Sam Matson - second rookie home
British solo skipper Sam Matson (Artemis 21) showed the strength of his offshore metal in Concarneau on Saturday crossing the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten finish line at 15:29 BST in 11th position overall and second Rookie – the second time an Artemis Offshore Academy sailor has stood on the Rookie podium this season, and the first Brit to finish.
Setting off on Thursday, Matson was the 22nd boat of 32 boats at the first mark, while fellow British skipper Henry Bomby on Red led the fleet all the way to the Glénans. Pushing his way through the fleet from the early 20s to top 10 through the first night, by morning Matson had worked his way into fifth position. Sailing alongside the eventual winner of the race Yann Eliés, runner-up Adrien Hardy and third place Jérémie Beyou, Matson, competing in only his second solo offshore race, kept his speed against the experienced frontrunners for the first 24 hours, before dropping a few places to ninth as the fleet rounded Ile d’Yeu – the most southerly mark on the course.
With just over 30 miles left to race, fellow Rookie Sébastien Simon began piling on the pressure, with Matson and the talented young Frenchmen going head to head to the finish line with not even a mile between them. In the end, Simon’s speed prevailed and Matson finished the 340-mile Solo Concarneau as the Rookie runner up.
“I’m feeling 100% better than I did at the end of the Solo Maître Coq, it’s just so nice to have raced and finished with the rest of the fleet and near the front – it’s great,” beamed Matson on the dock afterwards. “At no point in the race did I think ‘I’ve got this’, in fact there wasn’t much time to think or rest at all. I was just pushing the whole time because you’re never safe in your position until you cross the finish line. The conditions out on the course were much as we expected, with a lot hard reaching and quite a bit of breeze for the duration. I think having done more heavy weather sailing definitely paid off in this race. First Brit home and second Rookie, I’m chuffed with that!”
For the rest of the British sailors, there was a mixed bag of results and emotions at the finish line.
Sam Goodchild (Team Plymouth) was next over the line, coming back from the back of the pack on the first night to finish the race 16th overall. Although disappointed with his result, Goodchild reported that the breezy conditions out on the course (up to 30 knots) made the Solo Concarneau an exciting race with plenty of opportunities to gain miles which kept him motivated: “We had everything from six hours drifting around and looking at Concarneau at the finish, to 25-30 knots beating up wind. I started off on the back foot and having a lot to gain, but I just keep pushing on. I was disappointed to be at the back but that’s why it was a good race, because there were always those opportunities to bring it back.”
Artemis Offshore Academy graduate Ed Hill (Macmillan Cancer Support) and Rookie Rich Mason (Artemis 77) were both back on the dock just an hour later, both happy with the race, but frustrated by their result.
Finishing 19th, Hill was disappointed with his final ranking after having been in the top ten for most of the first night, while Mason had broken his propeller seal. A preventer fitted by the Figaro class to ensure the engine is not switched on during a race, skippers must finish with the seal in tact or face a time penalty – in Rich’s case, four five minute penalties (20 minutes total) added to his finishing time. This saw him drop from 20th overall and third Rookie to 24th on the leaderboard, just behind Alan Roberts (Artemis 23) in 23rd place.
“Half way through the second day my main sheet just caught the handle and flicked the engine into gear,” Mason explained. “It’s quite a terrible feeling to start your engine after 340 miles and hear it munch the preventer off it. I’m quite disappointed; it’s not a great end. Despite that, the race had some good bits, we had good breeze, did lots of hoists, peels and reaching – it was much more of an offshore race.” But Mason was not the only skipper to pick up a time penalty, with former Vendee Globe and Solitaire du Figaro winner Alain Gautier (Generali) and Yves Ravot (France Parrainages) both receiving penalties for failing weight checks ahead of the start.
Joking on the pontoon about being haunted by this race, for Jack Bouttell (Artemis 20) the Solo Concarneau is fast becoming an event he’d rather forget. His least enjoyable race of 2013, in 2014 Bouttell put in his worst performance of his solo career to date finishing 27th, just behind Henry Bomby in 26th. With no excuses on the dock other than he perhaps wasn’t in the right frame of mind and made the wrong calls, Bouttell was happy that his performance had slumped now, and not during the Solitaire du Figaro: “It wasn’t the best, I think this race just isn’t for me! I was just really slow at the start with a sail I’ve never used before and this is the first time I’ve done this kind of sailing since the races last year. I’ve had three days of training this year and it showed I’m rusty. I just didn’t sail very well and didn’t really do anything right. I’m a bit disappointed – I think I just wasn’t in the right place. Hopefully I can iron out these mistakes before the Solitaire.”
The Solo Concarneau course, running north from Concarneau to Ouessant through the Raz de Sein, before heading back south past Belle Île to Île d’Yeu, was a great dry run for the Solitaire du Figaro starting in just four weeks time. With just one final dress rehearsal, the Solo Basse Normandie (16-18 May) left to race ahead of the main event, the count down has begun. The 2014-mile Solitaire du Figaro starts from Deauville on 8 June.
Solo Concarneau Results
1. Yann Elies/ Groupe Queguiner Leucemie Espoir/14:28:31
2. Adrien Hardy/AGIR Recouvrement/14:29:00
3. Jérémie Beyou/Maître Coq/14:29:38
11. Sam Matson/Artemis 21/16:29:10
16. Sam Goodchid/Team Plymouth/17:16:28
19. Ed Hill/Macmillan Cancer Support/17:29:32
23. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23*/17:47:48
24. Rich Mason/Artemis 77*/17:30:06+ x4 5 minute time penalties – 17:50:06
26. Henry Bomby/RED/ 18:00:59
27. Jackson Bouttell/Artemis 20/ 18:01:56
The Solo Concarneau Rookie leaderboard
1. Sébastien Simon/Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Espoir/16:16:08
2. Sam Matson/Artemis 21/16:29:10
3. Clément Salzes/Darwin Les Marins de la Lune/17:34:21
4. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23/17:47:48
5. Rich Mason/Artemis 77/17:30:06+ x4 5 minute time penalties – 17:50:06
6. Yves Ravot/France Parrainages/18:31:38
7. Aymeric Arthaud/Reel/ 18:44:31
8. Benjamin Dutreux/ Team Vendée/ 18:46:46
9. Emil Tomascevie/Ultra Figaro/ 21:35:00
DNF. Alexandre Jongh/ Vendee 1