Published on 15/09/2018
Friday saw the final official circuit race for the Beneteau Figaro 2 as the 49th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro finished in Saint Gilles Croie de Vie. Today visitors and guests to the Vendée town which is home to Beneteau looked back today at the 30 years of Figaro one design racing as the prelude to the introduction of the Figaro Beneteau 3. Michel Desjoyeaux was joined by past winners such as Charles Caudrelier, Yann Elies, Yoann Richomme, Nico Lunven and Nico Troussel, as the history was told and visitors had a chance to see the new Figaro 3.
The Figaro 1 was developed as a one design as the incumbent half tonners were becoming too complex and too expensive. Very few new boats were built each year and the costs of running a boat were high. And even then, within the philosophy of La Solitaire it was not necessarily the best sailor which won.
Racing director of La Solitaire was Michel Malinovsky who together with Le Figaro’s Jean Michel Barrault approached Beneteau. François Chalain, Mr First at the time, asked Jean-Marie Finot to design a one design in partnership with Jean Berret.
So it was in 1990 that the Figaro Solo came on the scene. Laurent Cordelle won in 1990, Yves Parlier in 1991 and Desjoyeaux in 1992.
“I had the number 7 in the series it was called Skipper Elf for the selection programme I had won the previous year. I had had a half tonner of the same name and then Elf decided to buy a one design and three years later I won. The Figaro Solo was well conceived and it was good, we could go properly offshore.” Desjoyeaux recalled today.
In fact the hull was also used for the Beneteau First 31.7 which sold 1400 units. The Figaro Solo 1 sold over 100 boats. It was relatively economic and could be amortized over five years.
At the turn of the millennium it was starting to age and so the Figaro 2 came in with its double rudders, carbon rig and electric ballast. It is a much better boat downwind especially and the skippers can get more sleep under pilot as the boat is easier to set up.
With the Figaro 2 comes a heightened level of professionalism. From the training centres which become more and more active, sailors are logging up 250 sailing days a year and 12,000 to 14,000 sailing miles. And so the arithmetic tells a story that after 13 years of service some Figaro 2s have been the equivalent of seven times around the world.
So the technological evolution continues by necessity and in 2015 a competition was launched for the concept and design of the Figaro Beneteau 3 and it is VPLP which wins
“What is certain is that the Figaro 3 will be more complex than the 2 and so for sure if there is an edition where older guys like me can come in on the ground floor it is the next edition, just like I did for 2003 for the Figaro 2.” Michel Desjoyeaux
With its foils the Figaro 3 will be significantly faster, so propelling La Solitaire into an exciting future. The price is higher – 225,000 Euros ex tax ready to race. It draws 2.5m and it is 9.75m long with the foils instead of water ballast.
“The boat is extremely easy, that’s the first thing you realise when you get on board,” says Luc Joessel, Beneteau’s Sail Development Manager. “People get on board with the preconception that it’s a machine but within minutes everyone gets the hang of it. It is fun and the skippers will have great racing.”
Forty three orders have already been registered and many former winners have announced their return next year on La Solitaire: Loïck Peyron, Michel Desjoyeaux who is looking for a partner, and likely also Yann Eliès and Jérémie Beyou.
In order to keep the playing field as level as possible La Solitaire skippers have been forbidden to sail the early boats. And there will be a draw for the first 43 boats which will take place at the Nautic de Paris and delivered January 7th. 34 Figaro 3s have already been produced to date. First race of the circuit in 2019 is the Sardinha Cup, new race between Saint Gilles Croie de Vie and Lisbon raced two handed. The start is on March 29th
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