La Solitaire du Figaro arrives in Royan from August 31 to September 4, 2022

Royan, stage town on the race route

For the first time since the creation of the prestigious nautical event, the seaside resort of Royan will be one of the three stage cities of the Solitaire du Figaro, with Nantes (Loire-Atlantique) and Port-la-Forêt (Finistère). A fleet of 30 to 35 racing monohulls will be stopping for four days in the marina, in the immediate vicinity of the Grande Conche. A village will be specially set up for the event with, as a bonus, a copious entertainment program for the general public : discovery of beach sports, introduction to nautical activities, marine decoration workshops...

Royan will henceforth be inscribed in the History of the Figaro Solitaire. The mythical sailing race, created in 1970, has very often flirted with the coast of the Pearl of the Atlantic, without ever stopping there (2015, 2016, 2017, 2021 for the most recent editions). A shortcoming which will be repaired this year: for the first time, Royan joins the La Solitaire route.

Length of the video: 2 minutes 27

The 53rd circuit of this nautical competition, unveiled last December by its organizers, makes the Charente resort the finish point of its second stage, Thursday September 1, 2022, and the departure city of its third and last stage towards Saint-Nazaire, the Sunday 4 September. During this interval, the spotlight will be on the Grande Conche beach adjoined by the Kérimel esplanade where a village including a scenic area (for the award ceremony in particular), exhibition spaces and an entertainment center will be open from Wednesday August 31, the day before the skippers disembark after four days of journey and a double crossing of the English Channel (more than 1 km in total).

La Solitaire du Figaro, more than 50 years of history

The media and sports dimension of Solitaire du Figaro will offer significant visibility to the most touristy of the seaside towns of the Côte de Beauté: a prestige that is due to the status of queen event achieved by this XNUMX-year-old sporting event, whose successive awards show an impressive list of champions associated with cult images, heroic exploits and legendary adventures on the high seas.

During its first ten years of existence, this solo competition was "Dawn Race", from the name of the newspaper in which its two founders, Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault, worked at the time. 1980 marked the takeover of the event by another information title, Le Figaro, which gradually merged with its competitor.

At that time, the Solitaire had already proven itself and struck a chord with a few highlights:

  • The victory of the very atypical Joan de Kat – nicknamed the “eccentric bearded man” during the inaugural edition of 1970, which left Brest (in two stages).
  • A first foray into English waters in 1972.
  • The force 8 storm which forced ten of the fourteen participants to retire on the Falmouth-Laredo stage in 1973.
  • The feat of the English Clare Francis in 1975, the only woman to have won a stage in this event.
  • The helicopter lift of Pierre Saint-Jalm from Cape Lizard (Cornwall) in 1978
  • The miraculous rescue of Pierre Follenfant the following year, spotted on the high seas thanks to his flashlight carried by a wave.

Evolution of boat types

Until the early 1990s, most Solitaire participants were sailing aboard Half Tonners of about 9 meters. Despite the imposition of a race gauge aimed at equalizing everyone's chances, these sailboats were equipped with variable technical characteristics according to the budgets invested. To revive the sporting interest of the competition, its organizers ended up establishing the uniformity of the characteristics of its types of boats with the Figaro Bénéteau built by the eponymous shipyards from plans drawn by the naval architect Jean-Marie Finot.

This monohull regatta sailboat has since been available in three versions

  • the Figaro Bénéteau I in 1991 (9 meters long),
  • the II in 2003 (10 meters)
  • and III in 2017

The latter is distinguished from the others by the presence of foils intended to produce a lift force. It is capable of considerably increasing the speed of the boat (over 20 knots, or more than 35 km/h).

Six sailors have won La Solitaire three times. "King John" Jean Le Cam, podium record holder (in 1994, 1996 1999, and eight podiums in total) who started in the event at only 19 years old, in 1979. Philippe Poupon (1982, 1985, 1995), Michel Desjoyeaux (1992, 1998, 2007), Jérémie Beyou ( 2005, 2011, 2014), Yann Eliès (2012, 2013, 2015) and Armel Le Cléac'h registered their names on the prestigious list of winners of the race.

34 skippers will participate in the 2022 edition, including five women.

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