Tom Gruitt / Artemis Offshore Academy

Three rookies to progress to La Solitaire

Artemis Offshore Academy sailors to join this year's record eight-strong 'roast beef' entry

Thursday May 8th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

The Artemis Offshore Academy has confirmed that three British Rookies, Sam Matson, Rich Mason and Alan Roberts will all compete in next month's Solitaire du Figaro.

Having already achieved two Rookie podium positions in their first two races of the competitive season, Matson, Mason and Roberts have earned their solo racing stripes and will join Academy graduates Jack Bouttell, Ed Hill, Nick Cherry, Henry Bomby and Sam Goodchild on the Solitaire du Figaro start line in June.

Bumping up the Solitaire’s serving of ‘crème anglaise’ to eight sailors, the British Solitaire du Figaro headcount for the 2014 race is the highest this legendary solo race has seen in its 45-year history. Starting from Deauville, France on Sunday, 8 June, the fleet (which should number up to 45 solo sailors) will embark on Leg 1 of the 2014 mile race exactly one month from today.

“The Solitaire du Figaro is a sailing challenge like no other, a combination of endurance and intense one design racing,” commented Roberts. A successful dinghy competitor (two time winner of the ‘Champions of Champions’ Endeavour Trophy), Roberts sailed his Figaro solo for the first time last November. “I’m very excited to have been selected to race and it will be an honour to line up against some of the best solo sailors in the world. I’m hugely grateful to the Artemis Offshore Academy – it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Having trained part time with the Academy since 2011, last winter Matson progressed from doublehanded to solo Figaro racing after graduating from Plymouth University. To compete in the Solitaire du Figaro sees Sam, who dreams of one day competing in the Vendée Globe, reach his first major offshore milestone: “To have been selected to compete in the race is so exciting, this is what I have been working towards with the Artemis Offshore Academy for the past three years. I feel really honoured to have been enabled by the Academy to fulfill one of the key ambitions of my solo offshore racing career. It was such an experience to race neck and neck with Alain Gautier [Vendee Globe winner 1992-93] in our last race, imagine competing against your sporting hero. The Solitaire will be an unbelievable race.”

“The Solitaire du Figaro has been a massive part of my life since August last year when I was selected for the Academy," continued Mason, a well established Olympic 470 sailor turned Figaro competitor. “The race will be nothing like anything I have ever done before, or in fact like many people in the world will have ever done before. Just to finish the course is both physically and mentally tough and add world class sailors into the mix, you get the sense of competition that I relish.”

The band of three Brits are among 10 ambitious young Rookies cutting their teeth on the Figaro circuit this year and next week, they will join the Class Figaro fleet in one final dress rehearsal ahead of the season’s pinnacle event. Setting off at 19:00 BST on Friday, 16 May, the Solo Basse Normandie takes it’s fleet of 20+ skippers 300nm from Granville to Deauville, France in one final dry run along the coast of north western France: “The Solo Basse Normandie is the final practice race for us ahead of the Solitaire, a race over four times the distance to what we have competitively sailed before. Finishing just outside of the top 10 in the recent Solo Concarneau, I know I have the speed to keep up with the fleet and I’m really looking forward to pushing myself in the Solo Basse Normandie,” concluded Matson.

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