The owners and organisers of La Solitaire du Figaro, OC Sport Pen Duick, have confirmed that the flagship race of the French Elite Offshore Racing Championship will go ahead at the end of the summer.
As many as 35 solo sailors are expected on the start line in Saint-Brieuc in north-west France at the end of August, and the skippers will race via Dunkirk, before they are welcomed to Saint-Nazaire in the Loire-Atlantique in Western France for the Grand Finale.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has seen the cancellation of sports events around the world, and while the final format of La Solitaire du Figaro will be adapted in line with the health guidelines, OC Sport Pen Duick President Herve Favré said it is a remarkable moment for the company.
“There were times when we could have been discouraged, but we continued to work, every moment, strongly believing in the possibility of organising a race at the end of the summer. Throughout this period of uncertainty, we have not stopped conducting regular discussions with all the partners, the communities concerned, sailors and institutions, in order to ensure we can organise the event and that we can deliver it to the level you would expect from a race like this.
“Today, we are extremely proud to be able to confirm the organisation of this great classic. This is great news for the offshore racing world, that this race, a major event on the Figaro Bénéteau class calendar, will take place,” Favré concluded.
Saint-Nazaire – photo © lasolitaire-urgo.com
La Solitaire du Figaro, which is recognised as the unofficial world championship of solo offshore racing, is fiercely competitive. Raced in the latest generation foil-equipped Figaro Bénéteau3, entries are already flocking in, including the winner of last Vendée Globe, Armel le Cleac’h, 2019 La Solitaire du Figaro runner up Gildas Mahe and British talent Alan Roberts, who was the top ranked international competitor last year.
It will be the fourth time that the port of Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of France has hosted the race, and the newly labelled City of Art and History, has a special place in the history of La Solitaire du Figaro. Followers of the event will remember the fierce dual between Armel Le Cléac’h and Alain Gautier in 2003, which after a month of on-water racing, saw Le Cleac’h win La Solitaire for the first time by just 13 seconds.
Philippe Grosvalet, president of the Department of Loire-Atlantique commented: “The 51st Solitaire du Figaro is confirmed. This is the best scenario! The legendary race returns from September 16 to 20. We will have the pleasure of living two beautiful stages and the Grand Final in the heart of the estuary, in Saint-Nazaire.
“A real race against the clock is now under way on the side of the skippers, to resume sailing and training. Within the context of the health crisis, the participants are preparing in record time in exceptional conditions for an equally exceptional 2020 edition. I wish everyone the best preparation possible.”
The entire organising team is now hard at work to define the final details, to make the 51st edition of La Solitaire an unforgettable one.
by Nicola Dawson