ONE of the world’s most prestigious yacht races is coming to the Solent for the first time ever, the Daily Echo can reveal.

The Solitaire du Figaro, a 1,500-mile single-handed race around Europe, will stop at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

The famous sailing town will be the second host port in the race, which starts from Deauville in France.

The four-day stopover (June 22-26) will be a festival of sailing for the public - plus a chance to rest for the top sailors taking part.

The Solitaire du Figaro is considered one of the toughest races in the world, and is the training ground for solo sailors.

The best single-handed sailors in the world have won the Solitaire du Figaro and often go on to compete in the Vendee Globe singlehanded round the world race.

In recent years a host of British sailors have taken on the race through the Artemis Offshore Academy, Britain’s only solo sailing school.

In this year’s edition, Southampton sailor Alan Roberts became the second highest placed Brit ever when he finished ninth overall.

Mark McNeil, deputy mayor of Cowes and chairman of Destination Cowes, one of the main organisations behind the event, said: “Portsmouth has had the America’s Cup, Southampton has had the Volvo Ocean Race – this is our chance to put Cowes back on the map as the UK and Europe’s sailing capital.

“A real spectacle of the sea and a showcase of top level sailing, the Solitaire will attract crowds from both the island and mainland to the Isle of Wight.”

David Thornton, from Visit Isle of Wight, added: “The Solitaire du Figaro is a brand new and exciting event.

“We are delighted that the UK leg of the race coincides with the Island’s annual celebrations of our maritime lifestyle and heritage, ‘The Isle of Wight Festival of the Sea’, and we look forward to working with our partners in Cowes and our new friends in France to make this an exceptional celebration that everyone can enjoy and be a part of.”