11-03-2021 - News
Boasting four legs and a route spanning nearly 2,500 miles, which alternates between offshore roller-coaster rides and high-voltage coastal skirmishes, the 52nd edition of the Solitaire du Figaro 2021, the third to be contested on a Figaro Bénéteau 3, is taking things to a whole new level as it unveils an ambitious course.
Set to be an exceptional edition marked by a new partnership with the Loire-Atlantique department, the race will set sail on Sunday 22 August from Saint Nazaire on France’s western seaboard and round off its journey five weeks later in the same port on 19 September.
Between these two high points, the solo sailors will have plenty to satisfy their Figaro expectations with the chance to do battle against each other as well as against the clock - the relentless umpire during their non-stop sparring - with ever-changing gains and losses expected on the leaderboard.
Whether it’s sprinting between Lorient in the Baie de Morlaix, making a debut appearance in Fécamp, weaving along the English coast via Wales and Ireland’s Fastnet or sailing the length of the Bay of Biscay, the organisers OC Sport Pen Duick, have ensured that the Solitaire du Figaro has all the ingredients to guarantee a memorable edition.
A region and partners committed to working alongside the organisers and skippers
In 2020, Saint Nazaire hosted the epilogue to the Solitaire du Figaro in style, pulling out all the stops and remaining adaptable in light of the uncertain environment created by the health context.
Just after Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) was crowned champion, the Loire-Atlantique department, represented by its President Philippe Grosvalet, made an historic commitment to become the race’s major partner through until 2026, during which time it will host every event start and finish in one of its ports.
“Legends are born in the Solitaire du Figaro and we will watch them grow in the Loire-Atlantique,” said Grosvalet. “A maritime region of excellence, the Loire-Atlantique boasts an exceptional location with its extensive coastline open to the world. There is a genuine synergy here for developing projects, which are both maritime and nautical and, together with its partners, the Department has high hopes for the future”.
This enthusiasm is shared by Joseph Bizard, CEO of OC Sport Pen Duick, as it represents a truly unprecedented move after 50 years of racing, guaranteeing the event a lasting foothold in a region by preserving its historic foundation: “The organisers believe that as a region and a major partner, the Loire-Atlantique has all the necessary qualities to enable this great race to continue to flourish. In association with the host venues and the communities doing us the great honour of welcoming us to their shores and setting up a varied and ambitious course, whilst being committed to working alongside our loyal partners, we are very enthusiastically planning for the roll-out of this 52nd edition of the Solitaire du Figaro.”
Reviving fundamental principles
2021 will therefore herald the beginning of this new format made possible by the presence of the Loire-Atlantique department as the major partner. It will be with great pleasure that the sailors and organisation teams will come back together in Saint Nazaire to set sail on an edition spanning nearly 2,500 miles, or more accurately 2,488 miles, with a race jointly planned by Francis Le Goff, Race Director, and the OC Sport Pen Duick team, in consultation with the Figaro Bénéteau Class.
Le Goff commented: “Today, we are delighted to present a route which features three legs of over 600 miles each and just one measuring a little less than 500 miles, which will predominantly comprise a coastal passage that will inevitably be even more demanding. This 2021 edition solely features French venues given the enduring health situation, but ultimately the course has been constructed as if it included overseas stopovers.”
The Solitaire du Figaro 2021 remains the must-do single-handed race for both the most experienced and rookie sailors looking to cut their teeth. For more than 50 years, it has stayed true to its fundamental principles and it remains multi-faceted event: offshore legs, pushing the sailors to dig deep and a time ranking, which is an essential and powerful marker.
Project Manager for OC Sport Pen Duick, Alex Picot, is striving to offer a package that appeals as much to the sailors as the stopover venues and the partners in this Solitaire du Figaro: “Where possible, we like to be able to offer the solo sailors long offshore legs and more days at sea. This is the direction our work has taken with our partner venues and it is reflected in this fine four-leg course we’re unveiling today. These 2,500 miles we’re offering, with these long sections free of course markers to open them up to tactical play, are just what the skippers are after. Indeed, they are the first to say that they come to the Solitaire du Figaro to put themselves through the wringer! As a result, we’ve opted for a long, tough and demanding edition, which will also enable the Figaro Bénéteau 3 to show what she’s made of on her third year of service.”
The entire length of the Bay of Biscay, a debut appearance in Fécamp and a unique passage mark in the Celtic Sea
After bidding farewell to the River Loire, the sailors will set a course for Lorient and the loyal Brittany Region for the longest chapter of the course (689 miles) and a long triangular sprint in the Bay of Biscay, via the BXA mark and a cardinal mark to be left to starboard off La Coruña.
“This choice of route means that the sailors can navigate the entire length of Biscay with very few passage marks to be respected along the way. It also has the advantage that the race can be launched in either direction according to the conditions. This will be a really big chunk of course from the outset,” advises Francis Le Goff.
After some downtime in this port in France’s Morbihan region, a hotbed for the sport which last hosted the race in 2009, the sailors will make for Fécamp, a first in over 50 years of this great classic and a venue previously synonymous with the heyday of the Orma trimaran clashes. Before sampling the Norman welcome though, the sailors will have to swallow up the 490 miles encompassing the Rochebonne plateau, the north-west tip of Brittany and the Cotentin peninsula. This is a classic segment of the Solitaire du Figaro packed with hazards and tricky sections, which generally delights observers and severely tests the sailor’s mettle.
