Tom Gruitt / Artemis Offshore Academy

Next challenge: Solo Concarneau

Seven British boats to be on the start line in a week's time

Thursday April 24th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

With just one week to the start of the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotton, Artemis Offshore Academy rookies Rich Mason, Alan Roberts and Sam Matson have absorbed the invaluable lessons learned in the Solo Maître Coq last month and are feeling primed ahead of the second solo races of their careers.

Joining the Artemis trio will be AOA graduate skippers Jack Bouttell, Ed Hill, Henry Bomby and Sam Goodchild, now in their second, third and fourth years racing on the Figaro circuit respectively.

Setting off on Thursday 1 May, the sizeable British contingent will start from Concarneau at 1400 BST as part of a 29 boat fleet.

In its 38th year, the Solo Concarneau is a popular Classe Figaro race popular with both rookies and veterans alike as it covers a large area of the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro course - in particular over its 370 miles, between the Chenal du Four and Île d’Yeu, it will be an invaluable dry run for legs 3 and 4 – Roscoff to Les Sables d’Olonne and Les Sables d’Olonne to Cherbourg-Octeville.

Affected by light airs and the harsh sting of Figaro racing in the Solo Maître Coq, Academy Rookie Sam Matson has been working hard to ensure he does not make the same mistakes twice and anticipates that the infamous Raz de Sein will be one of the most challenging areas of the course: “In 1798, 216 years ago almost to the day, the British and the French Navy did battle here and today the Raz de Sein has not lost any of it’s ferociousness.

"It's a stretch of water renowned for strong tides and a rough sea state, the Raz de Sein will one of the hardest sections of the Solo Concarneau course. Depending on conditions when we arrive, here we could see the compression or splitting of the fleet that will shape the race quite early on. If the wind is against the tide, the Raz du Sein will be very rough with up to five knots of tide pushing against surrounding rocks. It’s really exposed here, and I expect it to be a tough part of the race calling for some intelligent decisions.”

For both Figaro newbie Matson and most experienced British skipper, Sam Goodchild, the pressure is on to perform after difficult conditions led to disappointing results in the Solo Maître Coq, their first race of the season: “This time, the idea is to have a good race and to stay with the leading pack and avoid being cut off like in the last race…” said Goodchild, who finished the Solo Concarneau 16th in 2013. “The Solo Concarneau is another great event to line up against the main competition for the season and now just a month away from the start of the Solitaire du Figaro, it is one of the last chances to get in a couple more invaluable competitive nights at sea.”

Following his impressive debut on the Figaro circuit, an ever ambitious Rich Mason is looking to improve on his second position Rookie division finish in the Solo Maître Coq and top the next generation podium in Concarneau on 4 May: “I’m feeling much better prepared for the Solo Concarneau than ahead of our previous race. Having been home in the UK for a few days for Easter, I’m feeling rested and looking forward to getting stuck into a week of training ahead of the race. I’m a highly competitive person, so of course I’ll be looking to better my first Figaro race result (19th overall, 2nd Rookie) – go hard or go home!”

A tactically challenging race, the 2013 Solo Concarneau was won by Paul Meilhat on Skipper Macif 2011 with Nicolas Lunven on Generali second and Vendée Globe skipper Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire third. It was Academy skipper Henry Bomby who took the top British position in 9th, with Nick Cherry a little way down the pack in 14th, Sam Goodchild 16th, Jack Bouttell in 17th and Ed Hill 20th, after suffering from black outs and hallucinations due to extreme sleep deprivation.

Yet to make an appearance on the Figaro circuit this year, 'Nick Cerise' as he is known among the Figaro community, is pleased to announce this week that he has secured a Figaro to race for the remainder of the season. As the new skipper of Redshift, a boat yet to take part in a competitive race, Cherry reports that the newly named Figaro (no.56) needs a little love to prepare her for the Figaro circuit, but he is fully aiming to join the British line up taking on the Solitaire du Figaro in 2014: “There’s a lot to do to get her race ready, but it’s amazing to now have a little bit of certainty about the next year and to have my third Solitaire du Figaro ahead of me, racing alongside the largest number of ‘roast beefs’ the race has ever seen.”

With just the Solo Concarneau (1-4 May) and Solo Basse Normandie (16-18 May) to go before the pinnacle race of the season, the Solitaire du Figaro, the pressure is on for the British sailors to prove themselves out in the field and secure the vital sponsorship that will see them on the start line in Deauville, France come Sunday 8 June.

The Solo Concarneau entry list (* = rookie)

Joan Arhweiller/Région Basse Normandie
Jérémie Beyou/Maître Coq
Vincent Biarnes/Prati’Buches
Henry Bomby/Black Mamba
Jackson Bouttell/Artemis 20
Charlie Dalin/TBC
Corentin Douguet/Un Maillot Pour la Vie
Benjamin Dutreux/ Team Vendée*
Yann Elies/Groupe Queguiner Leucémie Espoir
Alain Gautier/Generali
Sam Goodchild/ Team Plymouth
Damien Guillou/La Solidarité Mutualiste
Adrien Hardy/AGIR Recouvrement
Ed Hill/Macmillan Cancer Support
David Kenefick/Full Irish
Alexandre Jongh/ Vendee 1*
Isabelle Joscke/TBC
Nicolas Jossier/In Extenso Experts Comptables
Alexis Loison/Groupe Fiva
Xavier Macaire/Skipper Hérault
Rich Mason/Artemis 77*
Sam Matson/Artemis 21*
Claire Pruvot/Port de Caen Ouisteham
Yves Ravot/France Parrainages
Frédéric Rivet/DFDS Seaways
Alan Roberts/Artemis 23*
Clément Salzes/Darwin Les Marins de la Lune*
Sébastien Simon/Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Espoir*
Emil Tomasevie/Ultra Figaro*

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