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Offshore Racing Academy 5th Overall in Inaugural Team Vendée Formation/Classe Figaro Course Académie

26th March 2022
The Offshore Racing Academy boat in action in the inaugural Course Académie
The Offshore Racing Academy boat in action in the inaugural Course Académie Credit: Nicolas Michon/Course Académie

The Offshore Racing Academy was not the only organisation to realise the supports needed for newcomers to offshore racing in France and specifically the Figaro circuit.

For the first time this year the class association, Classe Figaro Beneteau and Team Vendée Formation, based in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, teamed up for the inaugural Course Académie. Translated from French, the aims are below…

Landing on a circuit such as that of the Figaro Bénéteau can sometimes seem like too high a mountain to climb for some. Making the slope more gentle, such is the leitmotif of the Figaro Bénéteau class and the FFVoile which are establishing the Figaro Bénéteau Academy this year.

“Our mission, in this context, is to support newcomers to the circuit and more particularly to the French Elite Offshore Racing Championship,” announces Estelle Graveleau who, after having held the positions of secretary and then director for a long time of the Figaro Bénéteau class, has been working for nearly 10 years within Team Vendée Formation, a structure that offers sailors and technicians a unique support and training system for sports sailing professions.

“My experiences have led me to this observation: it is useful to make jumping into the deep end easier and more readable for sailors, preparers and all people taking their first steps in the environment,” assures the director of the centre based in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, joined in all respects by the executives of the FFVoile and the administrators of the Figaro Bénéteau class, all driven by the same desire to welcome ever more players.”

It’s a whole circuit that collaborates and puts its skills on the table to move forward. We also rely heavily on the “old” to accompany and even sponsor, in a way, the “new”.

Kenneth Rumball shares his wealth of offshore experience with the Figaro rookie Timothy Long | Credit: Nicolas Michon/Course AcadémieKenneth Rumball shares his wealth of offshore experience with the Figaro rookie Timothy Long | Credit: Nicolas Michon/Course Académie

In keeping with the aims of the Offshore Racing Academy and the Classe Figaro and Team Vendée Formation, Kenneth Rumball, an experienced Figaro 3 sailor for the last three years, entered the event with 17-year-old Timothy Long from the UK — a ‘Bizuth’, or rookie, in the Fiagro 3 class.

Although the initial programme of the Course Académie changed as the event approached, the main aims were to be realised through two races, a short coastal 30nm race and a longer offshore of 300nm.

However it was not just the racing that the rookies would benefit from. The races were held to full Classe Fiagro rules and regulations with safety checks, stack and equipment checks and inspections, and mandatory online registration and validation of all of these areas.

All of these class rules were done in supportive manner under the watchful eye of the director of the course, Yann Elies, himself a multiple Solitaire du Figaro champion and legend in offshore racing in France in all the major classes: IMOCA, Ultime, Class 40 and more.

Phillipe Cousins was the technical and measurement director for the course, offering advice, technical and measurement support in the lead up to the races. Specifically to help the ‘étrangers’ or foreigners, Marcus Hutchinson was present with his support RIB to assist the non-French and French alike.

The first coastal race was a simple 30nm round trip from Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie to the mark ‘Sablaire’ off Ile d’Yeu and back. Mostly a beam reach there and back in 18-25 knots of wind, the fleet of 10 boats made light work of the course, completing it in under three hours and thus the entire fleet beat the initial record set for this course by Sam Davies in a Figaro 2 a number of years ago.

Rumball and Long were fifth across the line in this race and the first non-French boat.

Long and Rumball were rewarded for their efforts | Credit: Nicolas Michon/Course AcadémieLong and Rumball were rewarded for their efforts | Credit: Nicolas Michon/Course Académie

The fleet quick returned ashore for an evening to catch up with the other competitors and some much-needed rest before the 36-hour, 300-nautical-mile race the next day.

Long recounts that experience: “My first two weeks of training on the Figaro were wrapped up with a 340nm offshore race. I was nervous before the start, it was windy and I felt I was somewhat heading into the unknown…

“After the start gun went, the first four hours were extreme; we had up to 40 knots and the whole fleet was screaming along at 20+ knots boat speed with full code-zero, jib and mainsail. I had never felt anything like it, the sense of exhilaration was immense – I couldn’t believe how hard we were pushing the boats, it was mad!

“Throughout the rest of the course, we continued to push hard and those who made the least mistakes were ultimately the ones who had the most success. That is why it takes years of experience in this class to become the best; it is not about having faster boat speed because everyone is capable of the same speed, it’s about being the one who makes the least mistakes.”

The course was rapid, with average boat speeds for the initial 24 hours around 18 knots. In the final 12 hours or so the wind moderated which saw average boat speeds plummet to the more mundane 6-8 knots.

Rumball and Long sailed a good race with some ups and downs to finish in sixth position and therefore secure fifth overall in the event. Both sailors exhausted but delighted with their overall result.

Published in Offshore
Kenneth Rumball

About The Author

Kenneth Rumball

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Kenny Rumball is the Principal of the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. He is a multi dinghy champion and offshore sailor. In 2018 he was awarded the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Seamanship Trophy for a Man Overboard Rescue in the Round Ireland Race. In May 2020 he embarked on a mixed offshore doublehanded keelboat campaign with Pamela Lee.

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