Bomby leads fleet away on the Solo Concarneau
Surfing down the rolling waves of the Brittany coast, yesterday (Thursday, 1 May) at 14:00 BST 32 Figaros squeezed together to cross the Solo Concarneau start line at the highly favoured committee boat end of the line. Beating upwind towards the Glénans Archipelago in around 20 knots of fresh Atlantic breeze, it was young British skipper Henry Bomby (Red) who set himself up on the winning tack that saw him rounding the Solo Concarneau windward mark first – a proud first for Bomby and the Artemis Offshore Academy. Making it a top ten hat-trick, Ed Hill (Macmillan Cancer Support) and Rookie Rich Mason (Artemis 77) rounded in 6th and 8th – a promising start to the race, particularly for Henry who had just hoped to get round the course with a fully functioning autopilot this time.
Bomby explained prior to the race: “For me the Solo Concarneau is a good chance to run through and check all of my on board systems after what happened in the Solo Maître Coq. I finished this race in 9th in 2013, which was a great result for me. A repeat of this this year would be amazing, but I’m just going to go out there and sail the best race that I can and if I can feel I’ve had a good run and speed test alongside the better skippers afterwards – then I will be happy.”
As the breeze picked up to 25 knots into the first night, the 340-mile Solo Concarneau threw its 10 Rookies, seven Brits, 23 French, one Croatian and an Irishman at the mercy of the Raz de Sein. A passage through strong tidal waters and fierce rocks, the Raz de Sein, is difficult to negotiate whatever the weather and can make or break a race, and it was here that Academy Rookie Sam Matson (Artemis 21) began to shape his race. Picking boats off as he worked his way up the fleet, Matson surged from a lower mid-fleet position to fifth overnight, racing back down the north western coast of France alongside Yann Eliés (Groupe Queguiner Leucemie Espoir), Jérémie Beyou (Maître Coq), Frédéric Rivet (DFDS Seaways) and Adrien Hardy (AGIR Recouvrement) – a group with just a few Solitaire du Figaros and a couple of Vendée Globes between them.
After a disappointing result in his first race of the season, Matson was out to prove himself in the Solo Concarneau: “I know I can sail fast, and I want to show that in this race and to do this I need to make sure I plan ahead during the race, setting myself up for maneuvers and wind shifts so that I’m not left behind.”
While Matson dices with the front runners, the remaining British sailors are gathering together in the teens and early 20s.
Fighting to keep within the top 15 to the finish, Ed Hill is still going strong moving between 11th and 15th as the fleet head south. Dropping down the fleet after his glory at the first mark, Henry Bomby is battling his way up the ranks currently in 17th. Getting caught up in the mix at the windward mark, Alan Roberts’ (Artemis 23) strong start off the line was soured as he was pushed out the back of the fleet, now sitting 20th just behind Sam Goodchild (Team Plymouth) in 19th. Fellow Rookie Rich Mason is not far behind in 23rd and Jack Bouttell (Artemis 20) is 24th, but with a front expected to shake the fleet up as they reach the bottom mark on the course, it’s still all to play for as Bouttell explained: “From the most southern point of Ile d’Yeu to the finish line, it looks like there will be a complicated cold front coming through, which could change everything again with just a few miles to go.”
The Solo Concarneau race team reports that conditions so far and forecast are "a bit hectic". Currently two sail reaching back south through the choppy Bay of Biscay, the 19 knots of wind moving the fleet past Île de Groix is set to drop to a manageable 14 tonight as the race moves towards Birvideaux lighthouse. After racing in the light airs of the Solo Maître Coq earlier this season, Rich Mason was looking forward to the punchier conditions: “In bigger breeze you have less time to think about what you’re going to do tactically and your energy goes into pulling off slick maneuvers and quickly and into sailing the boat. I don’t know that the conditions will make the race easier or harder, but we’ll still have a lot of new things on our plates.”
Racing into the second night, the British Rookies and graduates Bomby, Hill, Goodchild and Bouttell still have over 100 miles of the Solo Concarneau course left to sail. Looping around Belle Île to port tonight and on to Île d’Yeu, the fleet should be on the home straight by morning. The race is expected to take roughly 50 hours to complete, seeing the seven British skippers arrive back in Concarneau early evening tomorrow (Saturday 3 May).
In other news, the newest double-handed duo on the Academy block, Robin Elsey and Will Harris are about to embark on their first Royal Ocean Racing Club race tomorrow, the Cervantes Trophy. A 110 mile race from Cowes to Le Havre, Elsey knows the course well having finished 6th overall (out of 104 boats) and winning the doublehanded division with previous co-skipper Sam Matson in 2013.
Spending long hours working on their Figaro, Artemis 43, over the cold winter months, the duo is now ready to race with Harris especially looking forward to his first doublehanded Figaro event: “Both Robin and I have been preparing for the race for some time now, spending long hours working on the boat, as well as setting ourselves offshore and overnight training exercises to help us with both our sailing, and to become a better team. I’m really looking forward to racing now, and hopefully we can do as well as the guys did in 2013.”
The Cervantes Trophy is set to finish in Le Havre on Sunday (4th May) morning.
The sailors said:
Alan Roberts, Artemis 23: “My first objective is to finish the race, secondly I want to keep my race super simple. I want to try and keep game side of the fleet for the duration both tactically and in terms of the weather, handling the boat well and having the right sails up at all times – hopefully making small gains throughout the race.
“Obviously I’d like to beat the rest of the Rookies, but whether that is realistic or not I won’t know until I’m out there. This race is a lot longer than our last one, (around 48 hours) with a lot more breeze adding to the pressure. I’m really looking forward to racing, but I’ve got in my mind that it’s only my second ever race so I have set myself realistic targets – anything more will be a bonus.”
