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1,830 demanding and tactical miles for the 51st edition of the Solitaire du Figaro

Published on 01/04/2020

OC Sport Pen Duick, organisers of the Solitaire du Figaro, have announced the course details for the 51st edition of the world’s toughest, annual, solo sailing race.

OC Sport Pen Duick, organisers of the Solitaire du Figaro, have announced the course details for the 51st edition of the world’s toughest, annual, solo sailing race. Starting from the historic Brittany town of Saint-Brieuc in north-west France on 30thAugust 2020, as many as 30 skippers are expected on the Solitaire start line this year as they prepare to take on 1,830 miles of Europe’s roughest waters – single-handed.

The Solitaire du Figaro, which is recognised as the unofficial world championships of solo offshore racing, is fiercely competitive, the race. Raced in the latest generation foiling Figaro Beneteau 3, a fleet that includes some of world’s best ocean racers such as the winner of the last Vendée Globe, Armel le Cleac’h, as well as ambitious young Rookies will go head-to-head over four legs.

Herve Favre, OC Sport Pen Duick CEO commented: “We have no doubt that people will be welcome the opportunity to follow the Figarists during this year’s edition of the Solitaire, which we hope will start after this complicated period for everyone.

The stopover cities of this edition really are the home breeding grounds for racing sailors and lovers of the sea. The Bay of Saint-Brieuc, Dunkirk and the Loire estuary will be real, solid anchors during these three weeks of intense racing. It’s also so pleasing for me to see La Solitaire du Figaro return to Loire Atlantique. Everyone remembers this magnificent departure from Nantes in 2019 followed by a warm and knowledgeable audience.”

Commenting on the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Favre continued: “Whilst we can’t predict what will happen over the coming months due to the Covid-19 crisis, to be able to announce the course for the 2020 Solitaire du Figaro during this period is a real positive in these difficult times. This is the first step in enabling us to plan for the delivery of an excellent race for the figaro class. We are working closely with our partners, suppliers and each of the cities to ensure we are ready to deliver the event in the best way possible that respects the regulations, whatever they may be at that time.”

This year’s edition will include three classic stages of 500 miles or more, and one final 24-hour sprint, with the course taking just under a month to complete. Among the highlights, the Fastnet and Wolf Rock stand out on this racecourse that includes several Channel crossings, the need to deal with the shipping lanes and sandbanks all the way to Dunkirk, and then the rocks and tidal currents all the way down to Loire-Atlantique.

With few marks along the way, Race Director Francis Le Goff has created a very open course that will allow the solo skippers to find their own strategy. This looks like being a classic edition with an exciting finish at the mouth of the Loire river, in western France.

Analysis of the racecourse by the Race Director:

Leg 1: Saint-Brieuc to Saint-Brieuc. A 642-mile voyage to the Fastnet and back

“The only waypoint in this first long leg will be the Fastnet Rock, which competitors will have to leave to starboard. It is going to be very open for the solo sailors from the start, with everyone attempting to find the right tactics and avoid the traps in the Channel and Celtic Sea. Once they have left Saint-Brieuc Bay, the skippers will head for Ireland while avoiding the rocks around the Scilly Isles and respecting the various shipping lanes (TSS) to the West of Cornwall on the way out and back. Anything is possible. They can go inside or outside the islands, so we can look forward to an exciting tactical game.”

Leg 2: Saint-Brieuc to Dunkirk. 497 miles via the English coast

“The soloists will have to watch out for all the shipping traffic and sandbanks in this leg. From Saint-Quay-Portrieux, the fleet will head for the Wolf Rock to the South West of Land’s End, and then make their way towards a waypoint close to Antifer light near Etretat before heading for the finish off Dunkirk.

This is a leg where keeping a clear head for the final few miles will be key to the outcome. In this second leg, it will all be very open between Wolf Rock and the Alabaster Coast of Normandy, but there will also be a lot of traps lying in store, such as the TSS, which means the room for manoeuvres will be limited all the way to Dunkirk.

There is also the cross-Channel shipping between Calais and Dover to manage, and then the tidal currents and sandbanks all the way to the finish. Competitors will have to manage their sleep and that is going to be vital in this leg for them to be able to stay fresh for the final stretch.”

Leg 3: Dunkirk to Loire-Atlantique. A 504-mile coastal leg

“There are going to be some great sights along the way in this third leg with a wide range of backdrops. The Opal, Alabaster, Mother-of-pearl coasts of Normandy and the Pink Granite coast and craggy cliffs at the tip of Brittany, the Megalithic Coast of Southern Brittany, the Love Coast and Jade Coast of the Loire Estuary area. So many brilliant things to see, yet the leg is full of hurdles: tricky headlands and capes, tidal currents, islands, rocks and fishermen to navigate. It will be 500 miles of high-tension sailing, with one eye on the charts, and the other on the sails with some sleepless nights ahead.”

Stage 4: Loire-Atlantique to Loire-Atlantique. A 24-hour, 183-mile sprint between the islands for the Grand Finale

“After three hard, testing stages, the solo sailors will have to draw deeply on their reserves for the final 24 hours of racing; a loop which will take them between the Ile d’Yeu and Belle-Île via the Ile de Groix before seeing them return to the Loire-Atlantique to crown the winner of this 51st edition.”

Entries officially open on 2nd April, with the publication of the Notice of Race.

The programme of the 51st Solitaire du Figaro:
25 August: Boats arrive in the Saint-Brieuc Bay
30 August: Grand departure
2 September: ETA leg 1 in Saint-Brieuc Bay
6 September: Leg 2 start
9 September: ETA leg 2 in Dunkerque
12 September: Leg 3 start
16 September: ETA leg 3 in Loire-Atlantique
19 September: Leg 4 start
20 September: ETA leg 4 and finish of La Solitaire du Figaro 2020

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