Photos: Brian Carlin / Artemis Offshore Academy /

Artemis Offshore Academy breaks up for 2013

Three sailors picked to progress forward to Figaro training in France and then La Solitaire

Thursday December 19th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

As the Artemis Offshore Academy concludes what has been the most successful sporting season since the Academy was launched in 2010, preparations for the impending 2014 season are already well underway.

After four months of intensive UK training in the finger numbing winter winds, the Artemis Offshore Academy is pleased to announce that British Rookies Sam Matson, Alan Roberts and Richard (Rich) Mason will go forward to train in France and compete on the Figaro circuit in 2014, starting with the Solo Maitre Coq on 10 April.

“To have been told that I’ll be progressing to the next level with the Academy is really exciting,” enthused Rich, one of the three Academy Rookies selected to train in Lorient. “Figaro training is intense and the sailing is hard work, but the challenge is so rewarding.” Rich, Sam and Alan join the ranks of a growing number of British Figaro sailors formed of Artemis Offshore Academy graduates Sam Goodchild (Shelterbox Disaster Relief), Nick Cherry (Magma Structures), Henry Bomby (RockFish), Jack Bouttell (Artemis 77) and Ed Hill (Artemis 37) – fondly nicknamed ‘Le Roast Beefs’ by their French counterparts.

“2013 has been a fantastic year in terms of sport results for the Artemis Offshore Academy,” said Charles Darbyshire, Project Director. “Jack Bouttell winning the Rookie Division of the Solitaire du Figaro – the first time the prize has not been won by a French sailor – and Sam Goodchild’s 11th place in the same race which is considered the solo world championship [of offshore racing], is a real testament to the the progress of the Academy in just its third full season.

"The Artemis Offshore Academy was launched with the specific intent to provide training and support to British solo and shorthanded sailors and to provide a career pathway to the Vendée Globe – the Everest in our sport – so it is particularly satisfying to see the gains the Academy sailors are making whether they are full-time squad members or graduates who dip into the Academy programme as needed and get the custom support as required, whether it be commercial activation or media and communications support."

2013: A Vintage Year

The five-boat British Figaro fleet kicked off its 2013 season with the ICOM Cup Méditérranée, a 365-mile ‘baptism of fire’ for then newbies Ed and Jack. From the relentless waves jarring the boats and backs of the skippers driving through the wind and rain of Leg 1, to having to drop anchor on Leg 2 in no wind – the ICOM Cup soon exposed the young inexperienced Brits to the harsh reality of the Figaro.

From the ICOM Cup to the Solo Arrimer, the Brits raced 305 miles alongside a festival of Figaro rock stars in heinous conditions – the worst they would see all season: “The weary but crazed eyes of the skippers that night said it all,” recalled Henry. “We all knew we’d experienced something cool during this race, something that not everyone will get to experience."

Jack added: “The conditions were incredible and launching the boat downwind over the Bay of Biscay waves in 30-40 knots was definitely memorable." Finishing the Solo Arrimer 16th overall, he picked up his first Rookie win and popped his first bottle of Pol Roger champagne, for the first time the Rookie podium was not an all-French affair as fellow Brit Ed secured second place and Irish sailor David Kenefick took third.

Crossing the finish line of the Solo Concarneau, the third and final preparation race, signified that the dress rehearsal was well and truly over for Sam, Jack, Ed, Henry and Nick and before they knew it, the sailors were amongst a flotilla of Solitaire du Figaro competitors being serenaded up river by the Mexican navy into the heart of Bordeaux and to the start of Leg 1 of the legendary Solitaire du Figaro.

The Artemis Offshore Academy sailors stormed the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro start line on 2 June, sending into battle the strongest British line up the class has ever seen. Racing 1,983 miles from the French port of Bordeaux to Porto (Portugal), Gijon (Spain), Roscoff and Dieppe, the five-boat British fleet was up against its biggest challenge yet, racing through the unpredictable Bay of Biscay, by the rocky Ile d’Yeu and around the infamous Cape Finisterre.

However, it was not these notoriously challenging French shores that proved troublesome for the skippers, but instead the final blast along the south coast of the UK, from Wolf Rock to the Needles Fairway. Heavy conditions inflicted plenty of damage and in some cases dismastings, and left the skippers exhausted on route to the finish line in Dieppe: “The best part of my race was also the hardest part, sailing down the south coast of England under the spinnaker in around 30-40 knots of wind,” explained most experienced British skipper, Sam. “The wind was relentless for about 12 hours. Leg 4 was definitely the toughest leg and really showed us how easy we had it over the first three legs.”