Ed Hill, Macmillan Cancer Support: “Last year the Solo Concarneau was a tough race for me, going through some of the major headlands of Brittany – the Raz de Sein is always a tricky area to go through no matter what the conditions. For me personally I’ll be looking to pace myself well through this race, as in 2013 I became extremely sleep deprived, blacking out and hallucinating as I entered the ‘red zone’, so my aim is to not get into any ‘zones’ by resting well and looking after myself. I know I can sail quickly and do well. Good self-management and quality resting time is so critical to this sport, as well as understanding when to tack off and when to stay with the fleet.
"We race against some of the world’s best sailors in this class, and they will all be thinking the same thing so it makes it pointless to pull some Hollywood maneuver and move away from the fleet. The aim is to reach those final 50 miles of the race still with the pack and hopefully still be relatively fresh and able to make good calls – that’s how you do well I think. If I achieved anything inside the top 15 in this race, I’d definitely like to be inside the top 20. I know I can sail well, it’s just being able to put the whole 48 hours of the race together, start to finish.”
Henry Bomby, Red: “For me the race is a good chance to run through and check all of my onboard systems after what happened in the Solo Maître Coq, a good speed test ahead of the Solitaire du Figaro and of course it would be great to get a top 15 finish. Since the Solo Maître Coq, I’ve been working hard to road test and repair all of my systems to make sure they don’t fail me during this race – so this is the test.
“I finished 9th in this race in 2013, which was a great result for me. A repeat of this this year would be amazing, but I’m just going to go out there and sail the best race that I can and if I can feel I’ve had a good run and speed test alongside the better skippers afterwards, then I will be happy.”
Jack Bouttell, Artemis 20: “My objectives as always are to keep it consistent, keep the boat running nicely and this time to focus on the weather a bit more and to see the bigger picture, keeping track of what is going on around me. This is something I’ve not really done in my previous races and was where I went wrong with this race in 2013. A top 10 finish out of the 32 boat competing would be unbelievable, but realistically top 15 would be a nice finishing position for me.
“There are three tough areas of the course I’m preparing for, firstly passing through the Raz de Sein at about midnight on the first night. Going upwind through a tidal gate against very strong tide could potentially result in significant position changes here. The next challenge comes in passing through this tide gate from the other way, again against the tide. Then, from the most southern point of Ile d’Yeu to the finish line, it looks like there will be a complicated cold fronts coming through, which could change everything again with just a few miles to go. These are the situations we’ve got to look out for I think.”
Rich Mason, Artemis 77: “This is still only our second race and we’re still on such a major learning curve. I’ve done one race, but we’ve all still got so much to learn. The beauty of Figaro racing is that no two races are ever the same, and for the Solo Concarneau we’re expecting very different weather conditions, a rougher sea state and racing along a new area of the Brittany coast line – so I’m going to have a lot of new things on my plate. It’s no secret that everyone wants to win and make it to the podium, and that is my goal for the race, to top the Rookie podium.
“With 15 to 20 knots predicted for the start and 25 knots going into the first night, conditions for this race are very different to what we experienced in the Solo Maître Coq, however we’ve all trained in these conditions and I’ve had good speed so I hope that it won’t affect my race significantly. In bigger breeze you have less time to think about what you’re going to do tactically and your energy goes into pulling off slick maneuvers and quickly and into sailing the boat. I’m don’t know that the conditions will make the race easier or harder – just different.”
Sam Matson, Artemis 21: “Conditions on the start line are looking fairly breezy with up to 20 knots gusting from the north north west, which means we’ll be beating up through the Glénans (a cluster of vicious looking rocks, surrounded by shallow areas of water) towards the Raz de Sein. Rounding the most northerly mark of the course, spend short time sailing almost dead down wind, before the wind shifts and we head on a long tight reach down to Ile d’Yeu. The wind is expected to rev up to 25 knots on the first night as we pass through the Raz de Sein, not set to drop off until Friday night/Saturday morning.
“We’re looking at a similar line up in this race to the Solo Maître Coq, so a lot of tough competition and a really good fleet heading out. My aim is to stay with the fleet for the duration, not losing track of any boats. I know I can sail fast, and I want to show that in this race and to do this I need to make sure I plan ahead during the race, setting myself up for maneuvers and wind shifts so that I’m not left behind.”
Sam Goodchild, Team Plymouth: “I’m excited to get out sailing as the Solo Concarneau is another chance for us to line up against the main competition for the season. We’re only five weeks away from the Solitaire du Figaro now, and the race will be a great chance to see where we line up against the rest of the fleet. The most beneficial thing for me to take from this race will to be have a good race with the front end pack, making sure I can make some relatives on my speed and tactics to enable me to come home top 10 in the Solitaire. A top 10 result in the Solo Concarneau would be great, but it’s also not imperative for the rest of the season.”
Positions at the windward mark:
1. Henry Bomby/RED
2. Jérémie Beyou/Maître Coq
3. Adrien Hardy/AGIR Recouvrement
6. Ed Hill/Macmillan Cancer Support
8. Rich Mason/Artemis 77*
20. Jackson Bouttell/Artemis 20
22. Sam Matson/Artemis 21*
30. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23*
32. Sam Goodchild/ Team Plymouth
Solo Concarneau positions after 24 hours – 1400 BST
1. Yann Elies/ Groupe Queguiner Leucemie Espoir
2. Adrien Hardy/AGIR Recouvrement
3. Jérémie Beyou/Maître Coq
9. Sam Matson/Artemis 21*
15. Ed Hill/Macmillan Cancer Support
17. Henry Bomby/Red
19. Sam Goodchild/Team Plymouth
20. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23*
23. Rich Mason/Artemis 77*
24. Jack Bouttell/Artemis 20