Safran Figaro. Image copyright Jean Marie Liot/DPPI
par Soazig Guého
On June 8, Gwénolé Gahinet will start his first Solitaire du Figaro - Eric Bompard Cachemire at the helm of Safran-Guy Cotten. By winning the two-handed Transat AG2R La Mondiale, the young sailor made a grand entrance onto the Figaro Bénéteau circuit and is ready and looking forward to competing in this legendary race that his father, Gilles Gahinet, won twice in 1977 and 1980. Currently in Le Havre for the Le Havre Allmer Cup, the first round of the Championship of France Elite for solo offshore sailing, Gahinet has an appointment in 16 days for the starting gun in Deauville.
Le Havre Allmer Cup, the perfect warm-up
Twenty days without sailing is something that the skipper of Safran - Guy Cotten has not experienced since the beginning of the year. With the victory in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale under his belt, Gahinet is now planning his campaign for La Solitaire du Figaro - Eric Bompard Cachemire, the flagship race of the season. A week before the start of the festivities in Deauville, he is competing from May 23 to 28 in Le Havre Allmer Cup, an event combining ‘banana-shaped’ windward-leeward courses and 50-mile coastal courses. "It is important to get my competition head back on for racing in a much bigger fleet than on the Transat AG2R,” Gahinet said. “With 22 boats and six days of racing, I can go over the phases at the start, refresh the reflexes needed for solo sailing and especially refine the strategy for fleet racing. It also allows me to properly organise my preparation onshore, meet demanding schedules and establish a bit more discipline. From all sides, it is a good workout for La Solitaire.”
La Solitaire du Figaro, the excitement of the unknown
With 40 of the best Figaristes of the moment on the startline, La Solitaire du Figaro has been the flagship event of the circuit for 44 years. It is a coming of age that Gahinet is eagerly awaiting. "I have been thinking about La Solitaire for a long time, but just being there has never been the whole dream, it is not an end in itself,” Gahinet said. “As a sailor, I'm keen to start this adventure. Confronting myself and maybe pushing my limits are exciting prospects." Confident after three weeks of racing in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale, the skipper of Safran - Guy Cotten, knows that despite all that, the really hard work is to come. "With fine-tuning and steering the boat, I’ve improved, but I still have many things to discover,” Gahinet said. “I haven’t set myself a specific finishing place, I just want to continue to do things as well on the transat. That was fairly successful us. I am coming with no fear, I just want to do my best."
The most difficult solo race?
That is what has become customary for some sailors to say, even those who have participated in the Vendée Globe. Starting from Deauville on June 8, and heading 2014 nautical miles via Plymouth in England, Roscoff, Les Sables d'Olonne to the finish in Cherbourg-Octeville, La Solitaire is a always a unique racecourse which is a test of endurance and tactics. "I really like the format,” Gahinet said. “Having so many competitors levels the playing field and it promises to be a good fight on the water.” For a month, on legs of two to three nights, sleep management at sea is often the biggest unknown for rookies. It is a parameter that the skipper of Safran - Guy Cotten, who is savouring every hour spent on a project he loves,is not particularly worried about. "My experience in the Mini 6.50 will help me because a leg of La Solitaire is similar in many respects to the races in the Mini. I’m not worried about it even though you have to keep up the pace for a month. What is more uncertain for me is navigating the rocky areas and getting the sequences in manoeuvres right, but I'll learn.”
After six days of racing on Le Havre Allmer Cup, Gahinet and the other competitors will leave Le Havre in a parade on May 29 and head to Deauville, the starting town for the 45th edition of La Solitaire. From May 31, all the boats will enter Seine Bay for the Prologue Eric Bompard Cachemire. Then there will be a week for Gahinet and his team to make the final preparations: victualling, measuring and weather routing.
Join us on Sunday, June 8 at 13h for the start of the first leg, Deauville - Plymouth (England).
La Solitaire du Figaro