ONE of the world’s foremost sailing races arrives in Kinsale today, marking the start of five days of events in the town.
The ‘La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro’, which has been described as the Tour De France on the ocean, is a competition for solo sailors who all race in the same design of boat.
The race is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is doing so with the longest course in its history. The 2019 course covers more than 2,000 miles between Nantes, Cork, Roscoff and Dieppe, with Kinsale marking the end of the 550-nautical-mile opening leg from Nantes. The participants left France on Sunday and are due into Cork across the afternoon and evening.
The race, which sets out from France, has taken in many different routes and stopping points but Kinsale has been its most popular destination throughout the decades, chosen as a stopping point 19 times over the years. This will be the race’s first time in Kinsale since 2009.
This year the first leg has taken the fleet from Nantes to the Fastnet Rock before sailing east along the coastline past Clear Island, Baltimore, Glandore, Courtmacsherry, The Old Head and into the Bandon River to the finish line in front of Kinsale’s Charles Fort.
The organisers are encouraging people to visit and witness the sailors arriving into Kinsale harbour today and then check out the range of activities taking place over the next few days.
This includes a Figaro Cruise on Friday, giving spectators the chance to enjoy a cruise around the harbour and view the boats in the race from the harbour.
There will also be walking trails, music trails and night-time events taking place between now and Sunday — check out the full event programme at https://www.thekinsaleexperiencecompany.com/.
A key event for sailing fans will be the opportunity to hear from the two Irish participants in this year’s race - Joan Mulloy from Mayo and Meath’s Tom Dolan. Last year, Joan became the first Irish woman to participate in the event and is one of five women taking part this year.
It is also Tom’s second time entering the event.
“This is a long race, four long legs,” he said.
“The first one is the home stop and I will be right up for doing the best I can. The crazy thing is I can remember only ten years ago being out at the Fastnet when I worked at the sailing school in Baltimore and seeing the Figaro racers out there then. Back then I never thought I would be here ten years on racing into Kinsale on La Solitaire. That is crazy, isn’t it?”
The two are among the 47 sailors taking part this year and will be chatting about their preparations at a Meet The Skippers Event on Saturday at 3pm in Market Square.
Solo offshore racing is an incredibly tough sport because it is not just about sailing the fastest. The participants also have to navigate correctly and keep themselves going on minimal sleep in small boats without much shelter.
After a few days rest, the skippers will set sail on the longest leg of their journey, travelling 630 nautical miles to Roscoff in northern Brittany.
This marathon stage will take them along Irish coast and through the unpredictable, and at times dangerous, Irish sea before rounding the Isle of Man. A long descent along the rugged western Welsh coast, followed by a passage between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles, before a crossing of the English Channel towards Roscoff.