For the first time in the history of the 88 year old Rolex Fastnet Race, nine double-handed Figaro Beneteau II’s will set off on the legendary 608 mile race from the Royal Yacht Squadron start line in Cowes to Plymouth via Fastnet Rock.
For the first time the Academy Figaros will race together in the UK
Come 12:20pm on Sunday 11th August, the Solent start line will be awash with the handsome blue sails of four Artemis Offshore Academy Figaros; [Artemis 21, 37, 43 and 77 – see full crew list below], along with Magma Structures skippered by Nick Cherry, Henry Bomby’s RockFish, David Kenefick’s Figaro Full Irish and Jehol and Maluel sailed by visiting French skippers Didier Bouillard and Yves Ravot.
A first for the Rolex Fastnet Race, the inclusion of the Class Figaro in such a major UK sailing event is a huge step forward for solo and short-handed sailing in Great Britain, and aids the growing group of British skippers’ campaigning for the Solitaire du Figaro 2014. In addition, the Rolex Fastnet comes as an opportunity for Artemis Offshore Academy skippers past and present to compete against one another for the first time in the same race and class.
The Artemis Offshore Academy skipper with 2013 Vendée Globe winner Francois Gabart
'For Robin [Elsey] and myself the Rolex Fastnet Race is not only our title race of the season, but also the first time we will race against Figaros from outside of the double-handed Royal Ocean Race Club (RORC) series,' enthused Academist Sam Matson, who begins his full-time solo Figaro campaign with Artemis in 2014. 'The Rolex Fastnet is the first UK race to have included a one-design Figaro specific class and I’m really hoping that it is a sign of the development and work being done by the Artemis Offshore Academy. It’s going to be a great race, and we can only hope the class will continue to develop in the UK over the next two years.' Sam and co-skipper Robin currently sit top of the RORC double-handed series leaderboard.
Sam Matson will go solo with the Academy for the 2014 season
Racing under the Artemis flag will be double-handed pairings Sam and Robin [Artemis 21] and Alex Gardner and Dyfrig Mon [Artemis 43], with both crews putting in some encouraging results in the RORC double-handed circuit this season [See RORC double-handed leader board here]. Joining the Academy double-handers on the start line will be 2013 Solitaire du Figaro Rookie Ed Hill, sailing with experienced Figarist and Solitaire Race Director Gilles Chiorri: 'I’m really looking forward to sailing with Gilles, I’m going to use the race to learn as much as I can. Having now completed a Solitaire myself, which is one of the toughest races around, and having Gilles onboard I’m confident we can put in a good performance.'
Charlie Dalin and Nikki Curwen team up for the Rolex Fastnet Race
Swapping his 33ft Figaro for something a little bigger, Academy sailor Jack Bouttell will sail the Rolex Fastnet aboard the Volvo Ocean 65 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. After his recent success in winning the Rookie Division of this year’s Solitaire, Jack was invited to trial for the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race Abu Dhabi team. Artemis Mini sailor Nikki Curwen will instead race Artemis 77 with co-skipper Charlie Dalin, a 2012 Transat AG2R La Mondiale winner and 2009 Mini Transat runner up: 'It is great to be sailing with Charlie, having already done the Mini Transat I’ll be able to learn a lot from him and with him being a keen Figaro sailor too, it’s set to be a great Rolex Fastnet Race for us.' Nikki is hoping to compete in the 4,020 mile solo Mini Transat in October this year, currently raising funds and sixth on the entry waiting list.
The Artemis Offshore Academy double-handed skippers
Now running his own solo Figaro campaign, Artemis Graduate Nick Cherry will race the Rolex Fastnet with part-time Academy Mini sailor Lizzy Foreman on Magma Structures. Fellow Academy Graduate and Solitaire competitor Henry Bomby will race his Figaro RockFish with 2001 Vendée Globe and Route de Rhum skipper Richard Tolkien: 'The hardest thing about this race is going to be keeping with the fleet,' explained south-west boy Henry, who will be racing to his title sponsoring restaurant ‘RockFish’ in Plymouth. 'Those who lose the front of the fleet will get caught in tidal gates, then taking a long while for them to catch up. This is not one to be at the back of the fleet in.'
Henry Bomby and RockFish
Conditions for the race are set to be light throughout, with the Figaro fleet expecting the historic race to take up to four or five days. You can follow the start via the Artemis Offshore Academy twitter website and for the duration of the race via the Artemis Offshore Acadmey website, Facebook website and Rolex Fastnet Tracker website
The Rolex Fastnet Race Figaro fleet
Boat name/Skipper and co-skipper/Nationality
Artemis 21/Sam Matson and Robin Elsey/GBR
Artemis 37/Ed Hill and Gilles Chiorri/GBR/FRA
Artemis 43/Alex Gardner and Dyfrig Mon/GBR
Artemis 77/Nikki Curwen and Charlie Dalin/GBR/FRA
Full Irish/David Kenefick and Olaf Sorenson/IRE
RockFish/Henry Bomby and Richard Tolkien/GBR
Magma Structures/Nick Cherry and Lizzy Foreman/GBR
Jehol/Didier Bouillard and TBC/FRA
Maluel/Yves Ravot and Xavier Macaire/FRA
The skippers said:
Sam Matson, Artemis 21
'Our training started last year in September with the Rolex Fastnet Race highlighted as our title race this season. Since then we've put in a lot of hard work and boat work to make sure we're as prepared as we can be. All of the races leading into the Fastnet have been training in preparation for the big one, but they've only been between 20 and 48 hours max. We've had some pretty pleasing results even racing in under IRC, which is not what the Figaro is designed for. It's good to know that our boat speed is up there with the IRC boats that should be faster than us.'
