Figaro class update

James Boyd looks ahead for the 2002 season in the French singlehanded class
So what is this Figaro class mentioned so much over the last few days? The Figaro Beneteau is a rather unremarkable one design 30 footer built by Beneteau. What is remarkable about the class is that these ordinary boats are sailed hard, really hard, in a series of short handed events around France ranging from round the cans courses to transatlantic, as in this year's Transat AG2R, to the main event of the year - La Solitaire du Figaro, a four stage singlehanded race between France, Spain and Ireland. La Solitaire du Figaro is widely thought of as being the unofficial world championship of singlehanded offshore racing. Competition is hot and often old hands who have been through the larger Open 60 and trimaran classes - such as Route du Rhum winners Philippe Poupon and Florence Arthaud - take part to refresh their skills. Because of the competition, winning the Figaro is an accolade that in the past has been the endorsement allowing skippers to get sponsorship to move into the bigger 60ft classes. Almost all the French 'stars' have taken part in the circuit and many are winners. They include BOC/Vendee winner Christophe Auguin who won the Solitaire du Figaro in 1986, trimaran skipper Laurent Bourgnon - winner in 1988, 2000/1 Vendee Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux - winner in 1992 and 1998, trimaran skipper Jean le Cam - winner in 1994, 1996 and 1999, Foncia skipper and Vendee Globe winner Alain Gautier - winner in 1989, Whitbread winner Lionel Pean - winner in 1983, OSTAR and Route du Rhum winner Philippe Poupon - winner in 1982, 1985 and 1992. La Solitaire was first run in 1970 as the Aurore Race and following sponsorship from the French newspaper was rechristened the 'Figaro' race in 1980. It has been held in