Richard Langdon /

Giant Brit contingent heads for La Solitaire

1100 Sunday, the big race for the Figaros sets sail for Deauville

Friday June 6th 2014, Author: Emma Harris, Location: United Kingdom

The atmosphere and excitement is building in the port of Deauville, the air thick with the rustle of hundreds of race flags in the wind, the creaking of the mooring lines holding 38 race-ready Figaro Bénéteau IIs to the dockside and the grinding of winches hoisting hard-working preparateurs up masts as they busily prepare their charges for the fast approaching start of the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro – now just three days away.

With their boats in the care of the trusted shore team, the Artemis Offshore Academy’s eight British Solitaire du Figaro competitors and their 30 foreign counterparts have enjoyed an exciting week of skipper activities since the official prologue race on Saturday 31st May, fully immersing themselves in everything from social receptions to paddle board racing to zumba in the harbour – an activity 2014 Rookie Alan Roberts seemed to particularly enjoy.

With just 72 hours until the start of the 484 mile leg to Plymouth at 1100 UTC on Sunday, it is important that the skippers take time away from the 33ft keelboats they are about to call home for the next four weeks, and the official skippers’ programme is a great way to remove them from their Figaros – both physically and mentally.

“There has been all sorts going on here to keep us away from the boats in the build up – I’m going to be living on that Figaro for a month, so it’s good to take a break from it,” 2014 Artemis Rookie Rich Mason explained. “I’ve really enjoyed Deauville, it’s pretty amazing to be at a sailing event where there are genuinely interested people in the race village – for the prize giving after the prologue, all around the stage was crowded with people all clapping and cheering for us!”

As part of their Deauville down time, event coach Marcus Hutchinson took the entire Academy shore and offshore team to visit the Normandy beaches as the world commemorates 70 years since the D-Day landings and the battle of Normandy [Ed: If they don't want to head out to sea after that...]. Over 19,000 thousand people in just two days were recorded passing through the international ferry port at Portsmouth this week, with huge crowds, including the Queen and Barack Obama, making their way to Ouistreham, France to remember those who fought and gave their lives in the battle.

“It was really moving to visit the beaches and learn more about what went on 70 years ago,” said Sam Matson, also a Rookie, looking forward to take part in the Solitaire du Figaro for the first time. “Since we made our own landing in the region, we’ve been really warmly welcomed into the event in Deauville and the French have totally embraced the British team, we feel like we’re an important part of this race. I’m now really looking forward to returning the favour and welcoming the race to home turf in Plymouth – it’s such an honour to be a part of this prestigious race.” Sam graduated with first class honors from Plymouth University in 2013.

Soon all of the long hours dedicated to the Figaro, away from friends and family, are about to come to fruition for the British squad, particularly for Artemis Offshore Academy Rookies Mason, Matson and Roberts who have put sweat, blood and tears into the last 10 months and are now loving every minute in the build up to this unique sailing event: “I can’t wait to start now, we’ve been working on the boats solidly for the last couple of weeks and working towards this race for the whole year – it will be such a great feeling to arrive ‘home’ at the end of this leg and I’m looking forward to showing Britain what the Solitaire du Figaro is all about,” Roberts buzzed.

For Academy graduates GAC Pindar’s Jack Bouttell and Redshift skipper Nick Cherry, now managing their own solo campaigns still with the support of the Academy, the run into the start of the race has not been so smooth. With both skippers taking on boats needing a little more than just T.L.C, more time has been spent fixing up their Figaros than on the water and both are honest in admitting they are not in a place they’d have hoped to be this close to the race.

“Compared to last year, my lead-time into the race has been a lot more stressful,” said Cherry. “I’ve had a lot more work to do on the boat and less time to do it, which has been hard – I’m soldering now as I talk and I’d rather not be doing this, it’s something that should have been done six months ago, but the bigger picture is that this ground work should set me up well for a full assault on the 2015 season with Redshift, a good result in the prologue was a good boost to my confidence, but a 90 minute round the cans race is quite different to three days of offshore racing!"

