Figaro Solo 2007 day by day with Paul O'Riain

In 2007, after many years competing in sailing races and logging 18,000 miles sailing offshore, I was looking for something different.  I decided to try fulfill a long held ambition to try my hand at solo sailing and entered “La Solitaire Afflelou le Figaro” or the Figaro as most people call it.

The Figaro in 2007 was a 4 stage race around Europe from/to France, Ireland and Spain.  It has been run, every year, for the past 38 years.  It is raced in one design Figaro Beneteau II boats, specially built for this classe and event.  It is commonly regarded as the unofficial world championships of solo sailing and the place to race if you want to learn how to sail short handed and particularly solo.  Down through the years most of the best know international shorthanded sailors, including another Irishman Damian Foxall, have at some stage spent time on the Figaro circuit to acquire the skills to take on bigger races and to launch their careers.

This was the biggest challenge I had ever undertaken, the biggest sailing adventure of my life and the toughest racing I have ever encountered.

The Figaro in 2007 ended up being one of the toughest in its history when the two later stages were hit with winds of nearly 50 knots and when at the same time over 200 boats pulled out of the Fastnet race due to the adverse conditions.  The Figaro suffered some casualties in 3 out of the 4 stages, including myself in the last stage, but the majority of the 50 competitors made it through every stage.  Over half the competitors are full time professional sailors who do Figaro all year round, whilst the other half was made up of amateurs, aspiring professionals and people fulfilling a life long ambition.  There were two female and forty eight male competitors ranging in age from eighteen to fifty four years of age.  The majority of skippers had many Figaro’s under their belts and knew exactly what they were doing, fourteen were first timer’s/rookie’s including myself, while one Jean Paul Mouren, had done twenty two in all.

Preparation

When I decided to do the Figaro at the end 2006 I didn’t have a clue.  Early in 2007, I sought advice from those who had done the event before and was told to get busy immediately as others were already training and preparing for the event which was to run from the end of July to the end of August 2007.

In February 2007 I went to France and Italy, looked at 9 different boats and decided to charter Figaro no 66 aka “CityJet”.  By mid March I had my boat and was basically based in France.  I picked the boat up in Brest, her home port, and spent the next couple of weeks sailing a little and finding a place to train.

I chose to train with coach Marc Reine, a very genial big bear of a man, at the Pole Voile La Rochelle (La Rochelle Sailing Centre), from the beginning of April.  Marc was very encouraging and helpful and this was a great time as the weather was incredible, the learning curve verticle and the work load preparing for the qualification races in May massive.

Every coastal region in France has its own government funded race training centre which is there to help train people in all disciplines of racing all for a nominal cost.  Many French ports really like the racing boats to stay in their port and provide discounted if not free berthing to Figarists, as we are called, when training and preparing our boats.  This was a world away from anything I had experience before and really great.

I was not the only Figaro sailor training at La Rochelle.  Nigel King (UK) a professional sailor with 18 years experience including a Volvo Ocean Race, was also there along with some of the French talent and it was great to see that level in action and learn.  All the Figaro sailors were extremely helpful and encouraging and that really spurred me on.

From the get go the work load to do the Figaro was huge. When taking on this kind of project it is vital to pay attention to so many different aspects including;

Boat preparation and maintenance, training, qualification races, pubic relations, finding sponsors, class rules and administration of the project.

Training in La Rochelle was not scheduled for everyday, instead for week long periods and over the two and half months (April, June & July) I was there we had 5 scheduled weeks of training.  A typical days training would entail meeting at  the training centre in the morning to discuss the schedule for the day given the forecast.  Normally we would then hit the water when the wind filled in or around lunch time and train for the afternoon and into the evening if the wind was good.  A lot of it was boat handling, but we also spent time in the class room doing weather and looking at the sleep side of things.  There was no spare time for dossing about and just relaxing on the beach or hanging around the pontoon.  The life of a racing skipper revolves around the “job list” and the closer you get to the main event it becomes “job lists” as you compartmentalise each area of your campaign.  Everyday there was work to do on the boat as it would need constant care and attention because it was being used most days and naturally needed work to keep it in good condition.

Qualifying

The Figaro in July/August is limited to 55 competitors and everyone had to have their entry in by the 2nd of February.  70 people entered for 2007 so it was important to get the qualification process done as soon as possible to ensure a place.

