Artemis Offshore Academy in the Solo Concarneau
The Solo Concarneau concluded last night for the 20 boats still racing. It was an interesting race, as it reflected more about what a leg of the Solitaire du Figaro might be about.
30 boats started the 340-mile Solo Concarneau race two days ago and the 20 boats still racing two days later crossed the finish line last night. Covering almost the full length of the west coast of France the fleet left Concarneau and the Bay of La Foret mid-afternoon on Monday to beat upwind for a short
The start was spectacular with 30 boats lined up on a relatively short line at the top of the Bay of La Foret mid-afternoon on a sunny day. Eight knots of wind a three mile beat to the Linuen cardinal buoy before a reach to the Glénan Islands saw the left hand side of the course pay with Morgan Lagraviere just edging Jérémie Beyou out of first place at the mark. Also in the hunt were Ed Hill, Henry Bomby and David Kenefick, all having started at the leeward end of the line.
There were three key tactical parts of the race. The first was obviously the start and getting out of the Bay of La Foret. The left hand side of the course paid and Henry Bomby, Ed Hill and David Kenefick made the most of this and rounded the first mark, all in the top 12 boats. The next tactical element was a run downwind north through the infamous Raz de Sein and all the way to Pierre Verte buoy just to the south of Ushant. This leg was sailed through sunset and well into the night making it difficult to know who was where. It turned out that the boats that stayed to the east side in an effort to pick up a better tide, lost out and the first major turnover of the race took place here.
With a shifty and patchy wind the next leg, which took the fleet down outside Ile de Sein to the Chausée de Sein buoy, saw the leading pack progressively headed ending up offshore whilst the following bunch sailed a straight course and retook the lead at this point. The next leg to the corner of Pen March turned out to be the race maker. The first part of the fleet tacked shortly after passing the Chausée onto starboard tack almost laying the Pen March point. Many of the following bunch, some way back, chose to stay further offshore to the west. This proved to be the winning choice as the boats further inshore ran out of wind and were unable to make their way back offshore. Regrettably several of the boats stuck inshore decided to retire from the race due to the distance had they lost.
The race was won and lost there in the Chausée de Sein and the rest of the course was sailed with much less to do on the tactical front and all to do on being fast, which meant pacing the skipper, sleeping at the right time and staying lucid.
The following legs were for the most part a reach, with headsails, spinnakers blossoming from time to time, but not for long. The winds never went above 25 knots and this only for a short period as the fleet rounded Ile d’Yeu at the southern extremity of the course. The last part of the course, following the 100 mile beat to the Glénan Islands, saw a short seven mile kite reach to the finish line at sunset right in front of the harbor entrance of Concarneau.
From an Artemis point of view, Jack Bouttell sailed himself into a difficult position on the second day, when he was amongst the group that sailed too far into Audierne Bay. He was there along with Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry and the three of them remained relatively close for the rest of the course, something Jack realises was an important thing to do once he was aware that he had lost a lot of distance. Sam and Jack eventually finished overlapped in Concarneau, Nick Cherry was in the pair ahead with David Kenefick.
Bouttell commented: “The biggest lesson I took out of this race was being that far behind. When I got moving again I was last or second last in the fleet and you feel like it’s the end. I had no motivation, no will power, nothing. If someone said here, there’s a drill to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat and sink it, you’d probably do it. But I tried to make a real effort to not give up and from that point, I just pushed the boat as hard as I could, had a ten minute sleep and kept myself going with food and drink. It was non-stop, just working the boat as hard as I could and I ended up catching up with the fleet just by not giving in and being precious. Obviously you never want to be in that position, last, but to have been in it and now knowing that I can deal with it was a good lesson. It is very hard to want to do anything when you’re in that situation, but it’s a rewarding feeling when you do catch up and I think I ended up taking over about four boats in the end.”
Sam Goodchild added: “The first 18 hours were good racing, despite a bad start. Then in the middle of the race I spent a long and lonely 24 hours by myself – not that I should complain about being lonely when I do single-handed sailing, but there you go. Like many, I got caught in the patch of no wind at the Chausée de Sein, which left me right at the back of the fleet and chasing for the remainder of the race. It was very frustrating and very easy to lose any motivation I had. Stuck in no wind, I used the opportunity to sleep. I think I slept for about three hours over the whole race, which is longer than I would usually sleep for. I eventually caught up with the fleet, and made some gains and over took a few boats to finish 16th. A bit of a disappointing result, but better now than in the Solitaire du Figaro.”
