2003 Solitaire du Figaro announced
The Figaro this year will comprise four legs of roughly similar length - 449 nautical miles for the first (and shortest), 494 nautical miles for the second, 536 nautical miles for the third (and longest) leg, and 500 nautical miles for the fourth and final leg.
The race will kick off from Les Sables d'Olonne, well known as the start and finish port of the Vendee Globe, on 28 July. One month ago Le Figaro newspaper (sponsor of this class) signed an agreement with the Vendée department in France announcing two starts and one arrival of the Solitaire du Figaro over the course of the 2003, 2005 and 2007 races.
The first leg will run from Les Sables d'Olonne to Bilbao-Getxo (Euskadi) in northern Spain. This will be the second time Euskadi marina has welcomed the Figaro fleet since 2000.
The second leg will set off towards Belle-Ile back on the Brittany coast of France before heading south again to La Rochelle.
Following this the boats will head north across the Irish sea to the traditional stopover in southern Ireland once again in Dingle. Finally the boats will return south to France and the finish off St Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire.
"The course relies on the abilities of the Figaro Bénéteau 2 to do a lot of miles, and fortunately it is a boat which eats up the miles in reaching conditions," commented Race Director Denis Horeau. "That’s to say that the same leg run with the wind behind will be twice as quick in terms of time than against the wind, so the course has been lengthened by around 280 nautical miles.
"The total distance rises from 1,700 nautical miles in 2002 to 1,979 nautical miles, this year. The weather will be the Justice of the Peace throughout the legs and a reduction in the length of these is envisaged for each of the stages (with the exception of the third), in the event of light winds being announced or upwind sailing."
Aside from the new course, the 2003 season will also be the first occasion new Figaro Bénéteau 2 one design is used. TheDailySail will be having a crawl over the new boat at the Salon Nautique in Paris later today.