British yachtswoman aims to learn about one-design racing in top French two-handed event

British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur (22) sets off from St Malo next Sunday on one of the first stages of a rigorous training programme designed to get her ready for the Vendee Globe round the world race.

Ellen will be one of the competitors in the double-handed Figaro Tour of Brittany, which she is sailing with French Figaro coach Gael LeCleac’h. The race is sailed in identical 32ft water-ballasted Beneteau Figaros round the rocky shores of Brittany.

With a field of the very best French short-handed sailors, such as Michel Desjoyeaux and Jean le Cam, as well as Olympic and America’s Cup sailors Luc Pillot and Gildas Morvan, the competition is going to be very tough. Another favourite to win is Irishman Damian Foxall, whose partner is another future Vendee Globe skipper, Thomas Coville.

Although she has sponsorship from Kingfisher, Ellen MacArthur will be racing under the colours of Darty, BUT and Castorama, French companies which are all part of the Kingfisher retail group.

“This will be another steep learning curve for me,” comments Ellen. “The guys racing here are the very best in France. They know the boats, and the difficult coastline, inside out.My objective is to learn as much as possible, and try to be in the top half of the fleet. Regardless, the Figaro is an excellent training arena, for boatspeed, solo manoeuvres, weather and tactics.”