Qualifying mainly revolves around showing you were able to handle a boat solo over a long distance and entailed completing 500nm onboard your boat solo before the event.  The most popular way is to complete 2 x 250nm races.  In May a lot of competitors did this by competing in the Solo Ports de France Concarneau, the Solo les Sables D’Olonne or the Transmanche from Aber Wrac’h.  I did all three to qualify and for practice. There are other ways to qualify, but this is the most popular as it gives you a taste of what’s to come.  Doing the qualifiers was also a great place to meet others doing the Figaro, discuss all aspects and learn from them.

Other necessities for qualification included getting a medical to establish fitness to participate – this is not generally a problem once you are sub forty years of age, but requires a more detailed assesment above this age – rubber glove time apparently….  Qualification also includes doing the International Sailing Association Federation (ISAF) sea survival course to familiarise yourself with the operation of survival suits, liferafts, flares, safety equipment and all the techniques necessary to survive at sea in case of emergency.  The practical side of this course was great fun, letting off flares & a liferaft.  You must have a FFV (French Sailing Federation) licence to compete or the equivalent from your national sailing association if you are not French.  For Irish people membership of the Irish Sailing Association is all that is required.

La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro 2007 – The Figaro

The depart port for the Figaro was CAEN in Normandie.  Competitors had to have their boats in the Basin St Pierre by 10am on 24th July a full week before the start, for scrutineering of the boat by the class association and for the event sponsors.  The Figaro event is extemely well organised and a very professional set up and a lot of money is invested by the sponsors involved.  The week before the start is an opportunity for the depart port to promote its involvement and put on a good show as there was a huge amount of press.  All the boats were lined up on the quay wall and the public were able to come down and see the boats, find out about the event and the skippers.  Over the week 200,000 people visited the specially constructed race village with various attractions and sponsors exhibiting.  The enthusiasm, of the public, in France for this event is incredible.  People were coming up and asking for autographs and taking photographs.  There was a great atmosphere, but still plenty of work to do before the start.  With two days to go before the start we had a Prologue Regatta in the bay.  1 race around laid marks which was a bit of fun and a great opportunity to shake down the boat as many competitors had new sails which needed a run.

On 31st July at 1500hrs the gun went for the 1st stage of the event between CAEN and Crosshaven.

The Figaro – Schedule July/August

Stage Start / Finish Locations At Sea Miles Start Date
Afflelou Prologue Race inshore – Caen .5 day Sun 29th July 07
1 Caen (France) – Crosshaven, Cork (Ireland) 3.5 days 415 Tues 31st July 07
2 Crosshaven, Cork (Ireland) – Brest (France) 2 days 344 Mon 6th Aug 07
3 Brest (France) – Fastnet Rock – La Coruna (Spain) 5 days 762 Sat 11th Aug 07
4 La Coruna (Spain) – Les Sables D’Olonne (France) 3 days 355 Mon 20th Aug 07
Afflelou Closing Regatta – Les Sables D’Olonne .5 day Fri 24th Aug 07

Stage 1 Caen – Crosshaven

RELIEF

It was a relief to finally start after 6 months of hard work to get there.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a good start and ended up well down the fleet by the upwind mark, but after rounding the small laid course “parcours” around the bay in front of Caen I got the boat into its stride and started picking off boats all along the coast as we headed west, crossed the English channel rounded Needles Fairway at the entrance to the solent and ran down the coast of England to Land’s End for the crossing to Ireland.  The leg was great fun as the conditions were varied and in the end nothing like the forecast.  Throughout the leg I was placed mid 30’s, but was delighted when we got to Land’s End where the whole fleet had bunched up together and all the boats were within a five mile range.  Incredible stuff after nearly 2 days racing.  I decided to keep going west toward the Scilly Isles looking for the wind to back into a south westerly which I hoped would bring more wind with better angle to Cork harbour and a good result.  The predicted shift took too long to materialise and I lost out on a lot of places to boats that had started heading north earlier.  In the end I was 41st out of 50 boats, but was delighted to have beaten people who had done a few Figaro’s and just pipped Marc Thiercelain who was on his 7th Figaro and has sailed twice solo round the world, in the Vendee Globe Race.  It was a great relief to finish the first leg and to see what it was going to be like and to arrive home and be greeted by friends and family.

