Fifty sailors will set off from La Rochelle today at 13:00 on the first of three legs of La Solitaire du Figaro, they key event of the Figaro solo sailing calendar.
The 2008 edition will cover 1,880 miles over three legs: La Rochelle to Vigo in Galicia, then a return leg to Cherbourg in France before the final marathon leg of 826 miles (the longest leg in the 39 year history of the race) to L’Aber W’rach on the northern tip of Brittany, by way of the Isle of Man in the north Irish Sea.
The growing international following the event is currently enjoying is reflected in the arrival some new faces on the circuit. There are five non-French sailors in all, some familiar to the scene;
Italian, Pietro D’Alì returns for the 4th consecutive year flying the colours of his new sponsor, Mc Cool, Antonio Pedro da Cruz, from the Cape Verde Isles, but truly settled in the France for years, returns for the third time on Baïko, Liz Wardley originally from Papa New Guinea, but now ensconced in the heart of the sailing mecca that is Brittany, returns for her fifth participation with her green boat, Sojasun.
New to the Figaro scene, but familiar to sailing enthusiasts, Isabelle Joschke, joins the Solitaire for the first time with Synergy. Isabelle, born in Munich and now settled in France, made a name for herself in the Mini 6.5 Transat and will be one of the rookies to watch closely.
Last but not least, Andy Greenwood from the UK comes to try his hand and gain some Figaro experience. At 26, he is young and experienced in other areas of sailing, but the Figaro is new and a challenge he is ready to tackle. 'I see this year as an opportunity to understand and get some experience in this discipline, but really would like to train and work on an ideally three year plan,' he explains.
Race Director, Jacques Caraes has formulated a course that is long, tactical and testing in offshore sailing skills. 'The decision to provide longer and further offshore legs comes down to popular demand from the sailors, and I see the standard as high and capable of dealing with the challenges the course will provide' explains Caraës on the eve of the start.
The 465 mile leg from La Rochelle to Vigo 'will be a warming up session for the sailors' continues Jacques, 'crossing the Bay of Biscay is never without it’s problems, and do not be fooled, because it may be the shortest leg, in terms of distance, but it could well end up taking longer that you expect.'
The one-design Figaro Beneteau boat is enjoying continued success and the following of the solo sailors. For the highlight event of the season, 11 rookie sailors join the competition together with four highly experienced women sailors, another record in the race history. Jeanne Gregoire on Banque Populaire and Liz Wardley on Sojasun will be joined by two new aspiring Figarists, Elodie Riou (KPMG) and Isabelle Joschke (Synergy), both successful Mini sailors. Cercle Vert wins the Suzuki Prologue race
Gildas Morvan, participating for the 13th time, won crossed the finish line first in the Suzuki Prologue on Cercle Vert yesterday. François Gabart on Espoir Région Bretagne was the first rookie with a well earned seventh place. La Solitaire du Figaro Start - Friday 26th July – 13:00
Record year – 1,880 miles
Overview of the course
11, Rookies, 4 women and 5 international entries