line at 3:05:55, 20 minutes ahead of his rivals with an elapsed time of 2d 14h 05m 55s. Xavier Macaire managed to slip in front of Eric Peron for second place. Seconds separated the two in a gripping fight to the end.

Tom Dolan FigaroTom Dolan at the end of stage two Photo: Alex Blackwell

Meanwhile, Tom Dolan, the veteran Irishman in the race aboard Smurfit Kappa, played a consistent hand for much of the way. He finished as dawn was breaking in 25th place, with an elapsed time of 2d 17h 25m 10s. He had run out of water at some point, having consumed four litres shortly after the start of the leg, and was parched. All he asked for was water. A fellow competitor noted that that was the first time he had heard Tom ask for water after a race.

Joan Mulloy finishes leg two in light winds Photo: Alex BlackwellJoan Mulloy finishes leg two in light winds Photo: Alex Blackwell

Joan Mulloy’s Taste the Atlantic – A Seafood Journey finished at 9:53 in the morning in sunshine and gusty but light conditions. Her elapsed time was 2d 20h 53m 22s. Though exhausted, her grin said it all and she complied with media requests for interviews with a smile and plenty of insight. Asked what it felt like out there, Joan responded without hesitation, “I learned a lot in this race, mostly I learned a lot about myself.” She mentioned that dealing with the fickle conditions and lumpy seas was most challenging. She’d look at the weather forecast, see light air coming, have a bit to eat, then set the spinnaker, only to have the forecast change and she’d have to start all over again.

Joan has become quite the ambassador for BIM and Irish Seafood, a good proportion of which is exported to France. There was a good deal of media interest in her on the docks – particularly after her difficulties at the start. She has also become a major role model for young Irish women who sail and can see themselves in her shoes, plying the seas with the boys from France and Great Britain. #FirstIrishWoman. #Today’sGranuaille. Good natured, skilled, and well spoken, she’s an exceptional ambassador for Ireland overall.

If you want to follow our Irish racers, you can view the race tracker here. The race app, that can be downloaded from Apple and Google Play for Android, is totally addictive. It updates automatically every five minutes if left open. It’s like being out there with them in the cockpit making the calls. But it’s much drier.

Published in Figaro

Just seconds before the start of leg 2 in La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro, Mayo’s Joan Mulloy suffered gear failure that saw her mainsail come crashing down. Luckily, the rules allow for outside assistance to make repairs before a certain point and she spent the remainder of the race playing catch up as the fleet raced across the Bay of Biscay towards Spain.

The setback put Mulloy 3 hours and 20 minutes behind the ultra-competitive fleet as they left the French town of Saint-Brieuc. Meath’s Tom Dolan on his yacht Smurfit Kappa stuck with the group for most of the race and finished in 29th place out of 36 largely French entrants. Mulloy clawed back two places and managed to finish 34th.

Speaking on arrival in Ría de Muros e Noia, Mulloy said, "I had to push really hard for the first 24 hours after the start because of the halyard problem. I had to pull in and get the halyard replaced. I did not sleep at all on the first night and just was chasing, chasing all the time. I was just thinking 'I can do it, I can do it, I can do it’. Every single bay and rock, I was just trying to squeeze the most out of everything. I was just totally determined to be with the pack before Biscay.”

Mulloy and Dolan are the only two Irish entrants in what is considered the most competitive offshore solo race series in the world. In France, it is a firm fixture for aspiring round the world racers with dreams of the Vendée Globe. The most experienced will dedicate years to La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro before progressing to larger boats. Both Mulloy and Dolan are considered ‘Rookies’ as it is their first year competing.

Speaking about the Bay of Biscay Mulloy said: “Biscay was fine 30 knots (of wind) and bumpy, but I think all the time my mind was on Finisterre. It was hard not knowing how I was getting on with the rest of the fleet.”

After two legs Mulloy is lying 27th and Dolan is in 31st following his retirement in leg 1. Leg 3 of this 4 leg series starts on Saturday leaving just a few days for the fleet to recover. The next leg will see the fleet return to French waters ahead of the final leg, a 24 hours sprint that will bring this years event to a conclusion.

