Published on 19/04/2019
For the last 50 years, The Solitaire URGO Le Figaro has been the proving ground for some of the Frances greatest offshore sailors. In 2019, drawn by the introduction of the much-anticipated Figaro Bénéteau 3, many of these legends will return with six former winners, dozens of repeat offenders, fresh young talent and a strong foreign contingent making for an exceptional line-up.
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.
Preparing to rise to the challenge are the world’s top solo sailors who gathered today in Nantes to officially lay down their intent to be on the start line in just over a month’s time.
Six former winners will be challenging for glory in this years Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, including three who hail from the start city, Nantes: Michel Desjoyeaux (1992, 1998, 2007), Jérémie Beyou (2005, 2011, 2014) and Yann Éliès (2012, 2013, 2015). Lining up next to them are three more winners including Alain Gautier (1989), Armel Le Cléac’h (2003 and 2010) and Charles Caudrelier (2004).
Reading like a ‘who’s-who’ of offshore sailing, this year’s race will also welcome back a whole host of skippers who can each claim to have won a stage as far back as 1970: Loïck Peyron, Alain Gautier, Michel Desjoyeaux, Yann Eliès, Armel Le Cléac’h, Jérémie Beyou, Charles Caudrelier, Gildas Morvan, Corentin Douguet, Adrien Hardy, Fabien Delahaye, Morgan Lagravière, Xavier Macaire, Alexis Loison, Gildas Mahe and Anthony Marchand.
In terms of repeat offenders, Gildas Morvan boasts the largest number of participations at twenty-two.
But the list doesn’t stop there, with specialists in Olympic and dinghy sailing such as Pierre Leboucher, Achille Nebout and Pierre Quiroga also on the role call.
And 12 novices will take on one of the toughest test in offshore sailing for the first time including Conrad Colman, Tom Laperche, Erwan Draoulec, Matthew Damerval, Tom Dolan, Henri Lemenicier , Sébastien Marsset, André Morante-Perez, Benjamin Schwartz and Clément Commagnac.
Five women will also be looking to give the men a run for their money including Cassandre Blandin, Clarisse Crémer, Cécile Laguette, Justine Mettraux and Joan Mulloy. Not to mention a strong foreign contingent with skippers from Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland, New Zealand and Ireland joining the fray.
Many of the skippers have already had the chance for a warm-up on the new Figaro Bénéteau 3s at the double-handed Sardinha Cup held earlier this month, which gave an early indication of form – and for the stage winners of Alexis Loison, Pierre Leboucher and Yann Éliès, an early psychological advantage.
The next test for the skippers ahead of this summers Solitaire URGO Le Figaro will be the Solo Maître CoQ, the first single-handed race on the Figaro Bénéteau 3.
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.
The fleet will start leg 1 under the striking bridge of Saint-Nazaire and 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.
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. After a channel crossing the leg will finish in Roscoff where the fleet will stay and take on a tactical 450 nautical mile coastal course finishing back in Roscoff.
To end the 2019 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, the increasingly exhausted fleet have a double Channel crossing to contend with, leaving Roscoff on Saturday 22nd June before the final sprint into the Normandy fishing port of Dieppe.
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