Podium place for Sam Goodchild
On Friday, the eight man British Solitaire du Figaro squad comprising Sam Goodchild (Team Plymouth), Nick Cherry (Redshift), Henry Bomby (Red), Jack Bouttell (GAC Pindar), Ed Hill (Macmillan Cancer Support) and Rookies Sam Matson (Artemis 21), Alan Roberts (Artemis 23) and Rich Mason (Artemis 77) set off on the Solo Basse Normandie – their last race offshore race ahead of the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro.
Starting from Granville, France at 1900 BST, Team Plymouth skipper Sam Goodchild made the most of a spritely 15 knots of breeze, leading the 17 boat fleet to the first mark followed by fellow Brits Ed Hill in second and Nick Cherry in third. As forecast, the breeze soon dropped off on the first night and before long a routine was established with skippers alternating between drifting on the tide in roughly the right direction, and dropping anchor when the tide became unfavourable. The Race Committee called time on the already shortened 165nm race at 0500 BST on Sunday 18th May as the fleet passed Ouistreham, France – taking finishing times at the eastern exit to the Cherbourg breakwater.
The most experienced of the British squad, Goodchild maintained his solid starting position for much of the race, still leading as the fleet sailed inside the breakwater at Cherbourg. As the fleet raced towards the breakwater exit where final positions where recorded, Goodchild was passed by Solo Basse Normandie winner Paul Meilhat (SMA) and finished second overall, ahead of Nicolas Jossier (In Extenso Experts Compatibles) in third: “I was really motivated before the start to make this one happen and had more confidence than I usually do ahead of a race,” Goodchild enthused.
“The wind was shifty and the tide played a big part – it took us over 24 hours to sail 100nm. I think my start helped me to stay in a good position because it meant I had more options during the race. I was leading at every mark other than the one they took the overall rankings at! I’m happy with my race and the result (2nd) and I really enjoyed the close racing with the other guys at the front. I’ve had a great weekend, unlike those affected by the floods in Bosnia and Serbia. Shelterbox, the charity I’ve chosen to support for a second season, are preparing to assist anyone affected. By raising the awareness of their work, I hope they’ll be able to help many more people who need that vital first response after a natural or humanitarian disaster."
Red skipper Henry Bomby was the second British skipper at the shortening mark and finished the race in 7th, followed by Academy Rookie Alan Roberts in 10th. Roberts was chuffed with his result, climbing seven places after a poor start to the race: “As the wind moderated going into the first night I found myself looking at slowly flapping sails, just catching the occasional gust. I am happy with the way I sailed, managing to work my way up from 17th at the first mark, to finish 10th overall and first of the three British Rookies competing – a good confidence boost for me leading into the Figaro. That makes it one each on the podium for Sam, Rich and I this season so far.”
Rich Mason finished the Solo Basse Normandie 11th, followed by Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell in 12th and 13th respectively. With expectations of him running high after finishing 11th of 29 boats and 2nd Rookie in the Solo Concarneau earlier this month, Sam Matson was the first to admit pre-race that lighter conditions are not his forte, but that he was looking forward to the practice ahead of the Solitaire du Figaro: “I do find it quite difficult in the lighter winds for sure and as a result I was expecting it to be a tough race, but at the same time, I’ve seen improvements in my light wind sailing since the Solo Maître Coq. This race was pretty tedious at times, drifting forwards on the tide to be a nose ahead of the guy next to you, before having to anchor and watch him catch a gust and get a nose ahead of you. I’m sure the guys at the front of the fleet were happy when time was called on the race, but with 21 miles left to sail and towards the back of the fleet you can’t help think what could have happened for you in those hours.” Sam Matson finished the Solo Basse Normandie 14th overall.
For REDSHIFT skipper Nick, the shortened race came as a blessing. Announcing his intended ‘retirement’ as the fleet again dropped anchor past Cherbourg, Nick motored on to Deauville to continue vital work on his boat ahead of the impending Solitaire du Figaro: “I made the right decision to push myself to make it to start line and put REDSHIFT through her paces. I was frustratingly rusty and slower than I’d have liked to be, but I enjoyed the race. I decided it would be best to retire as the fleet stopped again past Cherbourg, not something that I liked doing, but necessary due to the size of my pre-Solitaire jobs list. However, due to the race being cut short at the Cherbourg mark, I managed to finish 15th and gain an extra day of boat work (and a full night’s sleep) – a great result for me!” REDSHIFT (no.56), made her debut on the Figaro circuit in the Solo Basse Normandie this weekend, a boat Nick is busily transforming from a basically fitted out hull into a feisty Figaro contender.
With the third and final warm up race of the season done and dusted, the eight British Solitaire du Figaro competitors are counting down to the start of the Figaro calendar’s main event in just 20 days time. While Nick, Jack, Ed, Rich, Alan and Sam get in a week of rest, recuperation and a bit of boat work ahead of the 2014 mile race, Sam Goodchild and Henry will race the inshore series at Le Havre Allmer Cup. Having spent less time on the water than before any of their prior Solitaire attempts, Sam and Henry will race in the series starting Friday 23rd May as one final practice ahead of the Solitaire du Figaro. Finishing the Cup with a short race to Deauville, the pair will join the rest of the (confirmed) 37 boat Solitaire du Figaro fleet in the starting port on the 29th May.
The Solitaire du Figaro prologue race will take place on the 31st May ahead of the start of Leg 1 from Deauville, France to Plymouth, UK on Sunday 8th June. Find out more about the Solitaire du Figaro here.
Follow the progress of the Artemis Offshore Academy British Solitaire du Figaro fleet in the countdown to the race via the website, Facebook and Twitter.
Solo Basse Normandie results
1. Paul Meilhat/SMA
2. Sam Goodchild/ Team Plymouth
3. Nicolas Jossier/In Extenso Experts Comptables
4. Groupe Queguiner Leucémie Espoir/ Yann Elies
5. Joan Ahrweilher/Espoir Basse Normandie
6. Alexis Loison/Groupe Fiva
7. Henry Bomby/RockFish
8. Isabelle Joschke/Generali Horizon Mixité
9. Yoann Richomme/Skipper Macif
10. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23
11. Rich Mason/Artemis 77
12. Ed Hill/Macmillan Cancer Support
13. Jack Bouttell/GAC Pindar
14. Sam Matson/Artemis 21
15. Nick Cherry/Redshift
16. Dave Kenefick/Full Irish
17. Port de Caen-Ouistréham/Claire Pruvot