Published in Figaro

Joan Mulloy, the first Irishwoman to take up the Figaro Solo challenge in France, has gained a couple of places racing Taste the Atlantic in the second day of Stage 2 to northwest Spain, after being delayed by a broken main halyard at the start off Sain-Brieuc writes W M Nixon. But Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa, having been up at 12th and within 1.5 miles of the leader, has slipped down the rankings through choosing to take the westerly option in the tricky waters between Ushant and the west coast of Brittany.

Anyone who has ever cruised this island-dotted, rock-strewn and tide-riven piece of the ocean will find it a marvel that people are racing single-handed through the midst of it with 36 powerful sailing machines under full spinnaker. But that’s part of the fascination of the way the Figaro race – now with the URGO organisation as co-sponsors - has developed as it works through the count-down towards its Golden Jubilee next year, when the third generation boats - foiling Figaro 3s - will be introduced.

Meanwhile, the Marc Lombard-designed Figaro 2 is centre stage in 2018 for the last time with style and nostalgia, and approaching the northwest point of Brittany at Lampaul early this afternoon, Gildas Mahe was leading. But he elected to continue offshore towards Ushant, while his closest challenger Anthony Marchand – the local hero after winning Stage 1 from Le Havre to his home port of Saint-Brieuc – gybed over to hold south down the coast.

The fleet had soon split into two distinct groups, and it was the inshore racers – led by Marchand and Pierre Leboucher – who did best, for as they have emerged into more open water well west of the Ile de Seine, the inshore group hold the first 15 places with its leaders shown as 5.2 miles clear ahead of the leaders of the offshore division, which included Tom Dolan with his placing now fluctuating in the 20s.

With winds steady from the northeast, progress is now more or less on rails, with any gains being fractional and hard-earned. The indications are that the mainly nor’east winds will continue across the Bay of Biscay. But the possibility of a low-pressure area developing over northwest Spain could make things more complex towards the finish, with a tricky beat into the Ria de Muros and up to the finish at Portosin being a final challenge for exhausted sailors.

Race tracker here

Published in Figaro

A broken main halyard at the start delayed Joan Mulloy’s departure yesterday in Stage 2 of the Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018, but Ireland’s other entry Tom Dolan is snapping at the heels of the top ten in this Stage, which started yesterday off St Brieuc in Northern Brittany and crosses the Bay of Biscay to northwest Spain writes W M Nixon. With fair mainly east to northeast winds off the French coast, the turning of the tide later favoured an inshore course , and the fleet are tacking to lee this morning off Brittany’s northwest corner, with Gilda Mahe (Breizh Cola) in the lead at Pointe de Pontuseval, 1.3 miles ahead of Stage 1 runner-up Charlie Dalin, and 1.5 ahead of Stage 1 winner Anthony Marchand back in third.

Tom Dolan’s current twelfth has him in close contact with top contenders such as Seabastien Simon (currently 7th) Hugh Brayshaw (8th) and Alan Roberts (5th). The first night has been a matter of catch-up for Joan Mulloy after her main halyard was replaced by her shore team, and she is further eastward along the coast, currently close west of the Ile de Batz and shown as 36th.

Race Tracker here

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s solo Figaro sailors Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan will be the focus of tonight's episode of RTE Radio 1’s Seascapes. Presenter Fergal Keane travelled to France to catch up with the skippers, teams, and sponsors ahead of leg 1 of La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro.

On the show will be the two skippers, Ireland’s only ever entrant in the Vendée Globe and Atlantic Youth Trust President Enda O’Coineen, we’ll hear why Smurfit Kappa decided to sponsor Tom Dolan, and Team Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson will give an insight into this incredible race.

Listeners will also hear Joan Mulloy speaking on the dock at 3am after spending three and a half days alone at sea on her yacht 'Taste the Atlantic - A Seafood Journey'. The show airs at 22:30 on RTE Radio 1 and will be available online.

Published in Figaro
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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

Now 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

 

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