Cheered home by a crowd of British and French supporters, their faces wet with the spray of Pol Roger and tears, Jack became the first British sailor in the 44-year history of the race to win the coveted Solitaire du Figaro ‘Rookie’ prize. Making his third assault on the race, Sam gave his most impressive performance yet finishing 11th overall out of 41 competitors to become the highest-ranking British skipper in 38 years, earning him the ‘Best of British’ title. Second time Solitaire competitor Nick surpassed his own expectations, finishing 17th overall to improve on his 2012 Rookie ranking by eight places. Finishing 24th overall, Henry was glad to be back on dry land after a ferocious final leg and was content with his overall position. For Rookie Ed the cruel mistress that is the Solitaire du Figaro did not pan out in the way that he had hoped, but his spirits were not dampened as to have just reached the final finish line is an achievement in itself: “I’m just happy to have got here and now finished the race. I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity,” said Ed on the docks in Dieppe.

 The Brits returned to home waters, racing doublehanded in the first official Figaro Class in the iconic Rolex Fastnet Race. In true Figaro style the nine competing Figaros finished the Fastnet within an hour of each after 605 miles of close quarters racing. In the end it was Academy Mini sailor Nikki Curwen who took line honours, sailing Artemis 77 with Charlie Dalin, followed by Ed and Gilles Choirri sailing Artemis 37 into second. French team Xavier Macaire and Yves Ravot took third, as Sam Matson and Robin Elsey were the first fully British crew to finish the race in fourth, helping them secure third place overall in the Royal Ocean Racing Club double-handed division – a worthy achievement.

2013 has been the most successful year for the Artemis Offshore Academy, in terms of sporting results, and for the British Figaro sailing scene. The impact of the sailors’ success has resulted in a UK Solitaire du Figaro stopover in 2014, highlighting the UK sailors as valued members of the Figaro class: “It’s been a really positive year for Figaro sailing in the UK with historic Solitaire du Figaro results and the first inclusion of a Figaro class in the Fastnet. Results on the water have been encouraging and hopefully we can carry on this trend into 2014,” concluded Nick.

With the new 2014 Figaro squad, Rich, Sam and Alan already ahead in their training, the Artemis Offshore Academy looks forward to another successful on the Class Figaro circuit in the New Year, with an aim to keep the Union Flag flying from the top of the Solitaire du Figaro Rookie podium for a second year in 2014.

Sam Goodchild: “2013 has been a fantastic year for Figaro sailing in the UK with the number for foreign entrants steadily rising thanks to the influence of the Artemis Offshore Academy. Now with a 2014 stopover, the Solitaire du Figaro promises to only get better – bring on Plymouth and 2014!”

Henry Bomby: “It is fantastic to see the growing popularity of the Solitaire du Figaro here in the UK. It is a very special race so it is great to be able to share it with a wider audience. To have the race coming to Plymouth in 2014 is just amazing and I am so excited. When I was at school I raced in Plymouth Sound every weekend during the winter months for three years, in both a J80 and in my Laser. My sponsor Rockfish also have their biggest restaurant there, it is going to be fantastic, they are going to put on a great show and I cannot wait!”

Ed Hill: “After an incredible year going back to school and learning to sail solo I’m so thrilled to be having another crack at the solitaire in 2014. Stopping in Plymouth is going to be really special and I just hoe we can show the French how good that part of the world really is.”

Nick Cherry: “2013 has been a really positive year for Figaro sailing in the UK. Throughout the season there has been a great atmosphere within the Artemis camp with everyone involved working hard, as well as having a good time. Results on the water have been encouraging and hopefully we can carry on this trend into 2014.”

Jack Bouttell: “2013 was a fantastic season, it was my first experience in the Figaro Class and one I hope to repeat next year. I have learnt a huge amount and made many friends and great memories. With a UK stopover for the 2014 edition of the Solitaire it is shaping up to be an even more exciting race than the first.”

Sam Matson: “I had a great season double-handed in the Figaro in 2013 with a promising result finishing third overall. Then followed a tough couple of months as I made the challenging transition from double to single-handed sailing. Our UK training has been hard work and pretty intense, but I’m so happy it has paid off and that I will be progressing to France. Although we’ve been given a slight head start, I am under no illusion the next chapter of our training will be easy. I’m now really looking forward to the challenge of the season ahead and our first Figaro race.”

Alan Roberts: “I’m really excited to have been given the opportunity to continue my solo Figaro training with the Academy in France. Four months ago I’d never sailed a Figaro and now I’m starting to feel like I’ve got a grip on single-handed sailing. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made this year so far, but we’re going to learn so much more being able to train with experienced Figaro sailors in France in the New Year. The next goal is to make it to the Solitaire du Figaro start line; it would mean a lot to be able to compete in the race here in the UK on home turf.”

Rich Mason: “The more time I spent training in the boat this winter, the more I wanted to get to France and race. To have now been told that I’ll be progressing to the next level with the Academy is really exciting. Figaro training is intense and the sailing is hard work, but the challenge is so rewarding. I want to be on the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro start line more than ever now.”


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