Bouttell added: “2014 hasn’t been the year that I had hoped it would be,I took a giant step forward to run my own campaign this year, and despite having a lack of money and a boat that needed a lot of work I’m here on the start line, feeling that I deserve to be here – it’s been a reality check after the high of being top Rookie last year. I’d love to have started earlier, and with more funding, but getting to the start was the goal, with a good foundation that I can take into 2015. Top half of the fleet is still my aim, despite the less than perfect preparation and top 15 would be pretty unreal. But my main objective is to just really try and enjoy the race again, the Solitaire du Figaro is such a great experience and privy to so few, it’s great to be sharing it with the team and fans of GAC Pindar.”

The time for preoccupation with boat work is now over as the skippers’ days are increasingly filled with official briefings and as much eating and sleeping as they can manage in the final days ahead of the 2014 mile solo marathon.

Leg 1 of the Solitaire du Figaro starts at 1100 UTC on Sunday, with light conditions forecast for the start. Running 484nm from Deauville, France to Plymouth, UK, Leg 1 of the race could take as long as four days to complete, giving the fleet an ETA of Wednesday 11th/Thursday 12th June into Plymouth.

Entry list - 38 boats, 7 Rookies*

1. Joan Ahrweiller/Region Basse Normandie
2. Jérémie Beyou/Maitre Coq
3. Vincent Biarnes/Guyot Environment
4. Henry Bomby/RED
5. Jack Bouttell/GAC Pindar
6. Thierry Chabagny/Gedimat
7. Nick Cherry/REDSHIFT
8. Charlie Dalin/Normandy Elite Team
9. Fabien Delahaye/Skipper Macif 2012
10. Corentin Douguet/Un Maillot Pour La Vie
11. Yann Elies/Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir
12. Gahinet Gwenolé/Safran-Guy Cotten*
13. Alain Gautier/Generali
14. Gbick Gwanael/Made in Midi*
15. Sam Goodchild/Team Plymouth
16. Damien Guillou/La Solidarité Mutualiste
17. Adrien Hardy/AGIR Recouvrement
18. Ed Hill/Macmillan Cancer Support
19. Corentin Horeau/Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance
20. Isabelle Joschke/Generali – Horizon Mixite
21. Nicolas Jossier/In Extenso Experts Compatables
22. Dave Kenefick/Full Irish – Le Comptoir Irlandais
23. Alexis Loison/Groupe Fiva
24. Xavier Macaire/Skipper Herault
25. Gildas Mahé/Interface Concept
26. Anthony Marchand/Ovimpex-Secours Populaire
27. Rich Mason/Artemis 77*
28. Sam Matson/Artemis 21*
29. Paul Meilhat/SMA
30. Gildas Morvan/Cercle Vert
31. Jean Paul Mouren/Groupe SNEF
32. Claire Pruvot/Port de Caen Ouistreham
33. Yoann Richomme/Skipper Macif 2014
34. Frédéric Rivet/DFDS Seaways
35. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23*
36. Clément Salzes/Darwin – Les marins de la lune*
37. Sébastien Simon/Bretagne – Crédit Mutuel Espoir*
38. Erwan Tabarly/Armor Lux-Le Comptoir de la Mer

Ed Hill

Support British skipper Ed Hill in his race for Macmillan Cancer Support: For British solo sailor Ed Hill, now racing his second Solitaire du Figaro, the aim is not only to sail the full and consistent race that he feels he deserves, but to raise £2014 – £1 per mile – for Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity very close to his own heart: “Racing the Solitaire du Figaro is one of the toughest things I will ever do in my life, but it is also one of the best experiences and is nothing compared to the every day battles and isolation felt by the millions of people suffering from cancer around the world. It means a lot to me to see my boat flying the flag for Macmillan Cancer Support here in Deauville, and racing for such a valuable cause has given my campaign such a kick up the backside and I can’t wait to get out there and give it all I’ve got now.”

