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Solitaire URGO Le Figaro heads to Ireland for 50th anniversary edition

by François Quiviger 25 Jan 06:18 GMT 27 May - 30 June 2019
Stage 4 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro © Alexis Courcoux

The Solitaire URGO Le Figaro is set to enter a new era this year, with the introduction of the new Figaro Bénéteau 3 for the 50th edition of the annual solo sailing race.

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. Requiring a unique skill set, the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro pushes competitors to the edges of their physical and mental limits.

OC Sport Pen Duick Event Director Mathieu Sarrot commented: "This anniversary year of the Solitaire is set to be an historic edition and we are expecting a diverse fleet including previous winners and new comers to the new Figaro Bénéteau 3. This means the stakes will be high with everyone out to prove themselves in a new boat.

"On the water it will be particularly challenging," Sarrot continued. "To be successful the competitors will need seasoned offshore experience as well as coastal knowledge. But also sheer grit and determination. With the ongoing support of our title partner URGO, it's set to be an incredible 50th edition."

The fleet will start leg 1 under the striking bridge of Saint-Nazaire following a passage through the river Loire from the historic city of Nantes in Brittany. 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. At 500 nautical miles, the fleet will be immersed in a tough race from the off with a drag race through potentially choppy seas to keep the solo skippers on their toes before they arrive in Irish waters.

Speaking on behalf of the Kinsale Chamber of Tourism and Business, Board Member Ciaran Fitzgerald and Chairperson Guny Patel commented: "Kinsale Chamber is delighted with the announcement that the 50th Anniversary of the prestigious La Solitaire Le Figaro yacht race has been awarded to Kinsale for June 2019.

"This is an amazing event for Kinsale to host and welcome back having hosted this world famous single handed race more than any Port over the 50 years of the race. Kinsale Chamber looks forward to welcoming the sailors and visitors for what will be an incredible spectacle on sea and land over the five days of the stopover. Congratulation to Enda O'Coineen and his team for bringing this event to 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. A long descent along the rugged western Welsh coast, followed by a passage between Land's End and the Scilly Isles, before a crossing of the English Channel towards Roscoff will conclude what is sure to be a gruelling leg.

From Roscoff, the fleet will stay in the familiar waters of Brittany where they will tackle a 450 nautical mile coastal course that will require them to use all of their technical and tactical prowess in the strong tidal currents, before returning to Roscoff on Wednesday 19th June.

To end the 2019 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, the increasingly exhausted fleet have a double Channel crossing to contend with. At 500 nautical miles, the final leg will see the competitors leave Roscoff on Saturday 22nd June to head across the channel towards Land's End via a starboard rounding of the south cardinal navigation mark off Portsall. From there, they will have to negotiate the difficult conditions along the south coast of England before skirting the Isle of Wight, and crossing back into French waters through one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. With fast depleting energy, the skippers will need to keep their wits about them as they head to a mark off Barfleur, before the final sprint into the Normandy fishing port of Dieppe.

The skippers are expected to arrive in Dieppe on Wednesday 26th June, with a non-points scoring postlogue race planned for Saturday 29th June allowing the public to see the new Figaro Bénéteau 3's in action before the official prize giving where the winner of the 2019 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro will be crowned.

As many as 40 Figaro skippers are expected to compete in this 50th anniversary edition, including former winners alongside a plethora of young talent. 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.

With just over five months to go until the build-up begins in Nantes, the skippers will be using this valuable time to take delivery and train on their new Figaro Bénéteau 3's. A full skippers line-up will be revealed in April.

What they said...

Hervé Le Lous, URGO President: "For this fiftieth anniversary year, 2019 will have a fresh approach. New boats, new courses... The race will therefore require new techniques to rise to the new challenges with so many great sailors to meet them on the starting line!

The evolution of boat technology and their innovative materials is not unlike that of the embedded technologies of our products, which have also evolved. For this new edition, we are happy to continue to support the skippers thanks to our know-how. In 2018, we developed a medical kit adapted to the specific needs of sailors. Tests and feedback on the past race will allow us to refine our offering to the fleet. And we never forget in our company that nothing, like the ocean, is ever acquired.

In 2019, this new kit, now part of the Figaro Bénéteau 3 rule, will be given to skippers before the start of the season."

Donal Small, Managing Director Encircle na Farraige, Kinsale: "Encircle na Farraige with Kilcullen Kapital Partners is delighted to bring the Figaro back to Ireland in 2019. We look forward to hosting this prestigious event and welcoming the world class sailors to the town of Kinsale. Kinsale has a long standing association with the Figaro having hosted the event 19 times in the past and we are looking forward to providing a fantastic stopover in June after a 10-year break."

Jean Paul Chapalain, President of the metropolitan CC Bretagne - Morlaix: "Following 2013 and 2014, the Roscoff marina will again be a key location for La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro in 2019. We are proud to host this major event in the Bay of Morlaix. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, managers of the ports of Roscoff and Morlaix, and our partners, local authorities and nautical stakeholders, work together to develop this territory.

This prestigious race is a popular event that will enhance our magnificent Bay of Morlaix from an economic and tourism perspective. The hosting of this great sailing race is indeed a unique opportunity to enhance our destination on a national level, to strengthen its attractiveness and to create a real festival to launch the tourist season. It addition to this it will also highlight our skills in boating, research in marine biology and our wealth in seafood.

I look forward to seeing you next June to enjoy this major event and discover the coast of the Bay of Morlaix which abounds with remarkable natural and heritage sites."

Loïg Chesnais-Girard, President of the Regional Council of Brittany: "A loyal partner of OC Sport Pen Duick, Brittany will once again welcome the Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro on its coastline and it is in the port of Bloscon in Roscoff that the competitors will drop anchor on their return from Ireland. The owner of this new marina next to the ferry terminal, the Region will be keen to make every effort to ensure that the Breton stopover goes as smoothly as possible for skippers and visitors alike.

To all the competitors, I wish them the most beautiful race but it is with a particular attention that I will follow, step by step, the course of Tom Laperche and Loïs Berrehar, the skippers of the Filière d'excellence of offshore racing Brittany-CMB."

La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro 2019 Schedule

  • May 27th: Arrival of the fleet in Nantes, France
  • June 2nd, Leg 1 start: Nantes, France Kinsale, Ireland (via Fastnet Rock) 500nm
  • June 9th, Leg 2 start: Kinsale, Ireland Roscoff, France (via the Isle of Man) 360nm
  • June 16th, Leg 3 start: Roscoff, France Roscoff, France - 450nm
  • June 22nd, Leg 4 start: Roscoff, France Dieppe, France 460nm
  • June 26th: Anticipated arrival of first boats in Dieppe
  • June 29th: Postlogue and awards ceremony in Dieppe

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