The 2011 Artemis Offshore Academy Selection Trials have been completed. A total of sixteen candidates were chosen to take part in the Selection Trials which took place last week at two locations – the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy and the Wokefield Park Corporate Outdoor Learning Centre.
The candidates in action in Weymouth
The 16 candidates were divided into two groups of eight, and held in secrecy so not give the second group an advantage over the first. The inaugural Selection Trials last year last year were based around the ‘Fantasy Figaro’ and this year it was the ‘Virtual Vendée Globe’ with guest star Dee Caffari in attendance. Caffari was the first woman to sail solo around the world non-stop in both directions and who raced in the 2008/09 solo Vendée Globe, finishing an impressive sixth place out of an original fleet of 30.
'The purpose of the Selection Trials is to unearth the candidates who display the skills that are a pre-requisite to succeed in the sport of solo and short-handed racing, with the Artemis Offshore Academy set up to help these sailors achieve their ambitions,' said John Thorn, Performance Director of the Academy who was present throughout the Selection Trials.
The Artemis Offshore Academy judges and Advisory Board, headed up by Rod Carr, ex-CEO of the Royal Yachting Association, will now face the difficult task of deciding which candidates will be selected for the Development Squad. The Squad will go on to receive training this winter and support to race next season.
Each group of candidates took part in the Selection Trials for 52-hours, during this time they were pushed hard in a variety of physical and mental challenges for intense periods of time with as little as four hours sleep (just like solo sailing!) earning miles to take them on to their 25,000 mile Virtual Vendée Globe finish line.
Dee Caffari with group B
The winner of the Virtual Vendee Globe was Aaron Cooper who earned the most miles (27,190) and received a £1000 Musto voucher. The first group of eight candidates completed the Selection Trials from Monday to Wednesday (26-28 Sept), with the second group from Thursday (29 Sept) to Saturday (1 Oct).
The first 24 hours of the Trials involved working at a high ropes course, fitness testing and then an overnight Virtual IMOCA 60 Sikaflex boat building challenge. 'The boat building challenge went really well, a lot of them showed really good time management skills and I was impressed,' said judge Dee Caffari before they headed out sailing.
'Some have had sleep, others are a little bit tired and are getting a bit tardy, and they can’t afford that. They are heading out on the water and because it’s all about performance today they need to always think about the bigger picture.' Challenges are either in groups or as individuals where candidates opt what they do and who they work with to maximise the miles they gain.
The Liferaft Challenge at sunrise
There is also a joker card available which allows candidates to double their points for one challenge. The candidates also had to make a ten-minute interview to the judges on why they should be allowed to join the Artemis Offshore Academy Development Squad.
Katherine Whitley from group A summed up the Selection Trials in three words when she finished: 'Sleepless, awesome and freeze-dried!' One aspect that the candidates are assessed on is their ability to manage themselves, their rest, food consumption and hydration throughout the 52-hours, as this is such a vital part of short-handed competitive sailing.
The candidates were given a pack of freeze-dried food and sports recovery shakes on arrival to last them throughout the Trials, and it was up to them when they hydrate, eat and rest.
'The Selection Trials went very well this year and the candidates are all rising to the challenge, and they also understand why we are setting some of the challenges,' said John Thorn, Artemis Offshore Academy Performance Director.
Katherine Whitley solo sailing for the first time under the watchful eye of Squad member Nick Cherry
'Different candidates are excelling in different challenges, which is interesting and also reflects the diverse backgrounds they come from. The candidates also raced out on the water in the Figaros, and this is where we assessed their sailing skills to see what they are made of.'
The Selection Trials candidates included experienced sailor Mike Perham, who at 17 years of age became the youngest person to sail around the world in 2009, double-handed Figaro sailor Matthew Lingley, as well as Olly Bond and Henry Bomby who attended the Selection Trials last year.
'It’s everything I hoped for, I knew they would challenge and test us,' said Perham. 'It’s hard work and it’s not easy in any shape or form!'
'I had just under three hours sleep on the night of the boat building challenge,' explained Henry Bomby. 'I’ve clocked up some time on the Figaros this summer including doing the Fastnet, which helped me on the short course racing as I have experience of on the boat manoeuvers which are a key part.'
However, the majority of applicants understandably do not have much short-handed experience and the Selection Trials are a chance for them to try this type of sailing in order to more fully understand the physical and mental demands required to compete in this arena.
A documentary on the Artemis Offshore Academy Selection Trials will be broadcast on Channel 4 as part of the ‘Sailing on 4’ series in December.
The Academy will announce which candidates have been selected for the Development Squad, the week commencing 10th October.
Artemis Offshore Academy website
Artemis Offshore Academy: The Artemis Offshore Academy provides a structured UK training programme of excellence for British short-handed sailors, to bring talented sailors up through the ranks with the ultimate goal being to put a British sailor in a strong position to win the Vendée Globe in 2016 or 2020 and beyond. Launched in 2010 the Artemis Offshore Academy offers an annual fully funded Scholarship to the most promising member of the Development Squad to compete on the highly competitive Figaro circuit, including the famous Solitaire du Figaro. In addition, support is also granted to a UK sailor to compete in the Mini Transat.
Artemis Investment Management: Independent and owner-managed, Artemis opened for business in 1997. Its aim was outstanding investment performance and client service. All Artemis' fund managers still share these two precepts - and the same flair and enthusiasm for fund management. The company's success has seen it grow to manage some £12 billion*. This is spread across a range of 13 unit trusts, an investment trust, a hedge fund, a venture capital trust, a European Sicav and both pooled and segregated institutional portfolios.