Show your support for Ed and his noble cause by donating what you can via his Just Giving page.

Sam Matson, Artemis 21: “It’s great having Artemis Offshore Academy graduates around us while training and preparing for the race, as they’ve always got good snippets of information for us – whether that is which are the best meals to eat or how they adapt to the different conditions we’ll experience through the race. That feeding down of information from the more experienced sailors is what helps us to progress. I think that is the best thing about being a part of our large Artemis team, although we’re solo racers it’s also a really tight knit group and everyone will help one another out to ensure the Brits succeed.”

Alan Roberts, Artemis 23: “We’ve been excitedly counting down to the start of the race here in Deauville and this really started with the official prologue race on Saturday 31st May. Although the results do not count towards our final Solitaire position, it was great to line up against the whole 38 boat fleet and was a lot of fun. There’s so much going on here in Deauville while we’re waiting to start. Every day we have a different briefing, or social event or skipper competition – it really helps to help us feel included in the race.”

Jack Bouttell, GAC Pindar: “My main objective this year is to really try and enjoy the race again. The Solitaire du Figaro is such a great experience and privy to so few – last year was fantastic, and I hope that this year will be even better if I can go into it with the right attitude and just enjoy it really. It’s a lot a work to get to this point, and if you don’t enjoy it, what is the point in coming this far.”

Rich Mason, Artemis 77: “There has been all sorts going on here to keep us physically and mentally away from the boats. We’ve got a really good team of preparateurs with the Academy and they’re happy to carry on fine-tuning the boats while we take some down time as part of the skippers schedule. So far we’ve done zumba, stand up paddle boarding and we went round the Deauville Hippodrome yesterday morning and saw all the race horses – we didn’t get a ride on one, but that was probably a good thing as it was pretty scary!”

Nick Cherry, REDSHIFT: “I’m excited about the race and as a venue Deauville is really nice. I definitely feel that as a team this year we are more prepared. Logistically this year it’s been a lot easier and despite being a big team, we are well organised. The preparateur support from the Academy has been excellent and our house is pretty plush too – so there are ups and downs to my very short campaign so far this season. It’s hard to not want to do and be the best, but I have to remember this is all in preparation for a great season in 2015 and the Solitaire du Figaro this year is a bonus.”

Ed Hill, Macmillan Cancer Support: “The atmosphere here in Deauville is really starting to build, and the count down to the race is now really on – just three days away. The weather can change up to the minute we cross the start line, but for the minute the forecast is for light airs for the start and we’re anticipating a long 484 miles to Plymouth that could take up to four days to complete. I’m hoping to get into Plymouth in good shape this year, the first leg is a long one. The Solitaire is a marathon race and I want to still be in contention at the finish of Leg 2 and beyond, which I didn’t manage last year.”

Sam Goodchild, Team Plymouth: “I’m really happy to be in Deauville getting ready for the Solitaire du Figaro again. Fortunately for Brooks MacDonald upping their support to my Figaro campaign in the last few weeks, we have been able to upgrade a few of the systems on the boat with new electronics, sails and spinnaker poles being delivered this week. The Artemis Offshore Academy shore support have been hard at work installing everything and it has paid off well, as with three days to go we are now on to all the small, checking, tidying and servicing jobs. We have a few briefings in the next couple days, lots of rest and soon we can start looking at what weather we will get for the first leg. Which will be not only exciting to get back into it but to be sailing into Plymouth and having a stopover at Sutton Harbour is something I never thought we would do in the Figaro – I can’t wait.”

Henry Bomby, RED: “Despite having a much shorter training time on the water this year, I am feeling prepared and relaxed ahead of the start of the race. Thanks the Academy shore team I’ve been able to take a few days away totally away from the boats and race village so I can come back into the final three days of briefings totally refreshed and ready to race. I can’t wait to start now, and can’t wait to arrive in Sutton Harbour and see RockFish. We’ll soon get the French guys into fish and chips.”

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