Young sailor wins Figaro first leg
LONDON, England -- The first leg in the Figaro Solo has been won by the youngest competitor, 23-year-old Antoine Koch.
Strong tides and light winds in the English Channel made the first leg tricky for the singlehanded sailors competing.
The race started from Boulogne-sur-Mer, France on August 4 with 1691 nautical miles of coastal and ocean racing ahead to test the 38 competitors.
Leg one ran 437 miles along the south coast of the UK around Land's End up to Crosshaven, southern Ireland. Koch crossed the finish line early on Thursday.
After three days ashore, the second leg covers 439 miles from the French port of Les Sables d'Olonne, with leg three beginning on August 18 heading south to Gijon in northern Spain.
The final 465-mile leg starts on August 25 with the boats heading north into the English Channel to the finish in Cherbourg.
"The first and fourth legs risk being the most fearsome with their long coastal route requiring great vigilance due to the fishing boats, the nets, the sand banks.... The channel will be the judge," said race director Denis Horeau.
Many view the Figaro Solo as the effective world championship of singlehanded offshore racing and as a stepping stone to greater things as the majority of the fleet are French sailors with hopes of entering the professional Open 60 monohull and trimaran classes.
"The Figaro? Perhaps the hardest single-handed race that can be done," said Michel Desjoyeaux, winner of the singlehanded Vendée Globe 2000-2001 and a regular of the Figaro.
The race is sailed in one-design 9m (30ft) Beneteau Figaro Solos, so results are entirely down to the skill of the skipper.
Skippers must be skilled at steering, sail trimming, navigation, tactics, repairs and cooking.
Most important is the stamina to sail for three to four days virtually without sleep. Electronic autopilots are used, but most of the skippers prefer to steer by hand when they are not working the boat, navigating or catching short naps.
This year numbers are down with many of the top solo French stars preparing for the Route du Rhum.
It is the last season for the Finot /Berret designed boat that has been used for the last 12 races. A Marc Lombard design will be introduced for next season with a prototype of the new boat due to be unveiled in Cherbourg at the finish.
Race favourite must again be Eric Drouglazet who won the race last year and came second in the two previous years. Of similar experience is Gildas Morvan who has come third in the last three races.
Figaro Solo: Results first leg (Skipper/boat)
Frenchman sails to victory
February 11, 2001
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