Five Brits to line up against Figaro royalty tomorrow
For Artemis Offshore Academy new recruits Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell, the Solo Arrimer, starting tomorrow at 1100 BST from Les Sables d’Olonne, will be comparable to facing your first Grand National against the likes of Bob Champion and 2013 winner Ryan Mania. This will give the two Rookies a unique chance to learn from the ‘grand masters’ of solo sailing, many of whom they will be racing in the 26 strong fleet, such as Michel Desjoyeaux, Yann Elies, Armel Le Cléach and Jérémie Beyou.
Hill and Bouttell may be about to embark on their longest singlehanded offshore race to date, but their nerves will be partially settled by the presence of Artemis Offshore Academy graduates Nick Cherry, Sam Goodchild and Henry Bomby, also competing.
The Solo Arrimer begins and ends in Les Sables d’Olonne and takes the fleet on a 48 hour race north around Belle-Ile and back again. This race is one of qualifying races ahead of the 44th Solitaire du Figaro that starts in Bordeaux on 2 June.
Goodchild and Bomby have spent the last few months racing alongside, and learning from many of the top French sailors at the famous Pole Finistere training centre in Brittany. This race will be the first time both Brits have competed onboard their new boats for the season.
Sam Goodchild is competing on Vasco De Gama: “This is the first chance to tell how my winter training has gone. The quality of this fleet is high and although 14 other competitors are sailing in a Transatlantic race at the moment it’ll be great for me to see how much work I have to do in the next 6 weeks before the start of the Solitaire.” Read our interview with Sam Goodchild here
Bomby has recently received welcome sponsorship from clothing manufacturer Zhik and his Figaro will be called Zhik - Made for Water. He joins the Zhik Race Team for 2013 and is now a brand ambassador, product tester and provide development input for Zhik's growing range of keelboat wet weather gear. This season Bomby will wear Zhik's Isotak range of offshore clothing, which has already seen action during the Vendée Globe, when it was worn by Arnaud Boissières.
Bomby said: "I am really happy to cement this association with Zhik that started a few years ago whilst competing in J/80s. It's great to see how the clothing has developed so quickly into comfortable practical sailing gear and I hope to be able to help champion the brand with my sailing both here in France, but more importantly back home in the UK after the Solitaire has finished. Good protective clothing is really important for offshore sailors, as we can quickly get fatigued and suffer a huge performance drop if cold or damp."
Of tomorrow's race Bomby commented: “To be starting in Les Sables is always special. It's really exciting to be going into my first race with my own boat and campaign. It's given me the freedom and independence to make my own decisions which I much prefer. Maybe last year, in my rookie season, it was all too new and I wasn't ready for that, but I am really enjoying this added factor this year.”
Coach, Marcus Hutchinson, who is managing the British team, commented: “The squad is about to tackle a 320 mile race starting and finishing from Les Sables d’Olonne, the home of the Vendée Globe, going as far south as La Rochelle and as far north as Belle Ile. When we consider the calibre of those 26 boats on the Solo Arrimer start line and the number of previous Solitiare du Figaro and Vendée Globe winners, it will be really important for the Rookies to not try to be too clever, but to be as intelligent as possible.”
With a large majority of the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro fleet competing, including six past winners and six of this year's prospective Rookies all competing in the Solo Arrimer, the race will be a good early testing ground for June's 1,938 mile Solitaire, an opportunity Ed Hill plans to utilise: “The race will be a good chance to really see how fast or slow we currently really are against the 2013 Solitaire fleet. It will also be a great opportunity learn from the top of the class and enable us to compare our ability, speed and performance against a large number of this year’s race Rookies, I’m under no illusions, to be amongst to top rookies is my only goal.”
Hutchinson added: "The guys know how to sail, they know how to bring their boats home safely, they know how to race, they know the rules – but they are very light on experience and specifically managing the transitions around the course. Watching the good guys and staying motivated as fatigue builds and the gaps inevitably grow across the fleet will be one of the hardest elements of the Solo Arrimer.”
Jack Bouttell: “The Solo Arrimer will be a big step up, going from the light winds of the Med, to the nuclear winds, lumpy seas and rocky coastline of the Atlantic. There is no doubt the course will be tough, but 26 Figaros battling around obstacles in 30-40 knots should be exciting. Not only will we have to manage the boat, steering, navigating and planning for the tide, we will have to manage our sleep and food between all of the obstacles. My aim to know the course off by heart and be able to make considered decisions out on the course, managing my boat and myself well throughout.
“I still find it pretty amazing that I am here, as I will be sailing against skippers that I have only seen in magazines until now. I am trying not thinking about it like that, as really they are just another boat on the course, but it’s still pretty cool.”
Ed Hill: “Racing in big swell and waves during the 320nm Solo Arrimer will certainly be a different experience, not to mention the effects of the tide we have to accommodate for. In training my speed has been good and fingers crossed this bodes well for the race.”
“Not knowing this area of the French coast very well, it is important that I build a very strong mental picture of the route, have a clear understanding of what the tide does at certain points in the course and know the key geographical features.”
Nick Cherry: “This race is a great warm up for the rest of the season but also a very worthwhile event in itself. A good result here would be the highlight of my Figaro career to date.”
“The standard of competitor in the Solo Arrimer is probably higher than that of any Figaro races I’ve done before. I’m just looking forward to getting stuck in and hoping I’m not too rusty.”
“Coming back to the Figaro after competing in the Princess Sofia regatta, I should be on form. I have sailed something like 15 days out of the last 18, so I’m feeling fit and lean, my hands are tough and I’m in the mindset for racing.”
Solo Arrimer competitors
1. Jean Ahrweiller/FRA/14/Region Basse Normandie/Rookie
2. Jérémie Beyou/FRA/40/Maitre Coq/ SDF 2005,2011/VG 2013
3. Henry Bomby/GBR/19/ZHIK-Made for water
4. Jack Bouttell/GBR/77/Artemis77/Rookie
5. Thierry Chabagny/FRA/92/Gedimat
6. Nick Cherry/GBR/23/Artemis 23
7. Michel Desjoyeaux/FRA/34/TBS/SDF 1992,1998,2007/VG 2001, 2009 (winner)
8. Frédéric Duthill/FRA/7/Sepalumic
9. Yann Eliés/FRA/10/Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir/SDF 2012/VG 2008
10. Mathieu Girolet/FRA/86/Lafont Presse
11. Sam Goodchld/GBR/85/Vascoe de Gama
12. Ed Hill/GBR/37/Artemis 37/Rookie
13. Benoit Hochart/FRA/-/Aquarius/Rookie
14. David Kenefick/IRE/45/Full Irish/Rookie
15. Morgan Lagraviére/FRA/1/Vendée
16. Gilles Le Baud/FRA/60/Carnac Thalassso & Spa/SDF 1973,1978
17. Armel Le Cléac’h/FRA/62/Banque Populaire/SDF 2001,2003/VG 2009,2013
18. Yannig Livory/FRA/67/Thermacote France
19. Alexis Loison/FRA/28/Groupe Fiva
20. Nicolas Lunven/FRA/3/Generali
21. Xavier Macaire/FRA/8/Herault
22. Pail Meilhat/FRA/6/Skipper Macif
23. Jean Pierre Nicol/FRA/68/Bernard Controls
24. Claire Pruvot/FRA/55/Port de Caen Quistreham/Rookie
25. Fédéric Rivet/FRA/22/DFDS Seaways
26. Julién Villion/FRA/74/Seixo Habitat