How the French look after their solo race fleets

This is the solo
Figaro race’s personal bodyguard, the French Naval vessel Comoran, berthed
beside race boats in Dun Laoghaire harbour in Ireland.

The French Navy escort
the race for the entire three weeks and 1,200 miles of its course, along with a
support yacht, a race committee yacht and a boat of doctors and medical
advisers. It is part of the incredible safety support of this remarkable
single-handed one-design race, which runs between Normandy, Brittany, ireland
and the Vendée.

The great thing about
having the French Navy as guardship is that when the boats are criss-crossing
the English Channel, they simply call up tankers and the like and get them to
alter course.

“It’s the safest
race I’ve ever done,” observes British competitor Conrad Humphreys. I’m
safer doing this race than going across the Channel on any JOG race.”

Humphreys also
comments that, with the 46-strong fleet separated most of the time by only a
few miles, you can often hear another competitor playing loud music for hours.
And that collision avoidance is routine and can be quite relaxed.

“I was having a
nap when I heard someone whistling and saying ‘Ahem!’ ” he says. “It
wasn’t particularly loud, but it woke me up.” It was one of the other skippers warning him that they were
about to cross and Humphreys needed to take avoiding action.