By Lyn Hines
La Rochelle, France
La Solitaire du Figaro, three stages long and 50 boats strong—sailed single handed in purpose-built boats—finally got a start over the weekend after a dreary, windless and rainy postponement. Conditions were opposite to the windy, sunny prologue last week, won by the “Green Giant”, Gildas Morvan, who is a favorite to win again despite his superstition that it is bad luck to win the warm-up race.
The VIPs on the sponsors' boats weren't too disappointed, and our driver literally pulled out his fishing pole when he saw blips on the fish finder. Sorry, no luck.
When the wind did pipe up to all of 5 knots, everybody was on the line and a few— over. Tough way to start or restart a light-air race, but they have 465 miles to Vigo, Spain.
This is the 39th edition of Solitaire du Figaro, previously raced under a ton rule, then Figaro, and now raced in a strict one design Figaro2 class. There were 100 Figaro2's built in 2002 to the same specs. The boats are 35 ft, 3,056 kg, 1,100 kg of water ballast, and strictly controlled for weight, movable objects and required security equipment. Security includes a wireless hockey puck, which controls self steering, while gybing for example, but also sets off a command to turn the boat, a VHF alert, and GPS localization, if the puck is outside a 30 meter range.
Starts and destinations change. After a 4-5 day layover in Vigo comes a 590-mile leg to Cherbourg, in Northern France. Finally, it will be an 825-mile jaunt around the Isle of Man back to L'Aber Wrach in Brittany.
This event is where solo sailors of all nationalities “cut their teeth”. Of 50 competitors, 2 dropped out at the last minute because of sponsor complications, 12 are “rookies”, 4 are women, and 5 are “foreigners.” Meaning not French. They're expected in Vigo as soon as Tuesday.
There's more on the official website: lasolitaire.com.
(And there are Lyn Hines starting line pics on Kimball Livingston's blog)