Stage 2 Crosshaven – Brest

DRAG RACE & DISAPPOINTMENT

My start here was excellent and progress around the laid course in front of Cork Harbour went fairly well until the weather started to do all kinds of crazy things including a rain squal, no wind, some wind, a change of wind and then I got caught in Jimmy Le Baut’s dirty wind and lost places.  This wasn’t the end of the world and once I got going again was in the mid 30’s going down the coast.  About half way to the Fastnet, which we had to round before heading to Brest, I managed to find two wind holes and sailed myself back into last place, very embarrassing on home turf – that takes talent.  I fought hard to stem the loses but once the fleet rounded the Fastnet it was a huge downwind sled ride to Brest and they were gone.  I managed to catch 4 or 5 boats, but ended the race in 46th position.  It was a great sail back to France, big wind, great weather, but disappointing not to improve, after the first stage.

Stage 3 Brest – La Coruna

“MY HELL ON EARTH”

This was the biggest stage of the event.  Hours before the start the organisers decided to remove the Fastnet as a mark of the course due to the forecast of 50 knots of west to northwest winds to hit the Fastnet just as we were suppose to round it.  Instead we were sent down the French coast to the BXA mark, at the mouth of the Gironde River between La Rochelle and Bordeaux, and then across the Bay of Biscay to La Coruna on the North West tip of Spain.  My start was great and I was really showing good form beating up the course rounding the laid windward mark in 4th position.  A simple lapse of attention to my kite put me under a few other boats and I got badly rolled and dropped places.

We headed down the coast through the Raz de Seine where we had to anchor on the first night due to a lack of wind and very strong adverse tides.  After that it was a massive long kite run for over a day to the BXA mark and then we headed for La Coruna.

For about 12 hours after leaving the BXA mark we had calm to light breeze conditions and made only 30 miles in a 12 hour period.  This was ‘the calm before the storm’.  Before long a South West wind started to build.  In the end some of the fleet saw 45 – 50knots but it was the seas which were just incredible.  This was only my second time ever in the Bay of Biscay and I don’t think I have ever seen nastier waves, it’s not a nice place.  When you look at the chart of the area the depth reaches 4200m, but it is how quikly it decends to that depth which is really scary.  The logic was to get out as far west as possilbe because of a shift which was predicted to arrive from the west.  I and many others tried desperately to do this but time and again the boat was crashing off the back of waves so steep that I thought the boat was going to snap in two or the mast was just going to fall out of the boat.

At this stage we were 3 days into a 5 day race and I had food poisoning from a packet of pancakes which I had brought to snack on and which had grown moldy.  For the next day and a half I couldn’t hold down anything, not even water and headed towards the shore as I wasn’t making great progress out to sea and was quite debilitated.  At one stage I really questioned what the hell I was doing there, but was determined to finish the stage.  I figured a lot of other competitors would be finding it hard as well.  It was survival conditions so I headed to shore which I hoped would offer some relief from the waves.  It did and I started to make progress even though I spent a lot of time comatosed and lying down in the cockpit due to illness.  For about two days I didn’t see another boat, could not raise anyone on the radio and at one point thought maybe everyone had gone in to port and forgot to tell me.  As I went up the coast, the big lift came through and I started to make great progress.  With about a day to go to La Coruna I saw Gregoire Le Miere “Basse Normandie” ahead, this got me motivated after the illness and pummelling, we started racing hard.  Just before the finish, with only five miles to go, out of the early morning mist came 5 other boats all within a mile of each other, but with Gregoire and myself ahead.  These were the same guys I had finished near in other stages, quite amazing really after 5 days racing.  This was my best result 39th.

It was a hellish leg and one which really tested everyone.  A few boats didn’t make it due to the conditions and because of breakage and I felt really happy to have finished the leg and was able to confirm in my own mind that I was really capable of solo sailing.

