MORE than 30,000 visitors are expected to be lured to Plymouth next summer when the city hosts one of sailing’s grand prix events.
La Solitaire du Figaro, considered the world championships for single-handed racing, will visit Plymouth for the first time, in June.
The 2,014-mile race is one of the main training grounds for the Vendée Globe race, and this will be the first time it has included a British leg.
Sutton Harbour will host some 45 of the world’s top sailors, including local man Sam Goodchild. The 24-year-old achieved the best British result since 1975, finishing in 11th place this year.
Sam said: “To have the Solitaire du Figaro come to Plymouth is fantastic news. To be able to sail home in the key event of the season will be exciting.
“I really hope we can use it as a springboard to increase the awareness of short-handed sailing to the general public in the UK.”
Around 45 sailors, all on identical 33ft boats will arrive in Sutton Harbour at the end of Leg 1 on Wednesday, June 11.
From Plymouth the fleet will race to Roscoff, then make their way down the West coast of France to Les Sables d’Olonne in the Vendee region before returning to the finish in Cherbourg.
Spectators will be thrilled by close-fought inshore racing in Plymouth Sound before the fleets departs on its second leg on Saturday, June 14.
The stopovers were announced at the official Solitaire launch in Paris on Thursday, , 5th December). which was attended by Plymouth Cabinet member Cllr Mark Lowry.
He said this was Plymouth living up to its branding as Britain’s Ocean City.
The race will be one of a wide range of summer events, catering to every taste.
Plymouth’s bid to host the Solitaire was put together by the “A Future in Sailing” consortium in partnership with Sutton Harbour Holdings.
The group is made up of Destination Plymouth, Royal Western Yacht Club, Plymouth University, Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, Horizons Children’s Sailing Charity, Plymouth City Council and Sam Goodchild Racing’s team.
Amanda Lumley, chief executive of Destination Plymouth, said: “With its historic backdrop and vibrant shops, bars and restaurants Sutton Harbour is the perfect place for this event.
“We anticipate upwards of 30,000 people will attend the event during the days it is here from June 11-14.
“There will be activities for the whole community including music, entertainment and opportunities to view the yachts up close.”
Thousands of people are expected to line Plymouth’s waterfront when the Solitaire fleet leaves on Saturday, June 14.
The sailors will begin Leg 2 with a race inside the breakwater, an incredible spectacle with 45 boats racing between Jennycliff, Mount Edgcumbe and the Hoe.
Jason Schofield, chief executive of Sutton Harbour Holdings, said: “It will be an honour to welcome another prestigious sailing event to Sutton Harbour, cementing its growing reputation as a destination of regional and national significance and a jewel in the crown of Plymouth’s waterfront.”
Following the success of the America’s Cup in 2011 it’s hoped the Solitaire du Figaro will reinforce Plymouth’s position as Britain’s Ocean City and one of the leading sailing destinations in Europe.
Plymouth has been one of the key cities to promote single-handed offshore racing since the sport started in 1960.