Five British Artemis Offshore Academy skippers will be lining up for the 320-mile offshore Solo Figaro Massif Marine 2012 starting tomorrow [15th March] at midday [CET]. The skippers are 2011 Solitaire du Figaro competitor Sam Goodchild, and first solo Figaro race ‘Rookies’, Nick Cherry, Oliver Bond, Aaron Cooper and Henry Bomby.
The British skippers will be facing tough competition from Figaro veterans like Nicolas Lunven (Generali) who won this race in 2010 and 2011, and finished 4th overall in the 2011 Solitaire du Figaro. Fred Duthil (Sepalumic) who has had an impressive three podium finishes in the Solitaire du Figaro. As well as Fabien Delahaye (MACIF 2012) who came second in the 2011 Solitaire du Figaro, won the Trans-Atlantic AG2R in 2010 and won the Solo Figaro Massif Marine in 2009. All these top sailors will also be competing in the Solitaire du Figaro later this year giving the Artemis Offshore Academy ‘rookies’ first-hand experience competing against the best in the class.

“The competition for the five British Artemis Offshore Academy sailors is going to be very tough as only Sam Goodchild has raced solo before in the Figaro class,” reported John Thorn, Artemis Offshore Academy Performance Director.  “It is a great achievement for Nick, Henry, Oliver and Aaron to compete here, and is a great opportunity for them to put into practice what they have learnt over the winter in a full-on race environment. It’s certainly going to be a steep learning curve for them over the 320 mile coastal course.”

“It’s the first official race of the Figaro season and also my first solo race,” explains Bomby. “It will be the biggest race I have ever done, so a lot of it will be unknown from that perspective. I think we all just have to go out, learn as much as possible, push as hard as we can and see where we end up. After this race we will have more of an idea of what we need to work on and where we can go from here.”

From the start in Les Sables d’Olonne which is also the start and finish port of the legendary non-stop, solo Vendée Globe race, the Solo Massif Marine route takes the single-handed skippers around the islands of Ré, Yeu and Belle covering 320nm in two days before finishing back in Les Sables d’Olonne.  This race is a real test of competitor’s limits as Goodchild explains: “We will be sailing on a fairly significant margin of the Solitaire du Figaro course. There will be lots of tide, turning marks on the course, as well as the potential for big waves and a lot of wind as we’re racing on the north shore of the bay of Biscay.”

Goodchild has had the least time on the water in the Figaro this winter as he was racing in the double-handed Class 40 Global Ocean Race where he won the second leg. Both Goodchild and Cherry will race double-handed in the AG2R Transat in six weeks time and then individually in the Solitaire du Figaro in June.

Cherry is clear about his aims for the race: “My aim for this race is to check my sailing procedures and on board systems in a racing environment. Secondly, to get some experience on the Solitaire du Figaro course and, thirdly, to be on the pace with the top skippers in the fleet. Whilst it might be hard to stay with the best Figaro skippers over the 320 mile course it would be nice to hold the pace with them for a while.”

The Artemis Offshore Academy squad is now based in Les Sables d’Olonne and busy with final preparations for this testing race. Whilst the squad remain realistic about the outcome, in the short term this race poses a great opportunity to compete against the best whilst learning as much as they can, as the Academy continues to focus on the long term:   “We are delighted to see so many British sailors supported by the Artemis Offshore Academy competing on the Figaro circuit in 2012 as it marks a significantmilestone in achieving our long-term goal of putting a British sailor in a position to win a Vendée Globe in the future,” said Thorn.

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