My latest big scary challenge will start in a few days: la Solitaire du Figaro Urgo. This extremely competitive one-design solo class bills itself as the “birthplace of legends” (good to see they don’t take themselves too seriously!) as every winner in the modern era of the Vendée Globe has graduated from this class and current and former Figaro sailors dominate most other offshore classes. Out of the 47 boats participating, I'll be among the 12 rookies doing their first "Solitaire"!
The Figaro is a brutal series of short sprints in coastal waters where the ability to get a good start is essential, reading local effects takes precedence over big picture navigation and the boats are simple and bullet-proof and don't really reward mechanical knowledge on the part of the skipper. Basically, the toolbox that I have built up over the last 12 years and three races around world counts for little next to the Figaro specialists.
La Solitaire du Figaro will start in a few days and while you'll be comfortably looking at the tracker, I'll be scratching my head in the middle of the English Channel, juggling fleet tactics, currents and tricky crossover charts all on almost no sleep at all.
The challenge of keeping the boat on its toes leads to significant fatigue and I was surprised to find the stories of sleepless Figaro sailors were indeed true. In the Solo Maitre Coq solo training race last month I only managed to get 2.5 hours of sleep over two nights. Others got less. A sleep scientist I work with to help find my sleep rhythm at sea said that the Figaro must not be confused with the Sleeplessness World Championships but getting a few good catnaps in while sailing in the middle of a nearly 50 boat solo fleet is certainly not conducive to solid rest, even by a normal solo sailor’s extreme standards.
I'll be heading down this weekend for a departure on June 2nd!