Going Solo Again with La Solitaire du Figaro

Going Solo Again with La Solitaire du Figaro

Tuesday February 15 2011 Author: conrad Location: United Kingdom

Chatting away to James Boyd (@theDailySail) this week it felt like I'd been away from the single-handed racing scene forever! I guess in some regards that's true, as the last time I raced solo was in the Vendee Globe 2005. I tried to explain that when I switched to multi-hulls and the Extreme 40 series in 2005, it was supposed to lead back towards a new sponsored Open 60 campaign, but the reality was that the fledging Extreme 40 class took all of my time and sponsorship raising ability and left me with no time to focus on the Vendee campaign. The Extreme 40 did allow me to spend a lot of time travelling round the world with the Volvo Ocean Race and with more time onshore with Vikki, she fell pregnant at one of the stopovers.

Sitting out of the Vendee cycle in 2008/9 was quite tough personally (probably harder on Vikki!) but the economy was heading off a cliff and we really needed to focus on diversifying our sponsorship model from solely ocean racing. In 2007, I had taken on the host city bid for the Transat for Plymouth and working with Offshore Challenges, set about turning the event around. The bold move to relocate the entire event to Sutton Harbour and build the village in the heart of the Barbican turned out very well and with the creation of the Jazz and Blues Festival, the University of Plymouth marine education programme and the hot sunny weather, Transat attracted over 120,000 people through the village and over 1500 boats on the water for the start.

Leading the host city bid for Plymouth, taught me a huge amount about the value of “major events” for driving social and economic impact. Plymouth had started to be left behind as the UK’s leading marine city as places like Hull and Liverpool have stolen the march by using large scale marine events to drive economic regeneration and social change. The Transat and other new major events that are set to emerge from Plymouth aim to reverse this trend.

Katelyn was born two days after we launched a new environmental project called the Blue Climate and Oceans Project.  Blue is now a social enterprise, but it started as an awareness project to inspire more people to actively care about our water (Blue) environment. Nearly four years on, The Blue Project is now a major part of our business, Sport Environment and is one of the things that I am most proud of. Later this year we will be announcing the next phase of the development of the Blue Project which aims to become one of the leading environmental initiatives of its kind – keep an eye on www.theblueproject.org

In 2008, sold the Extreme 40 to Team Origin at the height of the AC involvement in multi’s prior to the 33rd America’s Cup. Whilst it broke my heart to bow out of the class at a time when its potential was just starting to be realised, the costs had escalated and the return on investment was still pretty limited, so I focused on the F18 and the Archipelago Raid which is the most wonderful event to race and I hope Christine and the Atlant team can bring it back soon.  I also started navigating for Matt Allen’s, Ichi Ban which has seen me compete in the last 4 Sydney-Hobart races, an event that is simply the best offshore race in the world and great to navigate.

Last year saw the birth of our second girl, Isabel  and also the birth of The Blue Mile – Race for the Environment (www.thebluemile.org) This is our first mass-participation event designed to get the nation actively raising money and caring for our blue environment. We ran the test event in Plymouth and we are now working on a series of events to take place nationally later this year. It’s a brilliant, simple concept where people compete a mile on the water via swim, SUP or kayak and raise money for WWF-UK.

And so, onto 2011 and a return for me to single-handed sailing with La Solitaire du Figaro. I’ve been training with the Artemis Academy since September last year and later this week will start training in Bernard Stamm’s Figaro which I’ve chartered for this season. My objective is to race hard and learn as much as possible from the top guys on the circuit.  It’s a campaign that I have always wanted to do and a chance to really pit myself against some of the best offshore sailors in the world.  I’m under no illusions about how hard it will be, so the aim is to learn and also to use the platform to launch our new search for a title sponsor for the IMOCA World Championships and the Vendee Globe 2013-2016.

Check out our new race website (www.conradhumphreys.com) , which has been designed and built by Nick Jackson (Crunch Creative) who has worked with me on every one of our creative projects since 2001. He’s a genius and I hope you enjoy the site - drop me a note with your comments.
www.facebook.com/conradhumphreys   or Twitter: @conradhumphreys

Look forward to seeing you on the water,

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