Major yacht race Solitaire du Figaro heads for Torbay
PUBLISHED: 14:11 28 January 2015
This summer the Solitaire du Figaro yacht race will sweep into Devon waters. CHRISSY HARRIS sets the scene
You do not have to be a all-weather sailor to know that more than 40 beautiful racing yachts heading for the horizon across Tor Bay is going to be a pretty stunning spectacle.Thousands of people are expected to line Torquay’s marina to watch the Solitaire du Figaro skippers in action when the world-famous race sails in from Bordeaux in France to Devon waters between 17-21 June. It’s a massive coup for the area.
The event, which has a huge following in France, rarely comes to these shores. Last year, the race steered its way into Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour in the first UK stopover in 11 years - to the delight of more than 50,000 onlookers who watched the sailors and their 33 foot-long yachts.
This year, the UK event aims to bring in around £1.2 million to the local economy, and set Torbay on the compass of the international sailing scene. To say there is a ripple of excitement is an understatement.
“We are absolutely delighted,” gushes Torbay Mayor, Gordon Oliver. “This is a major sailing event in Europe and the rest of the world and it’s coming to Torbay.” Torbay Council has collaborated with the Royal Torbay Yacht Club and Artemis Offshore Academy to secure a bid to become a 2015 Solitaire du Figaro stopover destination. They are to set up a race village at Torquay’s Beacon Quay, to allow people to meet the Solitaire sailors. There are also plans for a grand firework display, a prize-giving, a service of celebration and shore-side entertainments. Schoolchildren will be invited to come and visit the boats and greet the skippers who are on the 2,000-mile race that criss-crosses the English Channel.
It’s a rare opportunity for the solo sailors to race with guests aboard. For Henry Bomby, it’s the perfect chance to showcase his skills in home waters. The 23-year- old from Kingswear is one of three Westcountry sailors taking part. His fellow competitors include Sam Matson, 23, from Exmouth and Robin Elsey, 22, from Truro. Henry says he’s delighted to be coming to sail in a bay he knows so well.
“Just look at it out there,” he sighs standing in the Royal Torbay Yacht Club’s Corinthian Room overlooking Tor Bay.
“It’s like an amphitheatre for sailing. The stopover here is going to be amazing.
“And it’s not just about the sailing. People who come into town won’t be able to miss it there’ll be so much going on.”
“Last year in Plymouth was great, but it was all based on the Barbican.
“This year, it’s going to be all along the seafront in Torquay.”
Henry first entered the Solitaire race in 2012 as an Artemis Offshore rookie. This will be his fourth Solitaire.
“I was disappointed last year. A few things didn’t go my way, but you’re learning all the time,” he says. “I’m looking forward to another challenge.”
Artemis Offshore Academy training manager, Marcus Hutchinson is also delighted to be playing a part in promoting the region as a top racing destination.
La Solitaire du Figaro, Eric Bompard Cachemire 2015 is considered the unofficial world championship of solo offshore sailing.
The Class Figaro circuit is known to be a training ground for skippers looking to take on the Vendée Globe – a non-stop, around the world, solo race.
It is raced in 33 foot boats, called the Figaro Bénéteau II.
The smallest gains in speed during the race can mean the difference between first and last.
Torbay will be the fourth stopover in five stops.
Westcountry sailors are Henry Bomby, 23, Kingswear, Sam Matson, 23, from Exmouth and Robin Elsey, 22, Truro.