Hitting the big time
In two weeks time, Artemis Offshore Academy sailors Jack Bouttell and Ed Hill will for the first time line up against most of the Figaro class heavyweights when they take on the 320 mile Solo Arrimer (aka Solo Les Sables). On the start line will not only be the Artemis Offshore Academy trio of graduates in Nick Cherry, Sam Goodchild and Henry Bomby, but also the cream of the fleet, including past winners Armel Le Cléac’h, who has finished second in the last two Vendée Globes, Nicolas Lunven, Jérémie Beyou and the most recent entry, Yann Eliés, the reigning Solitaire victor.
Starting on 11 April, the Solo Arrimer will be the second race in the Artemis Offshore Academy’s 2013 calendar.
“Racing against such a tough field, which includes the likes of Jérémie Beyou, Nicolas Lunven, Yann Eliés and Armel Le Cléac’h, will be a real indicator of my performance and ability, and also how much more I need to improve in order to be in contention with the best,” explained Ed Hill. “It will also be great fun to race against the Artemis Offshore Academy graduates, Sam Goodchild, Henry Bomby and Nick Cherry, who have more experience than Jack and myself, but I’m hoping that is not going to show!"
While Lunven and Eliés are Figaro regulars, Beyou and Le Cléac’h return to the class after a break when they competed in the Vendée Globe. Both picked up IMOCA 60 sponsorships after winning the Solitaire in the Vendee Globe's last four year cycle, Beyou from Maitre Coq and Le Cléac’h from Banque Populaire. Confusingly Beyou is continuing in the IMOCA class having acquired the boat Le Cléac’h sailed to second place in this year's non-stop round the world race while Le Cléac’h has moved on to three hulls with Banque Populaire acquiring the maxi-trimaran Groupama 3 with the aim of claiming the bank line honours in next year's Route du Rhum. Both are using the Figaro to keep their solo offshore racing skills razor sharp.
“It’s been two years since I have sailed a Figaro Bénéteau II and I think the set up may have changed a little since then, especially the sails," said Le Cléac’h. "The Solo Arrimer will be a great trial run and I look forward to challenging my main opponents, Jérémie, Nicolas and many others."
To be on the start line with such a high calibre of competition will be an invaluable learning experience for the Academy two rookies but they will be able to learn from the best throughout the race.
With just two weeks to the day until the start of the exciting Solo Arrimer, Bouttell and Hill are now in Les Sables d’Olonne and are busily preparing their boats for a fortnight of intensive training in the Atlantic, working to refine their performance in harsher conditions, a rougher sea state and tide. Nick Cherry is preparing to race a 470 class at Trofeo Princess Sofia next week and will join the skippers in Les Sables d’Olonne a week before the race start.