RACE START : JUNE, 4th – 2:30 – PAUILLAC
Distance :525 nautical miles – 972 kms
Estimated arrival : June, 7th 2017
Kick-off for this 48th edition, the Bordeaux-Gijon leg will be the longest of the 2017 vintage. With some 525 miles to cover in conditions as diverse as they are varied, some will say that it’s sure to be the toughest and the trickiest. The sailors will be thrown in at the deep end from the get-go. Indeed, they’ll have to negotiate strong currents and invisible sandbanks dotted about the 35-mile long slog up the Gironde estuary. Once around the Grave headland, the battle will open right up with the racers heading northwards towards the North-West tip of Brittany. They will need to keep a very clear head in order to approach the Chaussée de Sein from the best possible angle and it’s here that we’ll get the initial indications of the state of play after the first 36 hours spent racing. However, this hierarchy could quickly be shaken up. The 275 nautical miles (510km) traversing the Bay of Biscay will offer the sailors as many route choices as weather combinations at this time of year. A steady downwind breeze and a series of long surfs will very rapidly lead the fleet towards the finish line whilst erratic and potential headwinds will likely slow up the Figaro sailors, to the detriment of their exhausted bodies as they’re forced to spend a 3rd night at sea. As a result, this opening leg, with few points of passage, will give the fleet a wide open playing field favorable to some ambitious strategic choices.
RACE START : 10th of June 2017 - 3:00 pm
Estimated arrival : 13th of June 2017
520 miles – 963km
Crossing Point : Buoys Cardinale Ouest “Chaussé de sein” - Yeu Island
Undoubtedly, this 520-mile leg between Gijon and Concarneau - Cornouaille (Atlantic coast of Brittany) will be the offshore test par excellence. Navigating relentlessly and digging deep into their physical reserves to finally earn the right to some restorative calm in the lee of the ramparts of the enclosed town, such is the scenario offered to the sailors for this second leg. Following on from a coastal course across the bay of Gijon, the racers will link straight onto the negotiation of the Bay of Biscay for the second time in less than four days. Freed of any passage marks, they will need to be fine strategists and study the weather very cleverly to make it back up to the inescapable Chaussée de Sein. Hugging the coast in search of nocturnal breezes or taking the offshore option in a bid to remain at the edge of the low pressure system: such is the dilemma to be cracked! The shortest route may not necessarily be the right one to cover the theoretical 275 nautical miles (510km) that make up this segment of the course. The drop back down to the bay of Concarneau, which is very familiar territory to Figaro sailors, will take in a number of islands. For starters, the sailors will have to thread their way around the Ile d’Yeu, even if the direct route appears to invite them to pass to the West of the island. They’ll round off this long course via a passage incorporating Belle-Île-en-Mer and then the final hurdles in the form of the Glénan archipelago. Coming at the end of the leg, this section will require attentive monitoring from the skippers, who will already be stiff with fatigue. This second act will crown a sailor with a bold strategy, who is confident about their choices and their speed.
RACE START : 15th of June 2017 à 12:00 pm
Estimated arrival : 16th of June 2017
Distance : 150 miles – 240km
Crossing point : Bouée Cardinale Sud “Sud banc de guerande” - Bouée cardinale de Belle-Ile
Using a new format put forward last year, this close-contact racecourse amidst the Breton islands sits very well in this latest edition of the event. The natural obstacles, which punctuate this course, the numerous compulsory passage points as well as the multiple transition phases due to the sea breeze regimes that have a powerful presence in this sector, will leave a good deal to the mercy of tactics, as well as uncertainty. The task will be all the more arduous given that the race might well start just 36 hours after the finish of the second leg, leaving little time for recuperation. Further down the track, and throughout this course, the sailors will have to remain on the alert, without digging too deep into their reserves so that they can calmly go about the final leg. It’s a leg that mustn’t be overlooked then. For the record, the winner of the 2016 edition conceded no fewer than 9 minutes to the skipper in second place in the 120-mile race. Though the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro cannot be won on this leg, it may put a fair number of sailors at a disadvantage, including the more seasoned campaigners.
RACE START : 19th of June 2017 à 12:00 pm
Estimated arrival : 21st of June 2017
Crossing Points :
Final leg of the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. A classic for confirmed Figaro sailors, a real headache for rookies. Before tying up in Bassin Ango in the very heart of the town of Dieppe, savouring the sweet taste of every little victory and replaying each leg in the minutest detail over and over as if the last 1,700 miles hadn’t been enough to satisfy their insatiable appetite for a challenge, the sailors will have had to contend with the tidal currents, the rocky plateaus of the north-west tip of Brittany, the multiple headlands and bays punctuating the south coast of England, the shipping lanes of the numerous cargo ships crossing the Channel and the zones forbidden to sailing. Once the traditional coastal course offshore of Port la Forêt is behind them, the fleet will make a nocturnal passage around the north-west tip of Brittany. In these waters studded with rocks that are constantly battered by the winds and swell, the skippers will have to put off any vague desires for micro-siestas that they might allow themselves offshore. Here, they may well have to get as close as they dare to any rocks in a bid to avoid punching tide, switch into overdrive to remain in contact and, above all, never allow themselves to fall off the pace leaving their rivals to make good their escape whilst they are left floundering as the tide turns at Grande Basse de Portsall. As ever, Wolf Rock lighthouse will decide the next stage of events: a bunching up of the fleet or a bonus awarded to the front runners who will likely trace some geometric shapes as they pick their way along the English headlands. Indeed, they may well have to take shelter in the bays so they can spring out again at the first opportunity once conditions are favorable. This precision work will doubtless be hampered by the accumulation of fatigue, though equally they will be spurred on by the adrenalin of victory. Featuring two Channel crossings, this final leg with its predominance of coastal sections, coloured by numerous tricky elements, will require the sailors to keep a constant eye on the rest of the fleet. Quick responses and stamina will be called for if they are to stand a chance of securing the title of outright winner on the final finish line of the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro.