It’s been my goal of the year, to make the start of the 48th La Solitaire du Figaro, and it is just around the corner. A 1700 mile offshore solo yacht race against 42 other boat including some of the best in the business. A true test of sailing and what I believe to be the best way to becoming a great offshore racing weapon. The route to this point (also known as the ‘journey’) has been unpredictable and challenging both physically and financially. But ‘Hakuna Matata’ that’s all in the past, let’s look into the future and the next 4 weeks of fun.
As I write this most of the obligatory official stuff (briefings, safety briefings, measurements) have been done and ticked off. Soon there will just be the 1700 nautical miles of racing to accomplish and then we can all go home for a good rest. The first challenge is to make it out of Bordeaux in one piece, the river moves quickly and contains projectiles such as dead animals and tree branches that have already done some damage to the moored boats. The 25 miles north towards the town of Pauillac is our ‘Prologue’ leg, a kind of practice race/ spectacle for the crowds on the river bank.
THE RACE – LEG 1 Pauillac to Gijon
Still with some 30 miles to cover between Pauillac and the ocean the start of this leg will be very tight out of the river. There is a lot of current here and potentially unstable winds so I will be concentrating hard well into the first night to achieve a good position. Once out into the Bay of Biscay there is a 210 mile leg north west which is fairly offshore, this will have me focusing on speed and positioning the boat correctly for the changing weather. Once around the northern marker it will be more of the same as I chase the sun south trying the navigate the quickest route to Spain and a nice comfy bed.
LEG 2 Gijon to Concarneau
Firstly retracing my steps directly north for 250 miles enjoying the sights and sounds of endless sea. Around the mark to head south east towards Ile D’Yeu, a small island with some dangerous fish farms to avoid. And then back north to our town of Concarneau that hosts a great many offshore races. The leg back into this port for me looks the most interesting as we will race closer to the land and pass more islands.
LEG 3 Concarneau to Concarneau
After less than 24 hours rest the 150 mile so called sprint leg should take just 24 hours to complete. Take that as you will but by this point in the race all the sailors will be feeling the fatigue and sprinting might be a struggle. Equally rest will be hard to get as this course has a fair few marks and rocks to navigate around, for me and my dinghy racing background this could prove advantageous for me.
LEG 4 Concarneau to Dieppe
Finishing with a tricky navigational epic leg that has us travelling around the northwest tip of France through big tidal pinch points. Then across the Channel around my second favourite light house ‘Wolf Rock’ just south of Lands End. I must round the headlands of the Lizard and Start Point during the 200 mile sections towards mark ‘Owers’ just south east off the Island of White and Portsmouth. The Channel and a small coastal section of France then stands between me and the finish line, by this time I should be running close to empty pushing everything till the very end.
LEG 5 Dieppe to Dieppe
Leg 5 is the victory leg navigating the bars of Dieppe.
So, there you go, a four-week race broken down into 600 words. Compared to last year I feel so much more prepared and more relaxed with this race, perhaps I have forgotten all the worst bits, I am very excited to get racing. This is just my second attempt and so I have no doubt that mistakes will be made, I just hope I beat a few more French than last year.