'Racing against Full Irish in the RORC Channel Race was a great opportunity to measure our boat speed against a skipper who has done the Solitaire du Figaro and we measured up quite well, so Robin and I are confident that we can keep pace with the Figaro fleet. It gave us a massive boost going into this race, realising that we're not going to be out the back like people might expect seeing as we haven't been training with the French guys.'
Robin Elsey, Artemis 21
'The Fastnet is the longest race Sam and I will have done this season and also the longest race I've ever done double-handed, so it's going to be a new experience. I think the toughest challenge is going to be coping with the light conditions forecast, as it's going to be frustrating and on top of that sleep deprivation might start to kick in towards the finish. The race could easily start to become quite tough, but hopefully we'll see other boats start to crack and not us.'
'I'm really excited to race as part of the Figaro class for the first time, one-design racing is always high intensity. There's some good sailors in the Figaro fleet, so I'd be happy to finish top half, but of course we'll be looking to finish as close to the top as we can. Sam and I have been training double-handed together all year and for the past two seasons, whereas the other guys have been solo. Maybe that will play to our advantage.'
Dyfrig Mon, Artemis 43
'This will be my first Rolex Fastnet Race and I think it is great to have one-design offshore racing here in the UK and all of the Academy boats going around one course together. The inclusion of the Figaro class in the Fastnet and on the doorstop of the Artemis Offshore Academy should hopefully inspire some new British offshore talent.'
'Racing against other Figaros for the first time, we are definitely sailing into the unknown. Alex and I have only sailed against one other Figaro during the winter, so racing as part of the one-design fleet will be really interesting. We're just looking to stay with the pack for the duration of the race as co-skippers Alex and I probably have the least Figaro experience in the fleet.'
Alex Gardner, Artemis 43
'Something I'm focusing on ahead of the race is the forecast. It look like it will be quite a light race, so a long race as well and at 608 miles, the longest distance Dyfrig and I will have sailed the boat together.'
'We've not had any specific pre-race regimes, but with Cowes Week ahead of the race, we've definitely been more reserved and headed straight home for food and bed after a day on the water. I think it is important to make sure you are feeling good and well ahead of a race, Dyfrig had a small injury to his knee earlier this week which was worrying, but he rested and is ready to race. Our priority is definitely on the Rolex Fastnet Race right now, we're just trying to be as prepared for the start as we can.'
Nikki Curwen, Artemis 77
'I've never sailed with Charlie before, but I'm really looking forward to it. I'm definitely going to drum him for Mini tips the whole way round, and Figaro tips as well for that matter. Having not sailed with my co-skipper before that could prove to be a challenge, but keeping speed in the light winds is going to be really important, along with making sure we're eating and sleeping enough while keeping the boat with the pack.'
'It's a big transition from the Mini to the Figaro, all of the systems are different, it's completely different on board and when you move around the boat it doesn't move. This will be the first time I've raced as part of the Figaro class.'
David Kenefick, Full Irish
'I'm really looking forward to this Fastnet Race, I've done it twice before and have had to retired both times - so I'm hoping it'll be third time lucky. I'll be sailing Full Irish with my co-skipper Olaf Sorenson who is a keen Dragon sailor, it looks like I'll be the youngest competitor in the Figaro fleet and Olaf the oldest.'
'I've been taking a break after the Solitaire du Figaro, so I'm hoping to go into the Rolex Fastnet Race feeling fresh and have a good race. I think my main competition is going to be Henry Bomby. The same age, Henry has raced two Solitaires before and is a year ahead of me in his training, but there are plenty of good sailors in the fleet who could take the win.'
Henry Bomby, RockFish
'Going into my third season in the Figaro in 2014, it is really great to see the inclusion of the class is such an iconic UK race. Nine boats is not a big fleet compared to the other classes, but it is a step in the right direction and will provide the much need visibility for the Figaro here in the UK.'
'Sunday's start and the finish in Plymouth are going to be a Class Figaro showcase. I'm hoping that it's a close race with all nine boats finishing minutes apart in true Figaro style to really help promote the dynamic class to British sailors. With the ever growing presence of the Academy and a growing number of UK Figaro sailors, the demand for the class has grown. If the inclusion of the Figaro class for the Rolex Fastnet Race leads to a Figaro specific class in the RORC series, that would be a great result for offshore sailing in the UK.'