Figaro class yacht designs 1966–2019

Please find below my latest translation for François Chevalier & Jacques Taglang. Mr. Chevalier writes:


Class rules often prevent more than they allow innovation. They are continuously created and adjusted to avoid rulebeaters that would obsolete the existing yachts in a racing fleet. Those yacht designers that would have established themselves in a given fleet but had least success with their latest ideas are sometimes the first to limit the rise of new trends in the class in which they have achieved popularity. History gives us plenty of ideas which seem new, whilst they are in fact more often the result of a greater freedom allowed by the class rules that have the fewest limitations.

The race was first named Course de l’Aurore, after the French newspaper for which the founders of the race, Jean-Michel Barrault and Jean-Louis Guillemard, worked.
The guidelines of the competition were very simple and achieved immediate success in its first edition in 1970. It was an offshore race, raced in single-handed 9 metre yachts on elapsed time only. On August 6th of that year, twelve series production yachts took the start in Brest (France), and eight completed all three legs, with Joan de Kat winning the overall event on a Super Challenger, ahead of runner-up Michel Malinovsky.

sailplan of the Super Challenger, draft courtesy of © François Chevalier
Super Challenger
• Yacht designer: André Mauric
• Shipyard: Chantiers Polo, Chantier Quéré, A.C.N.A.M.
• First launched: 1966
• Length: 9.07m
• Waterline: 6.94m
• Beam: 2.72m
• Draught: 1.40m
• Displacement (Lightship): 2,200 kg
• Displacement (SWL): 2,850 kg
• Air draught: 11m
• Upwind sail area: 29 sqm
• Fixed Ballast: 1,200 kg
• Water Ballasts: 2×200L
• Mainsail area: 15.65 sqm
• Jib area: 13.35sqm

From 1977 onwards, the race used either Half Ton cup yachts, series production yachts, or custom International Offshore Rule (IOR 21.7 raters) with an overall length of about 9 metres. Gilles Gahinet won the event on Rally, designed by New Zealander Ron Holland. In 1980, French newspaper Le Figaro became the title sponsor of the event, when Jean-Michel Barrault was a news correspondent for the company. That year, Gilles Gahinet won the race on Port de Pornic, his own design.
Young French yacht designers won all the races from 1978 to 1990: one victory each for Jean Berret, Jean-Marie Finot, Gilles Gahinet and Jacques Fauroux, five victories for Michel Joubert and his partner Bernard Nivelt, and three victories for Daniel Andrieu. However, the sophistication of Half-Ton Cuppers had become a real problem, with team budgets skyrocketing and the IOR rule coming to an end.

For the 1990 event, the race organisers submitted a call for tenders to shipyards to enter a design competition: the race would now be a strict one-design. The winners of the competition, French shipyard Bénéteau, the World’s largest builder of sailing yachts, made two proposals: The overall design of Jean-Marie Finot, which included water ballast tanks, was retained, whilst the jury gave special mention to Jean Berret for the elegance of his design’s sail plan. Subsequently the jury asked both designers to team up to design the future Figaro Solo. Benefiting from a deep fixed ballast, water ballast tanks and increased sail area, the new yacht made away with running backstays and easily overtook Half-Ton cuppers in speed, for an affordable budget, and delighted an entire new generation of racers. In 1992 a new version, with reduced sail area, was launched and named First Class Challenge. Laurent Cordelle was the first winner on this Bénéteau one-design, of which the hull developed into a few of the designers’ most successful production yachts at the Bénéteau shipyard like the First 310, the First 31.7, the Océanis 310 and the Océanis 311.

sailplan of the 1989 and 1992 versions of the Figaro Solo; sheer plan, body plan, waterline plan, deck layout of the Figaro Solo, draft courtesy of © François Chevalier
Figaro Solo
• Yacht designer: Groupe Finot, Jean Berret
• Shipyard: Bénéteau
• First launched: 1989
• Length: 9.14m
• Waterline: 8.40m
• Beam: 3.25m
• Draught:1.80m
• Displacement (lightship): 2,400 kg
• Fixed ballast: 900 kg
• Water ballasts: 2×200L
• Mainsail area: 25 sqm
• Genoa area: 30,50 sqm
• Spinnaker area: 73 sqm

In 2003, the race organisers proposed a new design competition to produce a larger and more modern series, destined to last a decade. The proposal of French designer Marc Lombard met their requirements and became the Figaro-Bénéteau 2. The new yacht took after the Vendée Globe 60 footers and featured a wide hull, a narrow waterline, twin rudders, liquid ballast tanks and a bulb keel, making her a production boat that was easy to handle even in heavy weather.

sailplan, sheer plan, body plan, waterline plan, deck layout of the Figaro-Bénéteau 2, draft courtesy of © François Chevalier
Figaro-Bénéteau 2
• Yacht designer: Marc Lombard
• Shipyard: Bénéteau
• First launched: 2003
• Length: 10.11m
• Waterline: 9.82m
• Beam: 3.43m
• Draught: 2.15m
• Displacement (lightship): 3,050 kg
• Fixed ballast: 1,100 kg
• Water ballasts: 2×220L
• Mainsail area: 38 sqm
• Genoa area: 30 sqm
• Spinnaker area: 85 sqm

More than 10 years have now gone by since the launch of the Figaro 2 and we will have to wait for the race’s fiftieth anniversary in 2019 for the Figaro 3 to make her appearance as the new single-handed one-design for the race.

