The Beneteau Figaro 3 is a one-design boat, meaning everything must be the same, except for minor variations in the sail design. With foils, sophisticated autopilots and high-tech race navigation software, every part of a skipper’s life on board is performance orientated… even going to the loo has a performance compromise – using a bucket to save weight as opposed to a proper toilet!
The one-design aspect of the Figaro 3 creates a racing fleet where the results are solely determined by the skippers. This is why it is one of the most competitive and extreme classes in offshore racing. Sailing ability – the raw determination of each skipper to overcome the challenges of shorthanded sailing, to plan, manage and to better anticipate the unfolding race, managing fatigue, tackling the conditions, the route and the opposition – is what makes the difference, with very fine margins between finishes. The whole event is scored on combined elapsed time, with the top three often finishing within moments of one another.
What must also be noted is that it is the most active class in offshore racing. Skippers sail up to 180 days a year, with up to 15,000 miles worth of sailing (nearly half a lap of the planet!), making it the perfect class for a rising professional offshore sailor to race in. The rate of progression can be fast: take Violette Dorange, who started in the fleet at 19, and is entered into the Vendée Globe next year, when she will be just 23 years old.
It is no coincidence therefore, that the Figaro class has bred every Vendée Globe winner since 1992 as well as a host of successful Ocean Race sailors. Legendary sailors such as Alan Gautier (two-time Figaro winner, Vendée Globe winner), as well as new talent such as Will Harris (2023 Ocean Race skipper, three times Figaro skipper) and Sam Goodchild (five times Figaro skipper and 2024 Vendee Globe entrant)