In 2016, the Solitaire du Figaro race will stopover in Cowes on the Isle of Wight for the first time in the event’s 47-year history.
The solo offshore race will start from the historic French town Deauville, France on 19 June 2016.
Up to 40 sailors are expected to be on the starting line, for the race that will cover 1,525nm between four European host venues – Deauville, Isle of Wight – Cowes, Paimpol and La Rochelle.
A close coastal route looks set to present new challenges for the solo skippers in 2016.
Race director Gilles Chiorri said: ‘This edition of the Solitaire will be particularly challenging. The coastal route will throw the game wide open, with skippers left to decide whether to stay closer to shore or go further offshore. To be successful around this course, the competitors will need seasoned offshore experience and tactical intelligence, enabling them to play the tides and weather to their advantage.’
The Solitaire du Figaro is claimed to be one of the world’s toughest sailing competitions, the ‘world championships of solo offshore racing’, with the course taking just over a month to complete.
The race pushes competitors to the edges of their physical and mental limits.
Estimated £1.8million boost
For the first time in race history, in 2016 the Solitaire du Figaro will stopover on the Isle of Wight.
Following the success of the last UK stopover in Torbay, the Isle of Wight would hope to see 20,000 visitors pass through the Solitaire du Figaro race village over five days. The Solitaire du Figaro had a hugely positive economic impact on Torbay in 2015, injecting roughly £1.8million into the seaside town.
The event will bring not only a professional sailing race to the pontoons of Cowes Yacht Haven, but a bustling race village to Cowes Town. Free and open from 22nd to 26th June, the Race Village will offer five days of fun family entertainment in Cowes, including food markets, a drinks bar, live music in the Race Village and try sailing for all on the Solent – courtesy of the official event charity UKSA. Plus a host of interactive stands and activities and an education program focused on coastal conservation and the environment for local children.
Mark McNeil, deputy Mayor of Cowes and Chairman of ‘Destination Cowes’ – a key organisation behind the event, said: ‘Portsmouth has had the America’s Cup, Southampton has had the Volvo Ocean Race – this is our chance to put Cowes back on the map as the UK and Europe’s sailing capital. A real spectacle of the sea and a showcase of top level sailing, the Solitaire will attract crowds from both the island and mainland to the Isle of Wight.’
Starting Leg 1 from Deauville, the fleet will race the longest 510-mile leg across the channel, around the south of the Island to Lands end, before heading east along the UK south coast towards the finish line in Cowes – a maritime town famous for its unique sailing waters.
The Solitaire du Figaro Race Village will offer five days of fun family entertainment in Cowes, including food markets, a drinks bar, live music in the Race Village and try sailing for all on the Solent. Alongside the racing and live entertainment, there will be a host of interactive stands and activities to entertain the public.
Expected to arrive on the Isle of Wight around the 22 June, the Solitaire du Figaro will stay in the UK until Sunday 26 June, when the fleet will set sail on Leg 2 (475nm) to Paimpol in Brittany.
Leg 2 will take skippers back along the south coast of England and around the iconic Wolf Rock. From there, they will cross back into French waters to a mark off of Penmarc’h, sending the fleet north along the coast of Brittany past Ushant and through the infamous Raz de Seine.
From Paimpol, the fleet will race 410nm to La Rochelle, back through the Raz and cutting across the fickle waters of the Bay of Biscay. To end the 2016 Solitaire du Figaro, competitors will race a final 160nm around Île de Ré, an island linked to La Rochelle by an impressive bridge, and the small fishing island of Île d’Yeu. A short but tricky route, the tired skippers will be careful to avoid fish farms, trawlers and the wind shadows of the Islands.
The 2016 Solitaire du Figaro will finish in La Rochelle on 7 July.
OC Sport Paris events director Mathieu Sarrot said: ‘As 2016 is a Vendée Globe year, the Solitaire’s most experienced skippers may be absent. This means the stakes will be high among the intermediate skippers, the skippers who consistently finish top 10 on a leg, but can’t quite out sail the Yann Eliés and Jeremie Beyous among the fleet. This is the year of the Solitaire regulars, their time to shine.’