Phil Sharp top Brit
Two time Solitaire du Figaro winner Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ in the closing moments overhauled Yann Elies, who had led for the majority of the race, to claim honours in the solo class in the Figaro's first major outing of the season - the 215 mile Solo Maître CoQ, starting and finishing in Les Sables d'Olonne. Beyou arrived home less than three minutes ahead of Gildas Mahé on Interface Concept, in turn just a minute ahead of Thierry Chabagny on Gedimat.
Kicking off on Thursday, the Solo Maître Coq was a race of two halves from sunshine, super light airs, and kedging for the first 24 hours, to a cold fog and 18 knots of wind with a blast reach along the coast in the second.
"This Solo Maître CoQ was great training," commented Beyou on finishing. "We had very different weather conditions from no wind on the first day and up to 23 knots under spinnaker last night. It was really intense from one end to the other. At the front we were a small group of four boats with Yann Elies, Thierry Chabagny, Gérald Veniard and Jeanne Grégoire (David Garage - Scutum - the doublehanded winners) who battled it out from beginning to end.
"Yann dominated the race - he deserved to win, but during our last rounding of Ile de Yeu he chose to gybe off a little to get beyond the wind shadow of the island and I managed to position myself between him and the coast.
"In the end, it's a nice win! Everyone sailed very well." Beyou added that he sailed the two days at sea almost entirely without sleep and winning was about managing the transitions through the race. He said he lacked a little downwind speed, but the objective for this race was to see how his boat speed stacked up against the opposition.
Largest British entry
Among the 35 solo skippers taking part, an impressive eight were Brits, many in the squad fielded by the Artemis Offshore Academy, however it was Jersey's Phil Sharp who once demonstrated why he is the best British offshore racer of his generation, showing the way among the Brits to finish 12th.
Sharp finished just over 38 minutes astern of Beyou but ahead of several top names within the class such as shorthanded offshore legend Alain Gautier and Skipper MACIF's Yoann Richomme, who was fourth overall in the Solitaire du Figaro last year. Only an error in finishing prevented him from holding on to a top 10 finish. Solitaire rookie winner Jack Bouttell, showed his form again coming home 18th overall and second Brit.
Among the Artemis Offshore Academy sailors, former 470 Olympic sailor Rich Mason on Artemis 77 finished 19th overall and was second Rookie home arriving just three minutes behind Bouttell.
“The first night of the race was really hard work,” Mason reported, beaming ear to ear on the docks this morning. “I’ve never drifted around so much or had to anchor in a race before and my sails were just flapping in the swell 90% of the time. However, I made some good decisions at the start, which gave me a bit of confidence. I knew that the decisions I was making were the right ones, so I could take that on through the race. I made a few ‘Rookie’ errors the more tired I got, but I’m pretty happy with my performance.”
Finishing 21st of 35 boats, Ed Hill on Macmillan Cancer Support was not bowled over by his result, but more importantly felt he took away invaluable lessons from the first race of the season, as did Alan Roberts who finished 29th overall and was fifth rookie.
Henry Bomby finished 24th, and collapsing on the dock upon his arrival vowed to never again to start a race without an autopilot after being hunched at the helm for nearly 40 hours. However despite his lack of autopilot, Bomby sailed a smart race. One of the furthest boats inshore on the first run to Île d’Yeu, he was at the back of the fleet in 33rd. But with the fleet becalmed, he was able to sail up to and into the pack once again. By Friday morning, he had sailed up into 16th and was top Brit. At his peak, he was in 9th position, sailing hull to hull with the top skippers.
However, tackling the last 200+ miles without a pilot or any real rest, Bomby’s body started to shut down. He explained: “I was doing quite well, then on the way back south to Les Sables d’Olonne I just crashed from being tired and on the helm the whole time. I kept nodding off. Four times I counted I woke up and I’d broached out with the spinnaker still up. I had this sort of weird internal monologue going on in my head, narrating to myself what I needed to do – it was so odd. But I can tell you, trying to take a spinnaker down without an autopilot is bloody hard.”
For most of the skippers, their race took a dip as tiredness kicked in, however in the case of the ever consistent Jack Bouttell, he reported his race only improved with time: “The race got better for me the longer it went on. I was making stupid mistakes, as you do having not sailed for a while, but slowly and surely I worked on them and worked out was wrong with the boat and learned from them. It was a pretty tough course, one of the tougher ones I’ve done. It was just endless transitions and no wind to suddenly wind – it was just really really tough and I’m pleased with my position.”
With just nine days to clean the moss from the deck of his chartered boat, fire up the electrics and generally get his new vessel into racing shape, just making it to the Solo Maître Coq start line was a challenge in itself for Bouttell. Stepping aboard a Figaro solo for just the third time since competing in the Solitaire du Figaro last year, his main aim was to get around the course with no major breakages – so to finish 19th was a great start to the season. Bouttell is aiming for top 15 in the Solitaire this year.