Stage 4 La Coruna – Les Sables D’Olonne

FAST & FURIOUS

On Monday August 20th after a pleasant but exhausted stay in La Coruna, we set off on the final leg to Les Sables in the Vendee region of France about 30 miles north of La Rochelle.  I got a reasonable start and made my way around the Parcours about mid fleet.  Heading out from La Coruna, a lot of the fleet seemed to want to get out into the Atlantic, but as soon as I could I tacked to clear the headland and head straight for Les Sables.  This immediately paid and I found I was in 20th place.  There was strong wind forecast from the west moving around to the North West towards the end of the leg and it soon started to build during the first night.  Throughout the second day the wind built and the boat was hitting 20knots and the average was fantastic 11.2knots, in a 34ft boat.  By the end of the day I had worked my way down from the big kite to the small kite and then my solent (jib) and then a reef in the solent and then a reef in the main.  At the afternoon radio schedule check (we had two each day) I learnt I was in 21st position and I was absolutely delighted and determined to try and stay there.  The wind was varying between 32 – 39knots and I was just able to handle it, but was concerned because the boat was at its limit.  I was very apprehensive at how fast the boat was going and that it felt like it was on the edge a lot of the time.  As it got dark the wind was increasingly spending more time nearer the 39 knots rather than the 32 knots.  As long as it didn’t go above 39 knots I was just in control.  I thought about putting in another reef before it got dark, but didn’t want to risk what could happen if I put the autohelm on in the conditions and while I was putting in the 1st reef I had rushed it and the mainsail bolt rope had jumpd the track on the mast and was going to take time to sort.  This was a mistake and one I was going to pay for.

At midnight the wind built to 44 knots and at times in the bigger gusts the boat just rounded up and it was impossible to get it back down onto a reach and sailing.  I decided to put the 2nd reef in or else the sails would be shredded.  I was clipped on to the jackstay running along the deck and went forward to do the reef aware of the precariousness of the situation.  I let the mainsail down and worked on sorting the bolt rope.  Next thing I knew I was washed up the mast towards the first spreaders and ended up holding onto the front of the mast with water all round me.  I had been hit by a massive breaking wave broadside.  The boat was on its side with the mast lying in the water.  The boat righted itself, I fell to the deck thinking this is going to hurt, but somehow landed nicely just in front of the mast and most importantly on the boat.  Initially none of this really frightened me until I realised that the jackstay I was clipped onto had broken and I had not been attached to the boat when I was washed up the mast.  Straight away I went about getting the mainsail back up the mast.  I did a check to see if there was any damage to the rig and noticed something unusual about the leeward top  spreader.  After shining a torch up I saw the spreader had been bent in two and the stay had come away from the end.  This meant the mast wasn’t properly supported and was flexing a lot.  Without being able to see the mast in detail,  I decided that to risk putting the mainsail up could cause the mast to come down.  At this point and with about 70 miles to go to Les Sables D’Olonne and the finish I decided to retire from the stage and limp to the finish.  When dawn broke and I was able to see further up the mast I discovered that all the head gear, windex and VHF aerial had been ripped off the mast by the wave, the power of which must have been incredible.  This explained why I couldn’t raise anyone on the VHF to signal my retirement as the aerial was gone.  Further damage included a four foot hole punched in the bottom of the mainsail.  Immediately after the stage I was bitterly disappointed with my result overall, which had suffered badly due to the last stage and I questioned in my own mind whether I should have tried to sail on, but once the mast was craned out of the boat for repairs we discovered part of the mast step plate had sheered in the knock down and effectively there was very little to stop the mast foot from slipping out at the bottom if too much pressure was put on the rig. The decision to retire had been the right one and I was relieved.  I was also to find out Jeanne Gregoire a woman of considerable sailing & Figaro experience had lost her mast completely after her boat was rolled over 360 degrees.

Funding

The main barrier to a project like this is funding.  There are three ways to fund it, either from sponsors, from personal funding and or through fund raising.  My project involved all of the above.  Friends, family and even people I hardly knew rowed in and I was truly humbled by the amount of support.  Funding is an area where most competitors struggle and the stories of how people have got to the line and with what are pretty amazing.  The budgets I have heard of range from 10’s of thousands to ¼ million euros.  Like many I decided to embark on my project even though I didn’t have a sponsor up front, but I have always believed that unless you are actually doing it, or have a track record, no one will really take you seriously and at the end of the day where there is a will there is a way.

My sponsor CityJet an Irish Airline owned by Air France came onboard in June and was a perfect fit.  CityJet’s support of my project came at just the right time and I was delighted to receive it.  The day the CityJet graphics went onto the side of the boat was a real thrill, she looked absolutely fantastic.

The budget to do a Figaro varies and will depend on whether buying or chartering a boat, how much training is involved and the number of events entered on the circuit besides the main Figaro event.  I got my boat mid March, trained and prepared in April, did 3 races in May, spent a further six weeks in La Rochelle, for training in June & July, competed in the Figaro from the end of July and the whole of August, did the Tour de Bretagne (double handed) in September and the Route de Ponant (solo) in October.  I chartered my boat and my budget for the season worked out around €130,000 and that was not lavish.  Most people agree, a full budget to do the whole circuit of events, including an early season transatlantic race, would be €170,000 minimum.

