When I was roaming the last BOOT Boatshow in Dusseldorf (read my articles on this great show by clicking on the hashtag #boatshowdusseldorf) I of course came by the stand of Beneteau. All the Oceanis and other cruising boats didn´t cast too much attention but a small model displayed in a fairly distant corner of the exhibition stand: The brand-new Figaro 3.
As I already had interviewed the designer of the Figaro 1 and 2, Monsieur Marc Lombard (read it here) and with Sam Goodchild one of the pro-sailors riding the Figaro through the famous La Solitude-races (read the interview here) I was keen on maybe collecting some facts on the new boat – simply because the Figaro 3 is a trigger of serious discussions among sailors. Happy to have Eric Ingouf of Beneteau as a respondent for my questions.
Lars Reisberg | NO FRILLS SAILING.com: “Monsieur Ingouf, thanks in advance for answering my questions on the all new Figaro 3. Would you please be so kind to tell me who you are and what your positionin the Figaro 3-Team at Benetau is?”
Eric Ingouf | Beneteau: “Thanks Lars. My name is Eric Ingouf. I am with Beneteau for more than 37 years now. My position in the Group? I am in charge of the Beneteau First-range as well as responsible for one-design and special projects. Concerning the Figaro-yachts, I was with the project from the very beginning, starting with Figaro 1 and later the 2.”
NFS.com: “What are the principal changes of the Figaro 3 over the Figaro 2 in terms of the general concept of the boat. Or even the class if you will?”
Eric: “Well, first of all the Figaro 3 is a slightly smaller boat. The general measurements of the Figaro 3 is 9.75 meters length over all compared to 10.15 of the Figaro 2. She is slightly wider and has a deeper keel which still makes her overall displacement with 2.9 tons some 100 kilograms lighter than that of her predecessor. The Figaro 3 has Cat A CE-certification, ISO and WS Cat 1 label. She does not feature a water ballast-system as well. The most obvious difference of course are the foils which.
Eric: “Talking of sailing characteristics – there are a lot of differences. First of all, the Figaro 3 bears more sail area than the Figaro 2 and is on top of this range of sailing boats. Her fully battened main sail is a square top of course. She also will have an asymmetrical spinnaker on a fixed bowsprit.”
NFS.com: “What are the principal changes of the Figaro 3 over the Figaro 2 in terms of construction, material and technical matters?”
Eric: “First of all let me state that the Figaro 2 was and still is a powerful boat. But we wanted to push on with this concept. For the Figaro 3 we wanted to make a very powerful, light and modern boat that can be sailed without a ballast-system. Talking about materials and technical production stuff: Her hull will be made of polyester resin and GRP of course. We skip the Balsa sandwich core known from the Figaro 2 for a PVC-foam core on the predecessor. As I said – a very modern boat.”
NFS.com: “During the construction process and maybe even more earlier: How did the idea to develop a new Figaro-racing yacht evolve? Had there been used comprised feedback by the Figaro-class sailors to form the briefing on the Figaro 3?”
Eric: “Well, first of all the Class Figaro as a whole, after deciding to build a new boat, was working together to compile a general definition of the new boat. I think that´s a way a naval design will start a new project in general. This general definition of the yacht also incorporated a certain amount of liberty given to the designers as well. From the pre-projects submitted, three different designers had been selected and in the end VPLP was finally chosen by vote. This vote had been cast among Class Figaro sailors – so that´s a pretty democratic process I would say only partially driven by the yard itself. By the way, that was the very same procedure we had applied when we changed from Figaro 1 to 2 in the first place.”
NFS.com: “The Figaro 3 will be the first serial production boat with foils. First, how, when and why have foils been added to the Figaro 3-briefing? Was the foil there from the very first beginning or did it evolve within the design process?”
Eric: “That´s a simply answer: Foils had been a crucial part of the VPLP submitted project since the beginning. It was a key point in their approach to the new boat. Finally, the Figaro sailors decided by vote to go for the foils.”
NFS.com: “And in this respect, what do you think will the fact that Figaro 3 will feature foiling-technology add to both the Class-racing and the Solitaire in particular?”
Eric: “Well, to put it short: We will get more fun and more speed first of all of course. Since Figaro Class sailing is a kind of “sailing school” for future professional sailors here in France and for other Countries as well, having the boats equipped with foils will also be a better preparation for young sailors for the bigger classes and projects where foiling is a matter of fact.”
NFS.com: “With regard to HUGO BOSS at the Vendeé, foiling is considered both a fascinating, exciting way of sailing very fast and a potential risk for failure, accidents and will most certainly add a large portion of additional stress to the single-handed sailor: How would you say will this fact change Solitaire-sailing?”
Eric: “I wouldn´t put it this way. From my point of view, the only point that will really change change will be at the beginning of the race. The way they sail from start line to first weather mark in close sailing. We as Beneteau see the potentials in this project: The arrival of this new boat will give new opportunities to newcomers to develop their sailing skills and show a high performance. Talking about Alex Thompson´s foiling accident: We´ve incorporated safety measures to insure highest possible risk management. For example, the foil boxes and the foils themselves are calculated and built the same way like we do it with the keel in view of possible groundings. The lessons from the last Vendeé Globe had been incorporated for sure.”
NFS.com: “Eric, it´s sad I couldn´t receive some ultra-secret building pictures … in which state is the project right now? Is there a prototype built yet? What is the schedule of the project and when can excited sailors test and acquire the brand-new boats?”
Eric: “We are on schedule with Figaro 3. The very first boat will be on the water for first tests by selected Figaro Class sailors in July this year. Putting together the final stages of the project, we plan to have the first boat delivered to a costumer in one shot by the end of 2018 – this means a full year of testing and fine tuning. We will see the Figaro 3 boats in serious racing for the first time in 2019 as this is the start of the new Figaro 3-era.”
NFS.com: “When the new boat arrives and will be available: Will there be a phase when Figaro 2 and Figaro 3 are sailing next to each other in La Solitaire? Will there be any kind of handicap-system to “protect” the sailors on the older boats from the fast foiling new ones? What will it be like in the following years?”
Eric: “No, not at all. We won´t see them sailing next to each other. The arrival of the Figaro 3 is simply the end of Figaro 2 in official racing. Figaro and Solitaire is a one-design class without any handicap system. Figaro 2 was launched in the year 2003 and she was a very good boat indeed. Most of the boats in the circuit have a mileage of more than seven Vendeé Globe races under their keel, which is fantastic. But for plenty of reasons it was time for a change: The age of the boats, modernity and over all, the improved speed, in my opinion. You see, an interesting fact is this: Except the first winner of the Vendeé Globe, all other are former Figaro-Champions.”
NFS.com: “Eric, thanks so much for taking some time to answering my questions. I am very excited to see the first pictures of a real Beneteau Figaro 3 and wish all the best for the upcoming months for the project.
Other interesting articles on that topic:
The myth of Figaro 2 – Interview with Marc Lombard
Sailing the Solitaire on a Figaro 2 racing yacht – interview with Sam Goodchild
Young pro-sailor Lizzy Foreman on her first solo-handed experiences on an IMOCA 60