Most experienced Figaro sailor in the British fleet Sam Goodchild and 2014 Rookie Sam Matson, two skippers at either end of the Academy spectrum, both ran into trouble rounding Île d’Yeu – the kind of trouble that puts paid to a race: “The Solo Maître Coq was okay, it didn’t quite go to plan. It was a shame to miss a training session for that basically!” joked Goodchild after finishing 26th overall. He sailed too close to Île d’Yeu and dropping from the top ten to the bottom five, then never reconnecting with the fleet. “The first 12 hours were good for me in the top ten, I took a lot of positives out of that, but then I didn’t really see anyone after that. It’s been a long long 36 hours.”
Sam Matson also found himself in a ‘fishy’ situation at Île d’Yeu, after getting his Figaro caught on the netting and lines of a fish farm just off the island. As he recounted: “I spent about half an hour trying to back my boat off of a fish farm. I had to drop both my sails and the boat was getting pushed on by the tide pretty hard. I contemplated cutting the net, but there were quite a few fishing boats around so I thought I’d better not. I eventually freed myself from the net, but by that time I was already really behind.”
Following this first race of the season, the Artemis Offshore Academy sailor now have just over a month until the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotton in May.
1. Jérémie Beyou/Maître Coq/FRA/1d, 18h, 26’, 25"
2. Gildas Mahé/Interface Concept/FRA/1d, 18h, 29’, 10"
3. Thierry Chabagny/Gedimat/FRA/1d, 18h, 30’, 18"
4. Yann Elies/Groupe QUEGUINER-LEUCEMIE ESPOIR/FRA/1d, 18h, 31’, 10"
5. Charlie Dalin/Normandie Elite Team/FRA/1d, 18h, 38’, 25"
6. Fabien Delahaye/Skipper Macif 2012/FRA/1d, 18h, 40’, 01"
7. Alexis Loison/Groupe FIVA/FRA/1d, 18h, 44’, 37"
8. Corentin Horeau/Bretagne Credit Mutuel Performance/FRA/1d, 18h, 46’, 30"
9. Corentin Douguet/Un Maillot Pour La Vie/1d, 18h, 52’, 23"
10. Adrien Hardy/AGIR Recouvrement/FRA/1d, 18h, 52’, 42"
11. Nicolas Jossier/In Extenso Experts comptables/FRA/1d, 18h, 54’, 15"
12. Phil Sharp/Phil Sharp Racing/GBR/1d, 18h, 58’, 40"
13. Damien Guillou/La Solidarité Mutualiste/FRA/1d, 19h, 00’, 14"
14. Alain Gautier/Generali Solo/FRA/1d, 19h, 01’. 50"
15. Yoann Richomme/Skipper Macif 2014/FRA/1d, 19h, 06’, 14"
16. Sébastien Simon/Bretagne Credit Mutuel Espoir/FRA/1d, 19h, 08’, 45"*(1st Rookie)
17. David Kenefick/Full Irish/IRE/1d, 19h, 10’, 30"
18. Jack Bouttell/Overboard/GBR/1d, 19h, 14’, 15"
19. Richard Mason/Artemis 77/GBR/1d, 19h, 17’, 10"*(2nd Rookie)
20. Gwénolé Gahinet/Safran/Guy Cotton/FRA/1d, 19h, 20’, 50"*(3rd Rookie)
21. Ed Hill/Macmillan Cancer Support/GBR/1d, 19h, 24’, 10"
22. Clément Salzes/Darwin – Les Marins de la Lune/FRA/1d, 19h, 25’, 30"*(4th Rookie)
23. Claire Pruvot/Port de Caen Ouistreham/FRA/1d, 19h, 30’, 30"
24. Henry Bomby/Black Mamba/GBR/1d, 19h, 34’, 15"
25. Isabelle Joschke/Horizon Mixité/FRA/1d, 19h, 56’, 15"
26. Sam Goodchild/Team Plymouth/GBR/1d, 20h, 08’, 25"
27. Eric Peron/Generali/FRA/1d, 20h, 26’, 25" (2h penalty time)
28. Vincent Biarnes/Prati’Buches/FRA/1d, 20h, 54’,30"(2h penalty time)
29. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23/GBR/1d, 21h, 03’, 58"*(5th Rookie)
30. Emil Tomasevic/Ultra Figaro/CRO/1d, 21h, 38’, 56"*(6th Rookie)
31. Sam Matson/Artemis 21/GBR/1d, 22h, 11’, 26"* (7th Rookie)
RTR Joan Ahrweiller/Région Basse – Normandie/FRA
RTR Alexandre Jongh/Vendée 1/FRA*
RTR Anthony Marchand/Recherche Sponsor/FRA
RTR Frédéric Rivet/DFDS Seaways/FRA
1. Sébastien Simon/Bretagne Credit Mutuel Espoir/FRA/1d, 19h, 08’, 45"
2. Richard Mason/Artemis 77/GBR/1d, 19h, 17’, 10"
3. Gwénolé Gahinet/Safran/Guy Cotton/FRA/1d, 19h, 20’, 50”
4. Clément Salzes/Darwin – Les Marins de la Lune/FRA/1d, 19h, 25’, 30"
5. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23/GBR/1d, 21h, 03’, 58"
6. Emil Tomasevic/Ultra Figaro/CRO/1d, 21h, 38’, 56"
7. Sam Matson/Artemis 21/GBR/1d, 22h, 11’, 26"
RTR Alexandre Jongh/Vendée 1/FRA