Nick Cherry said: “Getting stuck in a patch of no wind at the Chaussé de Sein was a bit of a low point emotionally. Quite a few boats went into the light patch of wind, but there weren’t really many boats behind and it was raining. From then on it looked like the course was going to be a two sail reach the whole way round too as the wind was shifting, I was pretty low on life at that moment. I got through it by sleeping, but I couldn’t really do much else at the point. But during the lull, a little bird came down and sat on my boat for about an hour, which was nice and that cheered me up quite a lot. When we eventually got to Ile d’Yeu, everything closed up and the race was back on. From then on it was great Figaro sailing all the way to the line.”
Ed Hill’s race was better, much better, than the Solo Arrimer even though he finished some way back from the pack. For the first three quarters of the race Ed sailed an intelligent and balanced race, managing risk correctly and not allowing himself to become lured to one extremity or the other of the course during the critical period just after dawn on Tuesday. But the last quarter of the race, from Ile d’Yeu back home, saw Ed hit ‘The Wall’ and he started to pay for not having managed his sleep well enough earlier. Ed reckons he started to black out and hallucinate. He couldn’t, at the time, work out what was going on and so went below to sleep. He started haemorrhaging miles and places from there on, but brought the boat to the finish line, an important lesson having been learnt.
“I had a really good game plan of what I wanted to do ahead of the race, mixing it up with the Frenchies and over the first half I did that and was really enjoying sailing the Figaro with the fleet," he recounted. "I was doing quite well for a time, over all different points of sail and I was really pleased with how I was going and making roughly the right calls. I was in fairly decent shape around the bottom of the course, around Ile d’Yeu, but that is when it all happened. I’ve basically got a bit of a mind block and I went into strange mode. The next thing I knew, I’d been overtaken by about five or six boats without even any recollection of those boats passing me, which was quite scary. I think I started hallucinating, cause I couldn’t really see out of my eyes. They clouded over and I woke up when I was pouring water in my eyes and at this point, the last of the pack of boats sailed past me. I think my major error in this race was sleep management.”
Henry Bomby sailed really well too, sailing a similar race to Ed, but managing with his extra year’s worth of Figaro sailing experience, to do that little bit better by pacing himself correctly and finishing ninth, his best ever result in a Figaro race and one he will be extremely happy with.
Bomby commented: “Although I’m happy with my result (9th), it means nothing at this stage. If I can replicate that in the Solitaire du Figaro, then it will be something! It’s a good confidence boost going in I guess, but there’s still a lot to work on. I made a hundred million mistakes as always, but that’s part of it. I made some good decisions and I’m progressing, which is nice to see. So a lot of positives taken from the race, but still a lot to focus on and to get better at with the Solitaire just round the corner!”
The significant thing for all the Artemis Offshore Academy sailors to now start to think about is that the race they have just finished is somewhat shorter than a standard Solitaire du Figaro leg. When racing the Solitaire, the skippers would have to be ready to go again in a couple of days, to do it all again and most significantly the ranking for the Figaro is established with the combined elapsed time of every leg, or to put another way, you can’t relax even if there are no boats ahead close ahead or behind you because there may well be on your combined times and hence every second counts.
Top ten Solo Concarneau fleet and Artemis Offshore Academy results
1. Paul Meilhat/SKIPPER MACIF 2011
2. Nicolas Lunven/GENERALLI
3. Armel Le Cléach’s/BANQUE POPULAIRE
4. Yann Elies/GROUPE QUEGUINER LEUCEMIE ESPOIR
5. Julien Villion/SEIXO HABITAT
6. Thomas Ruyant/DESTINATION DUNKERQUE
7. Xavier Macaire/SKIPPER L’HERAULT
8. Michel Desjoyeaux/TBS
9. Henry Bomby/Christine
10. Nicolas Jossier/IN EXTENSO experts comptables
14. Nick Cherry/ARTEMIS 23
15. David Kenefick/FULL IRISH/45
16. Sam Goodchild/VASCO DE GAMA
17. Jack Bouttell/Artemis 77
20. Ed Hill/Artemis 37
Solo Concarneau Rookie results
1. Claire Pruvot/PORT DE CAEN-OUISTREHAM
2. David Kenefick/FULL IRISH
3. Jack Bouttell/ARTEMIS 77
4. Benoît Hochard/IB – MARKETING
5. Joan Ahrweiller/REGION BASSE NORMANDIE
6. Ed Hill/ARTEMIS 37