Solitaire du Figaro 2015 – The Bank Holiday weekend marked a spectacular opening to the 46th edition of the Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire in Bordeaux.
On Friday 22nd May, 39 of 40 Figaro Bénéteau IIs paraded up the river Gironde from Pauillac and into the heart of the historic French city.
Serenaded by the cheers of the crowds and music blasting out from the Figaro flotilla, the Solitaire skippers’ arrival was celebrated with an epic firework display that lit up the Bordeaux skyline.
The eight British competitors taking part in the 2185-mile race, Nick Cherry (Redshift), Henry Bomby (Rockfish Red), Jack Bouttell (GAC Concise), Sam Matson (Chatham), Alan Roberts (Magma Structures), Andrew Baker (Artemis 23), Rob Bunce (Artemis 37) and Robin Elsey (Artemis 43), were overwhelmed by the warm French welcome they received, with 50,000 people turning out to greet the 2015 fleet.
“It was magical coming into the city on Friday night, with the fireworks and the crowds shouting and all the lights,” Redshift skipper Nick Cherry recalled on arrival. Unsure what to expect, British Rookie Rob Bunce was also blown away: “The entry into Bordeaux was amazing. Coming up the river to the cheers of that many people on the bank in the middle of the night was pretty incredible.”
On Saturday 23rd May, the Race Village in Bordeaux opened its doors. For the British skippers, the opening came as a great opportunity to practice their French on the public stage at ‘The Presentation of the Skippers’. Every competitor is invited on stage to introduce themselves, thanking the city for its hospitality…in French to thousands of French people. Preparing their speeches before even arriving in Bordeaux, the moment of truth came for the British skippers on Sunday 24th May:
“I prepared a fool proof speech basically saying thank you to the people of Bordeaux for the festivities and for having me here…” Rookie Andrew Baker explained. “Then finished with an apology for my bad French!”
‘My speech definitely didn’t go as badly as I feared it would,” Andrew’s fellow British Rookie Robin Elsey continued. “Standing onstage with sailing legends like Yann Elies and Alain Gautier was pretty cool too. It’s so amazing to be part of this event.”
For the rest of the week, the sailors will be required to attend media interviews, race briefings, official soirées and take part in exhibition races. A daily racing spectacle in front of the Race Village, eight skippers will line up to test their speed against one another for the delight of Bordeaux’s spectators. In the evenings, the sailors will take part in the ‘Journal of la Solitaire’ – a daily chat show broadcast live on France Bleu, featuring three Solitaire competitors each day.
On Saturday 30th May, Bordeaux will host the official Solitaire du Figaro Prologue race, starting 1745 CET: “Bordeaux has been amazing so far,” Alan Roberts enthused. “But the pressure will really kick in mid-week. With everything going on, we have to remember that the next month of our lives will be sailing with a bit of eating and sleeping when we can. The Prologue really marks the end of our time in Bordeaux.”
On Sunday 31st May, Leg 1 of the 2015 Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire (Bordeaux to Sanxenxo), will start from Pauillac at 1645 CET. At 461 miles, the first leg alone is longer than any races the British competitors have taken part in this season. It’s crunch time.