Solitaire du Figaro to visit the UK

Course announced for the 2004 singlehanded offshore sailing championship

Thursday December 4th 2003, Author: Anne Millet, Location: France
2004 will see the Figaro class' Solitaire du Figaro celebrating its 35th anniversary, in addition to it being one year after the arrival of Alain Afflelou, La Solitaire’s main partner, and the new Figaro Bénéteau 2.

To celebrate these anniversaries in style, the 2004 edition will be raced over an entirely new course, where the tactical and strategic options will be open.

The course of the 2004 race is slightly shorter than previous years. This is largely due to the fact that the first leg is over a short distance, but one which will be highly concentrated, much closer in nature to match racing than classic Solitaire racing. All in all, the course covers 1,476 miles, a distance which should take around 10 days and nights to complete, as opposed to 12 to 13 days and nights previously.

Although the total distance is shorter than in 2003, La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro 2004 will be every bit as technical and challenging, honouring a great yachtsman and highly talented champion as it has for the last 34 years of its history.

La Solitaire will be starting from Caen on 27 July. In 2004, this large town in Normandy will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings. The first few hours of La Solitaire 2004 will form part of the commemoration festivities. In Portsmouth on 4 June 1944, Eisenhower made the decision that part of the 160,000 soldiers mobilised for the occasion would board more than 5,500 boats of all shapes and sizes, cross the Channel and land on the beaches of Normandy not far from Caen in the small hours of 6 June 1944.

On Monday 19 July at 1130, the prologue will start off Ouistreham, from Caen before the fleet sails up the channel to the port of Caen.

The solo sailors will sail the opposite route to those sailed by the soldiers of the 1944 landings, bound for Caen’s twin town of Portsmouth on England’s south coast. This is the first time that La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro will be stopping over in Portsmouth.

The third novelty will take the race down to France’s Vendée region, to the town where the Figaro Bénéteau 2 is built. While La Solitaire has stopped many time in Les Sables d’Olonne and Port Bourgenay, never before has it graced the golden banks of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie. The sailors will be make a short stop there, time for a brief rest in the place which is home to Chantier Bénéteau.

After the Vendée, it will be on to Gijon, in northern Spain and the pearl of the Asturies, a traditional port of call for both skippers and Solitaire, which will be stopping here for the tenth time.

The final leg of the race will head for Quiberon Bay, France's equivalent of the Solent, where the finish line will be off Quiberon and Port Haliguen, where La Solitaire has not set foot since 1988.

"The 2004 edition should not be short on panache. As we are going to be celebrating a quadruple anniversary, this edition will go down in the great history books of modern day maritime events," commented Race Director Denis Horeau. "La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro is also synonymous with a highly noble sporting competition, because sailing identical machines singlehanded is where the supreme art in navigation lies. All of those taking part have to surpass themselves to attain dizzy heights of personal achievement."

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