On Thursday solo sailor Jonny starts the Solitaire du Figaro, his toughest test since the Vendée Globe

In just a few days Jonny Malbon will face his toughest test since starting the Vendée Globe, in the Solitaire du Figaro race starting Thursday (30 July).

The Vendée Globe may be the ultimate solo marathon but the Solitaire du Figaro is known as the ultimate ‘sprint’. Competitors tackle intense racing on short legs, sailing within just a few meters or a few miles of each other.

The 1,700-mile race is broken down into four legs visiting Brittany, Ireland, Spain and the Vendée region of France. Jonny will be racing the Artemis Figaro, a one-design boat just 33-feet in length, and has been training hard over the last few months in preparation for this annual event that is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

52 competitors will be on the start line including many of France’s leading solo sailors, including Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux. Jonny will be racing in the Rookie division (first-timers) and will be aiming for a top 5 result in this division: “The experienced Figaro racers impress me a lot too, they sail full on and know the boat inside out,” explained Jonny.

“I don’t think there could be any closer offshore racing? I now know that it will be a matter of minutes or even seconds only at the finishes, and that if you mess up a manoeuvre 10 boats overtake you in a snap! It’s merciless, and at the same time very friendly because everyone is very welcoming and open, they willingly share their experience or offer a helping hand. There is definitely such as thing as the ‘Figaro family spirit’ and I’m determined to embrace it.”

“Forget about sleep, be prepared to live for days helm in hand, within talking distance of your closest rivals at times. Be ready to lead by a seemingly comfortable margin, and to get overtaken by 15 boats as you mess up that crucial spinnaker drop after having spent 48 hours awake, feeding on the crumbs of cereal bars left in your pockets,” commented Jocelyn Blériot, editor of Latitude – official magazine of Artemis Ocean Racing.

To follow Jonny’s progress, visit www.artemisoceanracing.com .

2009 Solitaire du Figaro course:

Prologue event: Lorient Tuesday 28 July

Leg 1:Lorient (FRA) – La Coruña (ESP)
Start: 30 July; Distance: 345 miles
Leg 2:La Coruña (ESP) – St Gilles Croix de Vie (FRA)
Start: 4 August; Distance: 365 miles
Leg 3:St Gilles Croix de Vie (FRA) – Dingle (IRL)
Start: 10 August; Distance: 485 miles
Leg 4:Dingle (IRL) – Dieppe (FRA)
Start: 16 August; Distance: 511 miles