Sleep Deprivation

A big part of solo sailing is dealing with sleep deprivation.  It is necessary to keep watch as much as possible and keep the boat going as fast as possible, but at some point sleep is necessary.  Sleeping is done in the form of cat naps of between 10 and 20 minutes and if lucky you may stretch it to 30 minutes if there are absolutely no hazards around.  It is done this way because in general visibility stretches to 4 – 5 miles all round, about the distance the boat or other boats are likely to travel in the time it takes to nap.  After checking the horizon and with no threats to worry about down for a nap.  The idea is to get a load of 20 minute cat naps over the course of any 24hr period and keep putting some sleep “in the bank” – so that at night when the urge to sleep occurs it can be fought off.  This whole area is very interesting because scientifically it is known that the first 20 minutes of deep sleep accounts for something like 20% of what is necessary.  By getting a bunch of 20 minute deep sleeps it makes up for the daily requirement but without spending as much time actually asleep.  Another very interesting part of the sleep thing revolves around what are called sleep gates which links into a prehistoric biorythmn.  Millions of years ago in caveman times when there were predators around people didn’t sleep for 8 hours for fear of attack and would sleep for short periods.  Everyone still has these sleep gates which are times during the day when the urge to sleep happens – its perfectly natural, but most people ignore them.  I know, for example, that I definitely have one a 2.30pm each day when I yawn and feel sleepy.  This is a good time, for me, to get a 20 minute cat nap of quality sleep, because theoretically it is easier to get into a deep sleep then.  Interestingly some of the worlds most famous leaders including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher would have a short nap during the day and were reputed to only sleep for 4 or 5 hours each night.

While it is easy to understand how to do the sleeping thing in theory – in practice it is very difficult.  Typically the fear of something happening while asleep makes it difficult to get into a deep sleep, also the boat can be very noisy below, because every noise above decks gets amplified below, which is unnerving.  Around the sleep gate time it might be necessary to do something on deck or the boat maybe near land/rocks/another boat therefore that sleep gate and opportunity to sleep is lost.

In my first qualifier race, the Solo Ports de France Concarneau, I only slept in the end because I got to the point where I was so exhausted and didn’t care if I got run over and sank to the bottom as long as it was quite and I could sleep.  I really wanted to crack the sleep thing, but every time I went down to do it I just couldn’t settle and feel comfortable.  This came from years of being on boats where you always made sure someone was keeping watch at all times.  I couldn’t get this out of my mind.  This was made more difficult because my special sleep alarm didn’t work properly and only allowed me ten minutes max at a time before if went off and my autopilot was malfunctioning every thirty minutes and going into a man overboard routine, which ended up being a problem with the remote control and its sensor.

Preparateur

When competing in the Figaro it is a very good idea to have some help and this comes in the form of what the French call a preparateur (assistant).  The preparateur is there to help take all the small stuff away from you, get your vehicle & gear to each stop over, ensure the boat is cleaned, repaired, prepared between stages and generally there to ensure you can put your head into the race because the skipper is exhausted and needs to rest.  This preparateur and their performance doing what can be a menial role is very important.  If you get the wrong person it can really be upsetting and make your life very difficult.

France

Living in France is something I have wanted to I since I was very young.  This comes from family holidays in France camping and crusing.  Luckily for me, 3 years spent in a French school in Dublin from the age of 4 – 7 means the language while still not easy was still there hidden in some recess of my brain and not a huge barrier.  Many would say that it was easier for me cos I do “parlez vous” and yes that would be partly true.  However, there were other English speaking people doing the Figaro who did not have any grasp of the language and they got by absolutely fine.  The class and event organisers had interpreters to ensure we didn’t miss anything important and the class publishes the rules in English as well.  However if anyone is thinking of going to France to take on a challenge like this – remember many of the French speak English very well and will do so, but you must make an effort to speak French first otherwise they will not speak English to you.  They rightly can be very stubborn that way.  I always say if you murder a couple of sentences in French first the French will speak English to you because they can’t stand to hear their language being abused so badly.

