With under 24hrs to the start of the 2017 edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro race the 43 skipper fleet, consisting of 36 French, 3 Brits, 1 Czech, 1 American, 1 Swiss and 1 Turk will start leg one of the four leg solo yacht race tomorrow (Sunday fourth).
Starting from the small French town of Pauillac on the chateau and vineyard covered bank of the Gironde the Solitaire fleet will first negotiate exiting the river, navigating the many sandbanks whilst racing against fellow competitors. With a very light NNE wind the fleet will head upwind assisted by the 4 knot river current carrying them out and into the middle of the Bay of Biscay coastline.
Next stop for the fleet will be Gijon in Spain after navigating around a turning mark at the North tip of the Bay of Biscay. A 275 nautical mile traversing of the Bay from North to South offers the fleet many route choices and will allow an open playing field for strategies to work out – the 525 nautical mile course will take the fleet around 4 days to complete with the front runners expected in Gijon on the 7th June.
Speaking ahead of the start The Offshore Academy sailors summed up their moods, Hugh Brayshaw competing in his second Solitaire on-board – Offshore Academy “The most challenging part of this whole race for me will be dealing with the first two legs, these are long offshore passages far out in the Bay of Biscay and will require a slightly different mind-set to the inshore coastal racing I have being used to these past two seasons. My aim for this leg will be to try and keep the boat fast, keep myself and the boat in one piece and keep level headed”
Mary Rook skippering Inspire + “This is my second Solitaire and I think it’s going to be another really hard race, these are long legs with very little recovery time in between so it’s going to be key to rest when possible. I’m really looking forward to leg 1 and going to Gijon, it’s a new place for me so that will be interesting to see and something to look forward too.” On the offshore element of the race Mary commented “This will be my first ever crossing of the Bay of Biscay so as you can imagine I’m a little apprehensive, especially as its on my own but I’m in good company with some very experienced sailors and friends around me in the fleet.”
“The Figaro racing is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one, I’m hoping to put some of my experience and planning from the last two seasons into practise for this leg and the race. The start is going to be really tight, getting out of the river cleanly especially with the 42 other Figaro’s around and sandbars is going to be tense. I’m going to try and focus on a clean start and getting out of the river – whilst you might not be able to win the leg from the start finding a sand bar could end the leg and whole race!”
by The Offshore Academy