sailplans of the Mer Forte and Finot-Conq proposals for the Figaro 3, draft courtesy of © François Chevalier
Figaro 3 proposal (Mer Forte)
• Yacht designer: Mer Forte
• Shipyard: Bénéteau
• Length Over All: 9.75m
• Beam: 3.20m
• Draught: 2.50m
• Displacement (lightship): 2,655 kg
• Displacement (typical transatlantic load): 2,890 kg
• Fixed ballast: 785 kg
• Canting keel: 28°
• Lifting rudders with interchangeable port and starboard quadrants
• Air draught: 15.55m
• Mainsail area: 39 sqm
• J1 area: 31 sqm
• J2 area: 20 sqm
• Large spinnaker area: 115 sqm
• Small spinnaker area: 85 sqm
• Code 0 area: 45 sqm
Figaro 3 proposal (Finot-Conq)
• Yacht designer: Finot-Conq / Samuel Manuard
• Shipyard: Bénéteau
• Length: 9.25m
• Beam: 3.50m
• Draught: 2.50m
• Displacement (lightship): 2,780 kg
• Water ballast : 300L
• Bowsprit: 2.50m
• Total upwind sail area: 72 sqm
• Large spinnaker area: 120 sqm
• Small spinnaker area: 92 sqm
• Code 0 area: 56 sqm

After consulting with yacht design teams Finot-Conq and Samuel Manuard, VPLP as well as Mer Forte (headed by Michel Desjoyeaux), the project proposed by VPLP was retained and refined by the Bénéteau shipyard for feasibility, control of reliability and of production cost.
The hull inherits directly from the designers’ experience in the latest generation of 60ft IMOCA yachts, with a fine bow, but with a convex shaped bilge on the chine. Astonishingly the waterline at rest resembles that of the Figaro 2. However, the waterlines differ entirely when underway or in a heel. The yacht features a slightly rounded chine, a flat cutwater followed by deep forward sections, and extremely sleek after sections that compare with those of Comanche, the 100ft IRC supermaxi designed by the same team in 2014. The keel has similarities with those developed by Farr Yacht Design a few years ago, of which the chief benefit is to avoid gathering algae when passing over shoals.
By using foils inverted from the previous generation, the lateral resistance loads increase with heel; According to estimates, 400 to 450 litres of reduction in displaced water can be achieved from 15 knots of windspeed. Considering that the lift of a foil is relative to the speed squared, the Figaro 3 is expected to exit displacement mode entirely (full hydrofoiling flight) between 25 and 30 knots of windspeed in flat waters. The end-to-end distance between the tips of the retracted foils donot exceed the beam of the yacht, but once deployed this distance extends to 5.25 metres.
The rig, which has been moved aft, features a mast with a strong rake and a square top mainsail, producing a larger sail area than that of the Figaro 2, despite a shorter air draught. The backstay is designed to stay the mast only when carrying the asymmetric spinnaker to ease handling in downwind conditions.
In order to reduce cost, the keel is fixed and the rudders are not of the lifting type. We will have to wait another ten years before they become a part of the Figaro 4, with, who knows, perhaps a scow bow!

sailplan, sheer plan, body plan, waterline plan, deck layout of the Figaro-Bénéteau 3, draft courtesy of © François Chevalier
Figaro Bénéteau 3
• Yacht designer: VPLP
• Shipyard: Bénéteau
• First launched: 2017 (ahead of the first race to be held in 2019)
• Sparred LOA: 10.85m
• Hull Length: 9.75m
• Waterline: 9.00m
• Beam: 3.45m
• Beam (extreme): 5.25m
• Draught: 2.50m
• Displacement (lightship): 2,900 kg
• Fixed ballast: 1100 kg
• Water ballasts: 2×220L
• Mainsail area: 39.5 sqm
• Genoa area: 30.5 sqm
• Spinnaker area: 105 sqm

When I studied the project of a 100ft Maxi Scow in 2012 I had sought to reduce bow slamming by creating an open V-shaped pram bow, visible in the body plan and the sheer plan (horizontal and vertical planes). In view of the benefits of the design, I subsequently drew a design proposal for the Volvo Open 70ft class, the IMOCA open 60ft class and a 30ft fast cruiser.
Shortly after however, the Volvo Race transitioned from an open box rule to a 65ft strict one-design from Farr Yacht Design, and the IMOCA 60ft class adopted new cost/quality control standards which included a bow radius limit with a 1.12m maximum on the 1m section from the bow. Displeased with so many design constraints, I decided to put my unfinished draughts on hold.
But in March 2016, the editor at the Voiles & Voiliers magazine asked me if I would be capable of submitting a project for the Figaro 3, in parallel to the competition held between the three other yacht designers.
I was delighted to improve on the 30ft fast cruiser, adding an extra foot of hull length and foils similar to those of the IMOCA 60 footers...

sailplan, sheer plan, body plan, waterline plan, deck layout of the FcH proposal for the Figaro 3, draft courtesy of © François Chevalier
Figaro 3 proposal (FcH)
• Yacht designer: François Chevalier
• Length: 9.45m
• Waterline: 8.88m
• Beam: 2.05m
• Bowsprit: 3.60m
• Draught: 2.20m
• Displacement (lightship): 2,250 kg
• Canting ballast: 750 kg
• Water ballast: 500L
• Air draught: 14.60m
• Mainsail area: 35.40 sqm
• Total upwind sail area: 67 sqm
• Total downwind sail area: 140 sqm

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