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Figaro Campaign Gets Underway

By Pamela Lee, Sunday, 31st May 2020 | 0 comments
Filed under: INSS News, INSS Racing.

Pamela Lee introduces the Figaro campaign of particular interest to the INSS community.


As early as 2017, World Sailing announced there would be a potential new discipline for the Olympic Games of a mixed crew double-handed offshore style discipline. Sailing and sport is constantly evolving with commercial pressures such as sponsorship and TV rights having an influential effect on the style and format of sailing events. There has been talk of this new discipline involving constant live streaming of cameras onboard the boats with drama and images fed ashore continually. This concept was turned to reality with the proposal of the inaugural Double Handed Offshore Worlds that were due to be held in Malta in October – and so we can look forward to the sport Offshore Sailing entering into a new, exhilarating, high-profile and spectator friendly phase. Welcome news for all sailors alike and another chance for Ireland to build on the remarkable achievements of its Olympic Sailors so far.

There are 20 international teams due to take part in the inaugural Wold Championship event. One team per country. Irish Sailing representing Ireland was one of the countries that applied for one of the spots for this event. This occurred in November 2019 and the next challenge was, and still how to select the best Irish team to represent Ireland at this event so teams were invited to submit expressions of interest to Irish Sailing.



With guidance and expertise, Irish Sailing comprehended that the Figaro 3 class and race calendar of single-handed & double-handed events is arguably the pinnacle of short-handed small boat offshore sailing in the world. Irish Sailing proposed a three-race series of two races for Irish teams only with course lengths of 50 and 100 miles and then the Solo Concarneau race due to be held in April 2020 as the qaulifier for the team to represent Ireland at the Worlds. The racing would take place in France in the the one design Figaro 3 boats.  This is because if Ireland wants to have the best possible representation at these world championships the Figaro race circuit is the best proving ground available. The circuit is features and turns out the worlds most competitive and esteemed ocean racers and the boats are held to exacting standards of one design – something that is often hard to achieve in offshore sailing.



Our Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School Principal Kennth Rumball with Joan Mulloy, was one of a small number of teams who sent in an expression of interest to Irish Sailing in December 2019. Little did he know at the time the challenges and unforseen obstacles ahead to even get a team on the water. The first of which was Joan’s fantastic news which is far more important than any sailing campaign. Joan was pregnant and as a result, would not be able to realistically compete in either the qualifying events or the event in Malta. Enter new co-skipper Pamela Lee. Next up, was the challenge get get sailing, Joan had worked with Marcus previously in her earlier Figaro sailing so between Joan, Pam and Kenny, with input for chartering a boat and logistics advice from Marcus Hatuchinson, the team went to France with Joan acting as a coach and Pam and Kenny learning how to sail a Figaro3, this was a month before the original Irish Sailing qualification process in early March. After an intense week training, it also became clear how much more they really needed to learn if this team were to seriously compete not just to win the qualifiers to represent Ireland but to represent Ireland at the Offshore World Championships in Malta.



Unfortunately, as the team finished their first training in France, the Covid-19 pandemic was just starting to unfold… Yet another challenge to overcome and also a lot of uncertainty as we all now know. Despite the uncertainty, the end goal was also at the forefront of their minds as to represent Ireland in Malta in October. To accomplish this the team agreed then as soon as the various lockdowns around the world were lifting or showing signs of lifting, they would be straight out to France to put the boat back in the water and get sailing. This plan included getting the boat to Ireland as soon as possible. This was because it had been hinted that the Round Ireland yacht race may be used as the qualifying event for Malta. So on Thursday the 14th of May, with various letters and transport logistics, Kenny was on a ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg to get to the boat, Pam armed with similar letters was flying on one of the five scheduled flights in total the next day out of Dublin airport.

The team had discussed the possibilities and probabilities of the event in October actually occurring and naturally had come up with a plan B. A simple plan but one that would give the team more overall experience of short-handed offshore racing in the Figaro class. The backup was for Kenny to do the solo Figaro circuit including the Solitaire du Figaro to learn the boat and also improve short-handed offshore sailing techniques. Reality quickly came into play as the team departed France the 20th May, that plan B would have to be put into place as World Sailing cancelled its World Offshore Championships for 2020.



Complying with all the social distancing guidelines in both France and Ireland, the team got the boat back to Ireland yesterday evening on the 22nd of May after a two day 317nm spin from Port La Floret and began to initiate the new 2020 Program, still with the 2021 World Championships as the ultimate goal. The plan is to train here from Dun Laoghaire Harbour gaining boat handling skills for the next 5 weeks before returning to France for the newly revised Figaro calendar that will include events such as the Drheam Cup, Solo Concarneau, La Solitaire du Figaro and Spi Ouest (Double-Handed). This should hopefully give them a firm grounding in the boats and discipline of sailing ahead of a double-handed season next year and seeking to qualify to represent Ireland at the rescheduled double-handed offshore worlds, hinted to be in Malta in 2021.

The Drheam Cup, created in 2016 by Jacques Civilise will celebrate its third edition in 2020 on a 428 mile route between Cherbourg-en-Cotentin and La Trinité-sur-Mer kicks off on the 18th July 2020.  The Soliatire Du Figaro, originally created in 1980 is an infamously grouling race. Recognised as the unoffical world championships of solo offshore racing, the race is fiercly competititve. In 2020, over 30 skippers are entered for the start line in Saint-Brieuc in north-west France to take on 1,830 miles of Europe’s roughest waters. The fleet will include some of the world’s best ocean racers as well as ambitions young Rookies. The season will finish with the double-handed Spi Quest regatta.



The Beneteau Figaro 3, is the series-built monohull with foils and is seen as being the boat to have a strong knock-on effect for both racing and yacht production. These novel looking foils are designed to replace the traditional weighty ballast tanks used on past Figaro models. Described as ‘asymmetric tip foils’ they work by creating side force to supplement the skinny keel and reduce leeway while causing minimal drag. An important factor is also that they are able to retract within the boat’s maximum beam. In short foils can herald a step-change – a Figaro 3 with foils working is expected to be up to 15 per cent faster than its predecessor. The Figaro has been a reasonably conventional and durable one-design class that has served as the training and proving platform for aspiring solo offshore racing sailors, many of whom have then moved up to the IMOCA 60 fleet. Those 60s with foils are currently showing an unmatchable speed advantage on the Vendee Globe. To have the Figaro 3 blasting around Dublin Bay as its training ground should be quite a sight from Dunlaoghaire pier.



The team has successful sailed the Figaro 3 to Ireland where they will be based in DunLoaghaire for 5 weeks of intense training and ‘getting to know’ the boat, as well as all other campaign preparations before sailing back to France to begin racing in July. As with any professional sporting campaign, RL Sailing is actively seeking support and sponsorship opportunities for those who are interested in becoming a part of pioneering and ambitious Offshore Racing campaign for Ireland. Please do not hesitate to get in touch to find out more about the campaign, the team, the boat and sponsorship opportunities.



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