From the cliffs of Normandy, a course would not be complete without a Channel hop and a foray into the waters along the English coast which, for the very first time, will include a turning mark at Saint Gowan off the Pembrokeshire coast, before finishing in the Baie de Morlaix.
“The competitors will make their first passage across the English Channel, respecting the South Pullar cardinal mark to the east of the Isle of Wight before powering along the English coast towards Land’s End, then on towards the island of Lundy and the Saint Gowan mark in the Celtic Sea, before dropping down towards the Scillies,” explains Le Goff. “The course will have all the typical UK ingredients with treacherous bays and local effects, rounding off with another fine segment.”
Finally, in a nod to Armel Le Cléac’h, reigning champion and triple winner of the event, the start of the fourth and final leg will take place around his home waters of Morlaix. Saint Nazaire will welcome the skippers back for the finish, but not before they race via Ireland and the Fastnet to round off a complex, demanding and exciting Solitaire du Figaro
The course of the 52nd Solitaire du Figaro in brief:
Leg 1: Saint-Nazaire/Lorient (689 miles) - from 22 to 26 August
Leg 2: Lorient/Fécamp (490 miles) - from 29 August to 1 September
Leg 3: Fécamp/Baie de Morlaix (624 miles) - from 5 to 9 September
Leg 4: Baie de Morlaix/Saint-Nazaire (685 miles) – from 12 to 16 September
Eric Savant-Ros, CEO of Figaro Nautisme
“The Figaro Group is very proud to have been supporting such a popular sports event for the past 52 editions, which is such a great source of hope and remains the undisputed reference for sailors. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the different communities for their involvement and especially the Loire-Atlantique department, which is investing so much energy into organising this Solitaire du Figaro 2021.
We extend our gratitude to the skippers and towns that will welcome all the stopovers with as much enthusiasm and kindness as ever.”
Hervé Favre, President of OC Sport Pen Duick
“We are very happy to officially launch our unprecedented partnership with the Loire-Atlantique department by unveiling what is a very demanding course, which is sure to appeal to the sailors. We’re also delighted to write the opening lines of a story linking us to the town of Fécamp and its port, which still resonates with Newfoundland campaigns and battles with the Orma trimarans. Returning to Saint-Nazaire, Lorient and Baie de Morlaix will undoubtedly bring many great sporting and human moments. While this 2021 edition is naturally already rallying together our in-house teams, it also benefits from the unwavering commitment and support of our institutional and private partners. Thank you to them for enabling what promises to be an exceptional Solitaire du Figaro 2021!”
Philippe Grosvalet, President of the Loire-Atlantique department
“For the next six years, the Loire-Atlantique is to become the host venue both on land and at sea for the Solitaire du Figaro! Our department enjoys close links with the marine world: coastal landscapes, biodiversity, world-renowned industrial know-how, innovations and a port heritage, not to mention great skippers. These are precious assets when setting a course for some thrilling offshore racing!”
Christelle Morançais, President of the Pays de la Loire region
“For the first time, the Solitaire du Figaro will have a lasting foothold in our region because, for the next 6 editions, the event start and finish will be hosted in the Pays de la Loire, thus consolidating our aim to be a venue that hosts major nautical events. This coming year will once again see our region reaping the full benefits of the influence enjoyed by this race, which boasts strong values and is heavily geared towards pushing the envelope.”
David Samzun, Mayor of Saint Nazaire
“The successful experience we had in 2020, together with the enthusiasm displayed by the public who came out in force to the port, prompted our desire to give the Solitaire du Figaro our long-term support. Saint Nazaire has the ambition, the assets and the infrastructure to become a recognised venue in yacht racing.”
Loïg Chesnais-Girard, President of the Brittany Region
“We’re pleased to be working alongside OC Sport Pen Duick once again for the organisation of the Solitaire du Figaro. It’s a very Breton edition for 2021, with stopovers in Lorient and Roscoff, along with an event start and finish in Saint Nazaire. We’re making every effort in our ports to reserve the best possible welcome for the organisers, the skippers and the public audiences.”
Fabrice Loher, Mayor of Lorient and President of Lorient Agglomération
“We are delighted to host the first stopover of the 2021 edition of the Solitaire du Figaro in Lorient – La Base. This race will gather together the offshore racing elite in southern Brittany and confirm Lorient’s place as the sailing capital. This popular race will enable the widest possible audience to discover a sporting, human and technological challenge, which also shines a spotlight on our region’s multiple excellent qualities, its capacity for organisation and innovation, its vitality and its expertise. This Solitaire du Figaro stopover is a new step forward in consolidating Lorient Agglomération’s positioning as a port for hosting major offshore yacht races.”
Marie-Agnès Poussier-Winsback, Mayor of Fécamp
“We are delighted to be hosting a stopover in the 52nd edition of the Solitaire du Figaro for the very first time from 1 to 5 September 2021. This popular sports event will be an integral part of this summer’s programme of entertainment and will serve to bolster the appeal of our town among tourists.”
Jean-Paul Chapalain, President of the CCIMBO Morlaix
“From 6 to 12 September, the Solitaire du Figaro will make a stopover in the Baie de Morlaix at the marina in Roscoff. The hosting of this prestigious race is an opportunity to promote our destination across France, to boost its appeal and also to extend the tourist season. Equally, it’ll be a chance to showcase our skills in boating, our marine biology research and our wealth of produce from both the sea and land.”