The chosen nine
Nine solo offshore sailing hopefuls, from across the British Isles, have today been selected as the first Development Squad of the Artemis Offshore Academy. The Academy, sponsored by the investment management company Artemis, was set up earlier this year to nurture British offshore sailing talent. The long-term aspiration of the Academy is to put a British sailor in a position to win the solo Vendée Globe in 2016 or 2020.
From an original list of over 50 applicants, those who made it to the shortlist were put through a grueling mental and physical selection process. They were pushed well beyond their comfort zones with nine ultimately chosen to be part of the Development Squad:
• Oliver Bond (30, Southampton)
• Nick Cherry (25, Birmingham/Southampton)
• Sam Goodchild (20, Southampton)
• Simon Hiscocks (37, Surrey/Portland)
• Nick Houchin (26, Tadley, Hampshire)
• Nigel King (41, Lymington)
• Becky Scott (24, Scotland/Fleet)
• Phil Sharp (29, Jersey)
• Oliver Young (22, Saltash)
As part of the Squad, they will begin a winter-long programme where they will develop the skills needed to perform as a world class offshore sailor. The Academy will be based from the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy until the end of November when they will relocate to La Grande Motte Figaro School (CEM). From here CEM Director Franck Citeau will manage a full programme for the sailors through to the end of March. At that point one of the Squad will be selected for the scholarship which will enable them to race in the 2011 French Figaro circuit in one of the Artemis Figaro boats. The remaining Squad will continue to train and take part in a series of races throughout 2011, including Royal Ocean Racing Club’s most famous race the Rolex Fastnet Race, and the Tour du Bretagne at the end of September.
The group will be bolstered by two associate members, 36 year old Pip Hare (Felixstowe) and 37 year old Conrad Humphreys (Plymouth) who, instead of being provided with equipment and costs, will bring their own campaign to train with the Academy. As the project develops, the aim is that more people will move on from the Development Squad to become associate members and keep training with the Academy.
Sailors will remain in the Development Squad for as long as they are attaining pre-agreed training goals. The aim is to allow sailors the time in the Figaro boats to develop their skills before moving into other classes or finding their own funding for a campaign. Further selections to top up the squad will be held in April and September 2011.
Conrad Humphreys commented: “When the Artemis Offshore Academy was announced earlier this year, I immediately thought it was not only a great idea but also the missing link for UK aspiring and seasoned solo sailors. No one would argue that when compared to our French counterparts, we simply do not do enough collaborative training or development in between the major events. The Figaro championship is one of the best programmes for short-handed development and there is no secret to the fact that every Vendée Globe winner maintains close links with the class. I hope the Artemis Offshore Academy will become a place to nurture new talent and provide Associate sailors like myself with support to compete at the top level. I will be looking for a sponsor to do the Solitaire du Figaro in 2011 and the Transat in 2012 and I look forward to working with the rest of the squad over the coming 12 months.”
Simon Hiscocks commented: “The British success in the Olympics is a direct result of a very long programme that the RYA has run right from the grass roots getting people learning to sail up to winning Olympic gold medals. And that whole thing has a massive structure behind it - you name it they are on it. Hopefully we can transfer that success into this field through this programme. The Artemis Offshore Academy opens up a whole new world of opportunities, not least of which is potentially being able to do the Vendée Globe, and I am really excited to be part of it.”
John Thorn, Artemis Offshore Academy Performance Director commented: “From their application and CVs, we knew we had the sailors. It was then more a question of trying to identify some of the other traits that we felt were an important part of success in short sailing and offshore sailing. There were lots of elements that we were looking for.
"The nine development squad members that we have chosen have got tremendous potential – and we looked at that potential over short, medium and long term. But they are experienced sailors, they are technical competent sailors and they have the desire to win."
"We will identify what the sailors need and we will deliver that, using the best coaches, the best venues, the best resources we can. We’ll give them everything they need in order to be successful.
"I am tremendously optimistic and truly believe, because we are building a foundation for long term success, that we will see an Artemis Offshore Academy sailor on the podium for the Vendée Globe. It is an incredibly exciting time and this is just the beginning.”