Bénéteau has announced that, from 2019, Le Figaro, the French singlehanded coastal and offshore series, will celebrate its 50th anniversary by racing a new fleet of foiling monohulls built by the French giant. The announcement concludes much speculation about the replacement for the Figaro 2 that was introduced in 2003. There seemed little doubt that, whatever the Figaro 3 was, it would be a foiler, but many expected the replacement to follow the vogue for foiling multihulls.
The Figaro 3 is the result of collaboration between the Bénéteau Racing Division Group, the Class Figaro, OC Sport, organiser of the Solitaire URGO-Le Figaro, Le Figaro group and foiling design experts Van Peteghem-Lauriot-Prévost (VPLP). VPLP has designed the IMOCA 60s leading the current Vendee Globe fleet and the last two winners of the solo, non-stop round the world race.
The prototype is already in production and will undergo sea trials in 2017. Construction is reasonably conventional, foam-cored GRP, but compared to the Figaro 2, it marks a step-change in design. The ‘horseshoe’ foils will emerge a deck level, like an upside-down version of the ‘Dali’ foils seen on the current crop of IMOCA 60s, and the righting moment generated means water ballast is no longer needed. The fixed keel has a narrower chord, reducing drag, as the foils will reduce leeway. The mast is stepped further aft to allow for bigger foresails, including a gennaker flown from a fixed bowsprit rather than the conventional spinnaker pole on the Figaro 2, and will feature a flathead mainsail.
Vincent Lauriot-Prévost explained ‘The challenge of the brief we were given was to create a boat that performs well and is as reliable as the Figaro Bénéteau 2. We worked extensively with the specialists from Bénéteau Group to design a hi-tech boat in terms of both manufacturing materials and processes.’
‘The versatile foil we’ve created provides more than just the dynamic power and vertical lift that is sought after in IMOCA. We’ve designed it in such a way that it creates as little resistance as possible in the light airs and reduces leeway at full speed.’