In 2009, La Solitaire du Figaro celebrates its 40th anniversary and a remarkable history – since 1970, 538 sailors have made the start line of this ‘classic’ summer event and there will be more newcomers in the 2009 landmark year, as the race sticks to the traditional format with a 1,706 nautical mile course set between France, Spain and Ireland on the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea and the English Channel.
Lorient – start town of the 40th edition
Sailors, supporters and visitors will make the most of the historical setting of the Keroman Submarine Base to celebrate in style the renowned history of 40 years of single-handed racing from the 23rd to the 30th of July.
A first sporting leg towards Galicia
On the 30th of July the starting gun will be answered off the coast of Lorient: marking the beginning of a short but difficult leg in which racers will be tested from the very first miles.
After having negotiated the point of Pen Men west of the Île de Groix, the Plateau des Birvideaux will have to be left to starboard. The fleet will then have plenty of time to take on the crossing of the Bay of Biscay heading towards La Coruña. “With its 345 miles, the first leg will be all-action, the Bay of Biscay could prove to be very demanding” suggests race director Jacques Caraës.
Faithful to the ethos and history of the race, Galicia once again hosts the race. It is the 11th time the town of La Coruña welcomes La Solitaire du Figaro. The Spanish stop-over is appreciated by racers who always make the most of the easygoing way of life and the warm and friendly Spanish welcome.
A sprint to the Vendée
In the second stage, the fleet will cover the 365-miles to Saint Gilles Croix de Vie on France’s Vendée coast. This is a 290-mile crossing of the Bay of Biscay, from East to West, to reach the Vendee via the Racon landing buoy off the coast of Saint-Nazaire, where they will then leave Île d’Yeu to starboard. Keeping up to the pace will be key on this short sprint.
The long awaited return to Ireland on what promises to be a tactical leg
On 10 August, the skippers will set a course for Dingle. The 40th edition of La Solitaire du Figaro could not miss out on Ireland.
Competitors will cover 485 miles. Sailing towards Penmarc’h point could prove to be difficult with rocky obstacles such as Belle-Île, Groix and the Glénans archipelago. 300 miles then remain to be sailed before what it often a tricky finish in the bay of Dingle.
The typical Irish port of Dingle will host the stopover of La Solitaire du Figaro for the 4th time. In this exceptional setting the skippers will be able to get supplies and prepared before attacking the 4th and final 511-mile leg to the finish.
A long-distance leg for a finish in Northern Normandy
Dieppe, in Northern Normandy will host La Solitaire du Figaro for the first time. There are many specific challenges to negotiate on the final leg:
Following a run down the Irish coast, the Fastnet Rock will have to be left to starboard before crossing the Celtic Sea.
Skippers will have the choice of how to pass the Scilly Isles; next there is Lizard Point to pass running along the south coast of England to reach Start Point. Once the fleet reaches the Isle of Wight, just the Channel crossing remains. Finally Dieppe will see a worthy winner for the historic 40th edition of the race and provide a warm and friendly welcome.
“This edition has a very particular flavour to it, it was important for the organisers to offer the single-handers a race course true to the 39 past editions of La Solitaire du Figaro.
Although this format remains a “classic”, multiple traps on the coast and at sea shall have to be negotiated. Each skipper will be free to experiment on the different stages of the 2009 Solitaire which will require very precise navigation and tactical sailing” explains race director Jacques Caraës.
Re-cap on 39 editions
The single-handed race was created in 1970 following an idea by Jean-Michel Barrault and Jean-Louis Guillemard, journalists at the daily newspaper Aurore. The Course de l’Aurore rapidly became an un-missable event in France.
In 1980, the Course de l’Aurore became La Solitaire du Figaro and in 1990 the monotype appeared, adding a sporting dimension to the event.
Notably to be remembered are the 1973 storm which decimated three quarters of the fleet, Patrick Eliès’ 4 leg victories in 1979, the exceptional participation of Alain Gautier in 1980, then still a minor, Luc Berthillet, reported missing in 1985 and finally found by a Spanish trawler, rookie Laurent Bourgnon’s fine victory in 1988, Philippe Poupon’s third title in 1995, Alain Gautier’s rescue by Nicolas Bérenger in 1996, Jean Le Cam’s third victory in 1999, the 13 seconds separating Armel Le Cléac’h from Alain Gautier in 2003, Michel Desjoyeaux’s third title in 2007 – and many other tales of sailors and the sea.
Important 2009 dates:
Village opens: Thursday 23rd July
Suzuki Prologue: Tuesday 28th July
Start of the 1st leg: Thursday 30th July
1982: Stop-over, leg victory for Loic Caradec
1989: Stop-over, leg victory for Alain Pointet
1991: Finish town, leg victory for Christophe Cudennec
LA CORUÑA (345 miles)
Organisers arrive: Friday 31st of July
Expected arrival of the boats: Saturday 1st of August
Start of the 2nd leg: Tuesday 4th of August
1972: Stop-over, leg victory for Michel Malinovsky
1981: Stop-over, leg victory for Gilles Gahinet
1982: Stop-over, leg victory for Patrice Carpentier
1983: Stop-over, leg victory for Lionel Péan
1984: Stop-over, leg victory for Christophe Cudennec
1986: Stop-over, leg victory for Christophe Auguin
1987: Stop-over, leg victory for Gabriel Guilly
1988: Stop-over, leg victory for Alain Gautier
1989: Stop-over, leg victory for Alain Gautier
1993: Stop-over, leg victory for Jean Le Cam
2007: Stop-over, leg victory for Corentin Douguet
SAINT GILLES CROIX DE VIE (365 miles)
Organisers arrive: Wednesday 5 August
Expected arrival of the boats: Friday 7 August
Start of the 3rd leg: Monday 10 August
2004: Stop-over, leg victory for Armel Le Cléac’h
2006: Stop-over, leg victory for Nicolas Troussel
DINGLE (485 miles)
Organisers arrive: Tuesday 11 August
Expected arrival of the boats: Thursday 13 August
Start of the 4th leg: Sunday 16 August
2001: Stop-over – leg cancelled
2003: Stop-over, leg victory for Alain Gautier
2006: Stop-over, leg victory for Gérald Veniard
DIEPPE (511 miles)
Organisers arrive: Monday 17th of August
Expected arrival of the boats: Wednesday 19th of August
Closing Regatta: Saturday 22nd of August
Further information: www.lasolitaire.com