David Kenefick in Atlantic qualifying bid for June’s La Solitiare du Figaro race

Cork sailor eyes French solo race

David Kenefick: the Crosshaven helmsman must learn quickly just to stay with the fleet.

David Kenefick: the Crosshaven helmsman must learn quickly just to stay with the fleet.


David Kenefick’s ambition to be top rookie in June’s La Solitiare du Figaro race takes a step closer today if the 22-year-old Munster novice can complete a 320-mile qualification race along the French Atlantic coast.

The testing Solo Arrimer race off Les Sables d’Olonne is an overnight baptism of fire for the Crosshaven helmsman in his chartered yacht “The full Irish” as he is up against 25 of the world’s top solo sailors. It includes six previous winners of la Solitiare du Figaro and Vendee Globe winners too. Kenefick must learn quickly just to stay with the fleet.

Michel Desjoyeaux, the only person to have won the Vendée Globe twice, was predictably among the early leaders after a start in little wind and a three-metre swell yesterday morning. In the early stages Kenefick and five other British rookies were in the chasing pack, Kenefick as far back as 21st at one point.

For now though such a result is good enough for Kenefick. His successful participation at qualifying events in France since last October means he only needs to complete this, his longest ever solo race, to secure his place in the world-renowned La Solitaire Du Figaro, an offshore event of four legs each of 500 miles and all single-handed.

But even finishing this race is no easy task and bringing the boat home safely in to the Bay of Biscay cannot not be under-estimated. He has to manage the boat, steering, navigating and planning for the tide, as well as grabbing sleep and food at opportune times.

Kenefick is expected back into the French port of Les Sables d’Olonne in the small hours tomorrow. The Figaro, which does not call to Ireland this year, starts from Bordeaux in two months’ time.

Irish waters
On Irish waters, Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough is the first club in Ireland to try out the new National Handicap Cruisers launched by the Royal Yachting Association. The Association aim to give clubs a uniform scheme that can be easily adopted for club-level sailing but how it works alongside the existing IRC measurement rule remains to be seen.

Ballyholme will be holding the first keelboat series under the Cruisers on Saturday afternoons in May and it includes an Associatinsession on how the handicap works. Entries appear buoyant for Tralee’s Icra nationals in June, Kinsale’s Sovereign’s Cup at the end of May and for July’s Volvo Dún Laoghaire regatta. In class zero, already a competitive fleet of six is entered for Fenit Bay.

Munster schools sailing champions Schull One and Leinster champions Kilkenny College are favourites for tomorrow’s Irish School sailing title – 12 teams have qualified from there regional events for the National Championships in Schull, Cork, with two teams travelling from the UK.

Among the regatta highlights of this summer’s Glandore Harbour YC’s Classic Regatta will be the attendance of the French built Pilot Cutter Jolie Brise, winner of the inaugural Fastnet race in 1925.

Tonight’s Royal Alfred Yacht Club agm in Dún Laoghaire will hear news of the Royal Alfred 24’s restoration project that has earned a new Heritage Crafts bursary by the Ireland Fund of France. The “Eight Yachts” restoration is to be completed as part of a training programme with French and Irish trainees.