Exciting times ahead for Kenefick


SAILING:As the leading solo sailors of the Vendee Globe round-the-world race prepare to cross the Bay of Biscay this weekend to finish in less than 80 days, their performance is linked directly to a development programme in France that breeds talent for deep-ocean racing.

David Kenefick from Crosshaven is only the fourth Irish sailor to undertake the rigours of the Figaro single-handed circuit and next week begins a phased build-up of offshore sailing in the south of France in preparation for his first season.

Within a few weeks, he will move to the west coast of France and the Icom Cup, the first qualification event to permit him compete in the fleet of 50 boats that will race this summer. The Figaro race has introduced numerous changes including staging the start of the tour from city-centre Bordeaux where 300,000 spectators are expected.

Ireland was a regular stop-over port over several decades of the race and it seems early indications are that the race will return to an Irish port in 2014, when Kenefick intends to be in his second season.

The two leading contenders for this weekend’s Vendee Globe finish both followed the path that the Cork sailor has taken. Previous Figaro winner Francois Gabart had a slim lead of 88 miles yesterday over another successful graduate of the Figaro circuit, Armel Le Cl’eac’h.

Ireland’s first Figaro sailor, Damian Foxall from Kerry, subsequently sailed with Le Cl’eac’h as well as with current third placed Jean-Pierre Dick, with whom he won the two-handed non-stop Barcelona World Race six years ago.

However, Dick has lost his keel and gale force conditions forecast this weekend mean British sailor Alex Thompson is likely to take a podium result and the French man will be lucky to complete the course.

Like Foxall, Kenefick is benefitting from the generosity of legendary French sailor Michel “Le Prof” Desjoyeaux, a past winner of both the Figaro and Vendee races, who has chartered his own boat to the young Irish sailor.

That has enabled Kenefick to join with other “rookies” including five British sailors from the Artemis Offshore Academy that comprise the bulk of the newcomers for a series of legs between France, Portugal and Spain in June and July. Kenefick isn’t able to participate in the Artemis team as this is restricted to British sailors, but he does have direct access to their racing coach, Marcus Hutchinson.

Kinsale-based Hutchinson, Kenefick’s campaign manager, told The Irish Times: “David is a young man and a very talented sailor. Every time I’ve seen him all he ever wanted to know was about short-handed sailing. There’s nothing like the Figaro; it’s a proper one-design class, it’s structured and the very best people sail in it so after discussing it in detail last summer, in September he decided to go and do it.”

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