The Boat

The boat used for the event, a Figaro Beneteau 2, is specially designed and constructed for the Figaro.  There is a separate class association which regulates the class and it is quite strict.  The interesting thing about the boats is the class changes the boat design every 13 years.  They only allow 100 boats to be built which is to ensure new boats can’t be built many years into the cycle to gain an advantage and also protects the investment made by skippers and sponsors when they buy a boat.  Effectively the boat has 13 years to depreciate.  At this stage as far as I am aware all 100 have been built in this cycle which started in 2003.  This also creates a ready charter market where owners can get a return on their investment if they are not competing in the boat themselves.

Getting to grips with the boat was not as big a problem as I had imagined – but getting to make it go as fast as guys who have been sailing them for a few years has been a huge challenge.  The more I race the boat the more little tricks I learn like stacking your spinnakers in heavy weather on the windward rail beside the ballast tank overflow and then turning on the ballast so it overflows into your spinnakers, soaking them and effectively adding huge weight to the windward rail.

A funny thing about the rules is the requirement to seal a lot of the gear in place.  This is done using wire seals to ensure things like fire extinguishers, bunks, house batteries, engine batteries and lots more can’t be moved about the boat.  This has all come about because that’s exactly what someone has done in the past and it was deemed unsafe or unfair.

Racing the boat was a pure joy.  The boat is stable, fast and very well behaved.  This is not to say that it was easy.  Far from it.  Normally you would sail a boat like this with approximately 7 people, so it is necessary to adapt and learn to do everything by yourself.  The main thing is to anticipate and learn the various tricks of a solo sailor.  Physically it is very tough both because you are tired from lack of sleep and because you are doing everything on your own.

The boat uses a very robust auto pilot made by NKE and is specified for boats up to 45ft and really worked well, but there were a few idiosyncracies which became apparent over time.  Onboard we carried a remote control as part of the auto pilot, which we generally hung around our neck, from which we could steer the boat, which was necessary especially if on the foredeck gybing the spinnaker pole or other manoeuvres.  Apparently if the skipper fell off the boat and travelled more the 50 metres away from the boat with the remote control, the helm would immediately crash tack the boat so it would stop and the skipper could potentially swim back to it.  At the same time the pilot would send out a distress signal over the VHF to draw attention to the situation.  I never saw this in action and hope never to.

The boat is water ballasted and has two tanks either side into which 270 litres of sea water can be pumped using an onboard electrical pump.  This is to replace the normal situation where crew would sit on the rail.

The boat has two rudders which made the boat extremely stable, reducing any tendency to wipe out and meant there was a back up in case of hitting something  and serious damage to one.

Navigation was mainly done on a PC using Maxsea navigational software which overlaid tidal information and weather forecast files (gribs) on the chart to enable the skipper formulate the right racing strategy.  Naturally all competitors had to have paper charts onboard as a back up.

Conclusion

At the end of the event my overall result stood at 43rd.  I have mixed feelings about my Figaro experience.  The racer in me is a bit disappointed with the result, however the sailor and adventurer is absolutely thrilled – I have learned so much, sailed an incredible amout, nearly 4000 miles in one year 90% of it single handed, lived in France, met many people and had a massive adventure.  I started the project with the specific goal to do it once and see how I got on before I made decisions about whether to continue.  I was apprehensive about the solo sailing and my ability to do it and more importantly whether I would like it.  This was answered very emphatically immediately I stepped on the dock at the end of my first qualifier in Concarneau in May, even though I was exhausted beyond anything I had ever experienced – I loved it.

However, at times in the 3rd & 4th stages of the main event I really questioned what the hell I was doing there, conditions were that bad and it was scary.  Now that I have finished and can reflect on everything I feel to not try and continue on for another year would be to stop too soon.  I was told by many people who have done the Figaro not to expect to much in the first year and to take it on as a two year project as the first year is all about getting to grips with Figaro – I didn’t want to believe that at the time, but now understand exactly what they were talking about.  The Figaro is the undisputed hotbed of solo sailing talent as evidenced by the fact that Michel Desjoyeux, a sailing legend, returned to compete and to sharpen himself up and won it again for the 3rd time, but only won one stage.  They say if you want to compete long term in short handed sailing – the Figaro is where you learn – certainly if you look at some of the big names winning big races you find a lot of them have come from Figaro.  Many of the competitors are fulltime Figaro sailors, many are ex olympic and world champions from other classes, it’s all they do all year round which means they are good – damn good – believe me!

Websites for further reference

La Solitaire du Figaro Event:         www.lasolitaire.com

Classe Figaro Beneteau:                   www.classefigarobeneteau.com

Author’s:                                                www.pauloriain.com

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