HENRY BOMBY: Figaro no.19 and La Solitaire du Figaro 2013

HENRY BOMBY: Figaro no.19 and La Solitaire du Figaro 2013

Thursday February 7 2013 Author: Artemis Offshore Academy Location: United Kingdom

Artemis Offshore Academy graduate sailor Henry Bomby explains how he came to be the proud skipper of the historic Figaro no.19.

The road to La Solitaire du Figaro 2013 was never going to be an easy one and it sure hasn’t been easy so far. However, last week I took my first major step towards the start line by signing a charter agreement for Figaro no.19 from now until the 1st October 2013.

Henry Bomby's Figaro for the season © HBS

The boat itself has got some history, having won the prestigious Solitaire du Figaro with current owner Charles Caudrelier, as well as having been the steed of many famous skippers in its time which include Franck Cammas, Pascal Bidegorry (former skipper of Banque Populaire 5), and Nicolas Lunven (another Solitaire winner), as well as my former coach Nico Berenger.

Solitaire du Figaro winner Charles Caudrelier onboard Figaro no. 19 © Solitaire du Figaro

The story of how this historic boat has now come to me is an interesting one. When I caught the ferry over to France at the beginning of January with a car packed full of sailing kit and a bunch of boat related paraphernalia from under my bed, I had nothing but the promise of a bed at a house with four other Figaro sailors at the bargain price of €230 per month.

Back in December I applied for a place at the prestigious Port la Forêt training centre, with a hope to start training with the school’s squad of elite offshore sailors who compete in the Figaro, IMOCA 60 and MOD 70 classes. I was fortunate to be accepted for 2013, which in itself is a bit of an honour. With the French Government funding Port la Forêt, similarly to how our Team GBR and Olympic programme is funded in the UK, it is not often that non-French nationals are accepted.

The Figaro training fleet © Pôle FCL

Training alongside four previous winners of the Solitaire du Figaro every day is definitely hard work, but it enables you to measure yourself against sailors who are at that top-end level of ability you’re striving to reach. Training with these elite sailors provides me with lots of motivation and is very beneficial to my development compared with last season where we would only line up against the Figaro elite during racing.

Although I didn’t have any money to charter a boat at the time, I scoped out all of the boats available for charter anyway, so that I could get a feel for prices and potential deals and also to know my order of preference should the money come about so that I could get cracking ASAP. One of the boats I went to see was in the Groupama shed in Lorient. Owner Charles Caudrelier, a previous Solitaire winner and more recently winner of the Volvo Ocean Race with Groupama, met me and showed me around the boat. A friend I made on the Figaro circuit last year, Julien Villion who was another 2012 rookie like me, had put in a good word to Charles for me explaining my situation.

Figaro 19 outside the Groupama shed © HBS

I drove down to Lorient late in the day after a full day of shore-based training at Pole Finisterre, looking through the finer details of our routing software Adrena. Charles and I chatted for a while and the next day I said I would come back and help him out on the boat if he wanted as I had nothing planned and he had a tight deadline to launch the boat. After just 60 minutes of conversation with Charles, I realised I was being fed little bits of gold dust as he told me from his experience about what is important to make sure a boat is reliable and where to focus your attention if you’re on a tight budget.  He was very willing to share his knowledge and I figured hanging out with him for a day wouldn’t be a bad thing.

So, I was put to work and then at lunch-time we went to go get something to eat. Charles kindly paid and began to talk about a potential deal we could do. Being late in the season, he knew his chance of renting his boat was very slim. Years back when Charles himself was starting out, Vendée Globe skipper Jean le Cam had lent him a Figaro for a few months to enable him to do his first Solitaire and Charles was keen to do the same for someone else now. I couldn’t believe my luck!

Charles Caudrelier © DPPI

We agreed that I would work for the next week and a half with Charles getting the boat ready and then I would do the first week’s double-handed training with him and then have the boat for myself the rest of the time to train solo. In return, I would work through a jobs list on the boat for him and help him out with things that needed to be done. It was perfect.

Double-handed sailing with Charles © HBS

However, after the first week of double-handed training, Charles came down to the boat to tell me that someone had got in touch and was interested in chartering his boat for the season... He knew I had been working really hard and wanted to tell me that I needed to sort something fast if I was going to have the boat. Figaro no.19’s history makes it  a very desirable boat, so I wasn’t all that surprised. Charles had helped me a lot, but he couldn’t turn down actual money - "Je ne suis pas Pere Noel" (I am not Father Christmas) were his exact words. 

It was a nerve wracking few days but I managed to raise enough money to charter the boat and the Artemis Offshore Academy helped me manage the deal and get insurance for the boat. I am now pleased to say that I have the boat for the season and I am very grateful to both Charles Darbyshire and Phil Johnston at the Academy for putting up with my endless phone calls during last week!

Henry Bomby aboard Figaro no.19 © HBS

With a boat now in the bag, my next goal is to find money to compete in two smaller races on the Class Figaro circuit in order to qualify for La Solitaire du Figaro 2013, with a longer term goal of raising enough money to buy a new set of sails to race with. With the first race for me starting on the 12th April, there is not a lot of time to NOT be sitting and thinking endlessly about the Figaro and La Solitaire du Figaro 2013!

Henry Bomby


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