Sailing quickly into its third year and the 2013 Class Mini and Figaro season that lies ahead, the Artemis Offshore Academy takes a look back over the learning curve that was 2012; its triumphs, challenges and, at times, tear jerking moments that made for a successful 2012 solo offshore season.
Sam and Nick finish the Transat AG2R La Mondiale, their first transatlantic race
Flick through the Artemis Offshore Academy 2012 year book here. (Use slider to zoom)
2012 brought with it a year of firsts… For the first time five Artemis sailors and five Artemis Figaros competed on the Class Figaro circuit, kicking off in March with the Solo Figaro Massif Marine. On completing the first solo offshore race of his career, 2012 Academy sailor Henry Bomby had already learnt, 'Never give up, even when it’s really tough!' In April, Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry teamed up for their first double-handed transatlantic race, the epic 3,890 mile Transat AG2R La Mondiale from France to St Barts. Spending 22 days, 15 hours, 59 minutes and 26 seconds at sea, surfing the waves of Biscay, swatting flying fish and repairing spinnakers; the Artemis duo finished 12th, only seven hours behind the winners, after sustaining a broken forestay in the latter stages of the race: 'My first big race start felt like a real adventure and over the course of 22 days we saw everything from a full gale in the Bay of Biscay, to perfect trade winds in the Caribbean. We had some tough times but the perfect evenings of blasting downwind into the sunset made up for these,' explained Cherry.
While Goodchild and Cherry were battling it out on the Atlantic, 2012 Academy Mini sailor Becky Scott was busy laying the foundations for her Class Mini season, finishing second overall in the UK Solent 6.50 in May. It was an encouraging start for Scott, which continued through to the Trophée Marie Agnès Peron (MAP) when she finished 12th Series boat and 27th overall in a fleet of 79 Mini’s. Disappointingly for Scott, she was later forced to retire from her highlight race of 2012, Les Sables – Açores - Les Sables after just one day of racing due to a broken autopilot: 'Leading into the first night of MAP with a fleet of 50 French sailors behind me was an amazing feeling,' recalled Scott, 'but not being able to finish Les Sables - Açores race in August was a real disappointment and a lesson in life and sailing, sometimes things don’t go your way. I hope the hard lessons I have learnt in 2012 will turn into something positive for the future.'
Read more on Becky's retirement from the race here.
Meanwhile, the Class Figaro season rolled on with the 340nm Solo Concarneau in May and the 190nm Transmanche, then the Solo Basse Normandie in June: 'The 2012 Artemis Offshore Academy race programme was an integral part of our long term training goal,' explains Academy Performance Director John Thorn. 'It enabled our squad members to not only put into practice what they covered in training, but also to gauge their progress against the more experienced sailors. The early season Figaro races also enabled us to determine who would join Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry as a third Artemis skipper in the highlight of the Figaro racing calendar, La Solitaire du Figaro; awarding Henry Bomby the final entry.'
Read 'Final spot for Artemis Solitaire du Figaro sailors decided' here.
Bomby, the youngest skipper in the Solitaire du Figaro fleet, was faced with the harsh reality of solo offshore racing during leg two of the race when he experiencing a total electrical black out. Left bobbing off course with no foreseeable way to fix his instruments, it looked like Bomby’s race was over until the fleet got wind of his plight and came to his aid via the VHF radio. With skipper Yoann Richomme translating, Bomby’s fellow Figarists helped him isolate the electrical fault and fix it, demonstrating true camaraderie in this supposedly solitary sport. Bomby went on to finish the leg, even finding time to make this heart wrenching video.
On the 11th July ‘Nick Cherry finished in a respectable 25th place in his Solitaire du Figaro debut, behind second-time competitor Goodchild in 24th, who improved his 2011 finishing position by 10 places: 'This is a legendary race,' stated Goodchild, 'One I had always dreamt of competing in and it is the ultimate race to learn about solo offshore racing. As my ultimate aim is to compete in the 2016 Vendée Globe and every previous Vendée Globe winner has come from the top end of the Figaro Class.'
Now came the time to meet the new recruits… The 2012 September Academy Selection Trials were deemed by Dee Caffari as the toughest yet: 'They’ve actually been even tougher than last year’s edition. We've made them very tired, physically and mentally exhausted.'
Read Dee's blog on the 2012 Academy Selection Trials here.
Mark Andrews in winter training
The Artemis Offshore Academy moves forward into 2013 with a new full time Figaro squad, Jack Bouttell, Ed Hill, Mark Andrews and 2013 Mini sailor Nikki Curwen with one main ambition; to see one of its soloists at the top of the ‘Rookie’ podium: 'We have a monumental challenge ahead of us in 2013 just to make the start line of the Solitaire du Figaro, let alone finish in a respectable position,' explains Bouttell, whose ‘monumental’ challenge for 2012, was buying bed linen for the first time to kit out his room in La Grande Motte training centre! 'We’re training intensely, waking up, sailing, eating, blogging and sleeping, before it all starts again. While we all have experience sailing competitively, working out the best way to race a Figaro is our biggest weakness right now, something that usually takes years to learn and we have a just few months to get the hang of it!'
John Thorn summed up the real challenge for the new recruits: 'The squad are already accomplished in various different classes and it's the conversion from familiar boats to the one-design Figaro class that they will sail in competition next year that is the imperative. Add to this the solo element and there is plenty of work and training to do.'
Figarist Ed Hill training in La Grande Motte
With her sights set on the Mini Transat start line in October, 2013 Academy Mini sailor Curwen has less that 300 days to complete 1000nm racing miles as well as the 1000nm non-stop qualifying race needed to get her there. 'The official list of entries should be released in a few weeks and I will then be able to better gauge if it’s possible for me to make up one of the 84 entries into the Mini Transat 2013. Until then, is important for me to assume I will have a place and to train and prepare as if I will be in Douarnenez next October, starting with a move to Lorient in the New Year!'
2013 will no doubt present the Artemis Offshore Academy squad with a mix of high and lows that are an intrinsic part of mastering the sport of solo offshore sailing. Follow their progress in 2013 by reading the Development Squad’s latest blogs online here.