For the ones that don't know what it is about:
[COLOR="Blue"][B]The Solitaire du Figaro, previously called the Course de l'Aurore, is a solo multi-stage sailing race created in 1970 by Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault. The unique character of the race, the presence of great solo sailors and its being open to amateurs, has made it one of the most cherished races in French sailing.....
The race is split into 4 stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average. Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
Yes indeed. I was very much looking forward to this race, though as you say the start of Leg 1 was not all that exciting yesterday - light conditions as the fleet beat down the river to the Bay of Biscay. The list of competitors is a who's who of major talent, including Yann Elies and Michel Desjoyeux (currently in first and second place), Adrien Hardy, Armel Le Cléac'h (finished second in the Vendée Globe this year), Fredric Duthil, and on and on. This should be a really good event and, so far, it is living up to it - the bulk of the fleet remains clustered within 0-3 miles of each other, after almost 24 hours of racing, in mostly light, downwind conditions (after they got out of the Garonne / Girdonde rivers).
Just to give an idea of how mainstream this is in France, the title sponsor this year is Eric Bompard
("Irresistible Cashmeres"), a well-known brand of fashion wear for women, men and children. Not dissimilar to Hugo Boss sponsoring Alex Thomson's Open 60 campaign, but this is an entire race series. To have something comparable for a sailing event in North America is unthinkable - though perhaps I'm wrong: I believe Nautica sponsors the U.S. Sailing Team for apparel and Nautica Watches was one of the sponsors at Key West Race Week. But I still think the point is valid. The Solitaire de Figaro is about as mainstream a sporting event in France as you could possibly have. And just wait a few more weeks when the Tour de France a la Voile kicks off.
Lest you think that all I do is complain, let me say that I am extremely pleased with the number and quality of Laser regattas scheduled for the Northeast this year. From June to October we will have the Atlantic Coast Championship, the New England Championship, the North American Championship, the North American Masters Championship, the Atlantic Coast Masters Championship, Buzzards Bay, Hyannis, and Sail Newport (and I didn't even mention all the smaller, local regattas). All of these events will attract very big fleets - over 100 boats in many cases - with solid sponsorship and good race organization. It is only when you step up to keel boats that things get depressing and you must then turn to Europe and Australia/NZ for real excitement.