La Solitaire du Figaro is the “unofficial world championship of single-handed offshore racing”. It comprises a multi stage race of four legs encompassing the English Channel and Irish Sea covering nearly 1,695 nautical miles. Identical Figaro Bénéteau 2 yachts sailed by the top solo yachtsman and women, to strict one-design rules make this a marathon on the water combining tactics, strategy and weather analysis with close contact racing.
Conrad decided last year that La Solitaire would mark his return to solo ocean racing with the highly competitive racing circuit providing a key training opportunity to sharpen his sailing ability ahead of mounting a new IMOCA 60 campaign for the 2016 Vendée Globe. “The Figaro is one of the most important elements of a professional Vendee campaign and I feel ready to take it on. I’m under no illusions just how good the top guys are and I look forward to learning as much from my participation this year as possible”
Starting on 31st July 2011, the 42nd edition of the race will see the start of the first leg from Perros-Guirec in the Brittany region, towards Caen. Although 160 miles separate Perros-Guirec from Caen, the course does not follow the direct route, but instead will cross the channel to Plymouth and follow the British coastline before sailing down into the Bay of Seine.
After a fews days in port, the fleet set sail for the second leg of the race on 7th August, for the 470 nautical miles sprint from Caen to Dún Laoghaire in Ireland. The course for this leg remains inshore as the single-handed sailors will sail along the Cotentin to the cape of the Hague, before heading to the Channel Islands. It will be compulsory to leave the islands of Aurigny, Herm and Guernsey to starboard. The skippers will then take on a long crossing of the English Channel, 120 nautical miles to Land’s End. The last third of this leg is to sail up almost directly north, over 190 nautical miles to reach Dún Laoghaire, south-east of Dublin.
Following just a few days in Dún Laoghaire, the fleet with set sail on 14th August to Les Sables d’Olonne, home of the Vendée Globe in the Vendée region of France. The third leg is 475 nautical miles, directly south for over 300 nautical miles to the Brittany point. The Grand Basse de Portsall buoy will mark the entrance to a coastal run as the point of Brittany will have be rounded leaving Ushant to starboard. The skippers will be free to choose the course to reach Southern Brittany and the Vendée.
The fourth and final leg of 430 nautical miles, will take the fleet from Les Sables d’Olonne to Dieppe. This leg is 100% inshore, the Île d’Yeu and Belle Île and the isle of Ushant are to be left to port. For the second part of the race, from the Brittany point to the Cotentin, that is 130 nautical miles, the course will be clearer, the only course mark to be respected being the isle of Aurigny, to be left to port, before taking on the Blanchard undertow at the entrance to the Cotentin. The last miles along the coast approaching the cape of Antifer will be the last obstacle of the race. The course, although coastal, will be very open and full of surprises. The finish will take place in Northern Normandy and is expected for the 24th August. The people from Dieppe will welcome the skippers on their last miles and will have a program of festivities prepared for them, the climax of which will be traditional closing parade on Sunday 28th August.