Forty-six Bénéteau Figaro 3's battled it out earlier this month in their first ever single-handed event of the season, the Solo Maitre Coq. With only days to go until the anticipated La Solitaire kicks off in Nantes we caught up with Figaro Skippers Alan Roberts, Will Harris and Joan Mulloy to see what valuable lessons were learned from that first race and what we can expect for the biggest solo race of the season.
How physically challenging was the Solo Maitre Coq?
AR: Very...the Figaro 3 is a lot more physically challenging than the Figaro 2. Everyone came ashore looking more tired and with a few more injuries compared to previous seasons. I had anticipated that and I worked hard over the winter on my fitness, strength and core. With the additional sail there are more sail changes and the sails are also bigger so the loads are higher.
What did you learn from that race and what will you do differently for the La Solitaire?
AR: This is the first race I have been at the helm this year and with a large fleet it was very easy to get stuck on the start line if you weren't sharp. Switching into big fleet start line tactics at the beginning of the Solitaire will be key to getting ahead at the start of the legs. We learnt a lot about sail selection, choosing the right sail for the right wind angle and understanding the differences between the different sail makers in the fleet. I'm confident that I have found a good speed at certain angles with my sail selection.
What is your training like?
AR: Since receiving the boat in January there has been limited time for training but teaming up with Jeremie Beyou we have managed to optimise our time on the water, sailing double-handed in order to change, adjust and compare setups and ideas from the beginning. There is no doubt we learnt a huge amount from the two earlier races, in an ideal world we would now have some time to focus on speed testing and sail development before the Solitaire but with the start of Leg 1 on the 2nd of June from Nantes we only have a few days to work on the final details. It's been great working with Stu [Bannatyne] and he's coming out to do some training and a final set up of the sails.
What parts/legs of the Solitaire do expect to be the most difficult?
AR: The physical aspect of the boats will be demanding and with the boats being more sensitive to the autopilot there will less opportunity to sleep. The course this year is a very coastal channel based course with lots of local effects, headlands, thermal breezes and tidal influences. These factors provide the opportunity for the opportunist to attack from behind but could work the other way round for the leaders to extend, in a large fleet it will be difficult to control and cover all the competitors and all the options.
What has your experience been like working with the Doyle team and product? How did the sails perform during the Solo Maitre Coq?
AR: I am very happy with the sails and felt particularly quick on certain angles. The Cable-less Code Zero was one of the main reasons I decided to approach Doyle, to do something different having seen the technology develop and working in the larger boats. The new Figaro 3 felt like the right opportunity to introduce this technology and bring Doyle into the fleet.
What's next, after the Solitaire?
AR: Rest, recovery and analysis to further develop and understand the new boat! The plan is to do the Douarnenez Horta Race starting on the 26th July.
The long-term goal remains, to work towards the Vendee Globe and an IMOCA 60 project which we are actively searching for sponsors and partners to join us for 2024 along with the prospect of offshore sailing in the Olympic Games, Paris 2024. That purpose to follow a similar format to the Solitaire...so there is plenty of excitement coming up in the future.
Best of luck to all participating in the La Solitaire, you can follow the race here