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Cécile Laguette on Figuring Out the Figaro

Cécile Laguette on Figuring Out the Figaro

We first ran into French sailor Cécile Laguette during the last Volvo Ocean Race when she was working as one of the technical shore crew members of the Race’s Boatyard – the outfit responsible for servicing each of the six one-design VO65 yachts at each stopover.

While that was a role that played to her strengths as an engineer and naval architect, Cécile is an ocean racer at heart and was hoping against hope for a call from the Team SCA management who had named her as their official under-30 reserve sailor. Unfortunately though, she didn’t get her chance to become a Volvo Ocean Race competitor that time around.

She is determined to take part in the next VOR however and last year she moved back to France to launch her own campaign to compete on the Classe Figaro Bénéteau circuit, the highlight of which is that most venerated of French singlehanded offshore races, the legendary Solitaire Bompard - Le Figaro.

So far it has been a far from easy ride for Cécile but she has raised enough for a boat and some expert training. We tracked her down recently in France and asked her to give us an update on how her campaign was going.

Let me give you some background on the Classe Figaro Bénéteau circuit. It was created more than 26 years ago by some ‘crazy’ Frenchmen. Now, every year between March and September, 40 or more solo skippers race against each other across six offshore events. The highlight event is the prestigious Solitaire Bompard - Le Figaro race, which is one month of racing taking place in between France, Spain and the United Kingdom, split into four legs of around 500 nautical miles each.

The Classe Figaro Bénéteau yacht is a 35-foot one-design originating back in 1990. These days we are racing on second generation boats called Figaro IIs.

Sailors who do well on this circuit generally go on to have very successful sailing careers - Vendée Globe, Jules Verne Trophy, Volvo Ocean Race, even the America’s Cup. That’s great news for me because what I’m looking for is to race against the best, become a better sailor and to be able to keep on learning.

To say it’s a very competitive circuit would be a gigantic understatement. It seems like most of the guys and girls racing these boats have been doing so for over 10 years. Not only they are amazing singlehanded offshore sailors, but sailing the boats fast comes as second nature to them. In a one-design class like this, experience is everything. There are no design differences between boats, so it’s all down to our own performances, how we manage ourselves on the water and how well we run our campaigns.

Why, you might ask, did a rookie solo sailor like me want to put myself up against these experienced French skippers? Well, it’s my absolute dream to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race and for the entire nine months of the last race I plotted and schemed what I could do to become a better sailor and get a place on a team to race in the 2017-18 edition.

I love every aspect of the Volvo Ocean Race: the mental and physical challenges; being part of a team; going through the build-up of the campaign; the training on the water and in the gym; the race itself - being able to share the amazing offshore moments, the tough challenges, the victories, with your team mates. To be able to do all that while you are racing around the world is something I thrive to experience. Taking part in the selection trials with Team SCA last time and working on the last race has only reinforced my conviction.

So, in September 2015, after 10 years of living overseas – mostly in New Zealand – I moved back to France and began to try to work out how I was going to break into the Figaro Class. I knew my learning curve in single-handed-sailing was going to be very steep. Sometimes that’s the best way to learn, but, believe me, it has proved to be a way tougher challenge that I could ever have imagined... READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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