For Artemis Offshore Academy new recruits Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell the Solo Arrimer starting tomorrow (Thursday, 11th April), will be similar to facing your first Grand National against the likes of Bob Champion and 2013 winner Ryan Mania. This will give the Rookies a unique chance to learn from the ‘masters’ of solo sailing as Michel Desjoyeaux, Yann Elies, Armel Le Cléach and Jéremie Beyou will also be on the start line, and their pedigree is unquestionable.
Jack’s goal for the Solo Arrimer is to stay in control and make considered decisions
Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell may be about to embark on their longest offshore race to date, as the 320 mile Solo Arrimer gets underway tomorrow at 11:00 BST from Les Sables d’Olonne, but their nerves will be partially settled by the presence of Artemis Offshore Academy graduates Nick Cherry, Sam Goodchild and Henry Bomby.
The 320nm Solo Arrimer course
The five British skippers will not only have to contend with rugged Atlantic conditions, but they will be amongst a 26 boat fleet compiled of the very best of the solo offshore sailing world, including six previous Solitaire du Figaro winners, four Vendée Globe skippers and Michel Desjoyeaux, who is the only person ever to have won the Vendée Globe twice.
'The squad are about to tackle a 320 mile race starting and finishing from Les Sables d’Olonne, the home of the Vendée Globe, going as far south as La Rochelle and as far north as Belle Ile. When we consider the caliber of those 26 boats on the Solo Arrimer start line and the number of previous Solitiare du Figaro and Vendée Globe winners, it will be really important for the Rookies to not try to be too clever, but to be as intelligent as possible,' said experienced event coach, Marcus Hutchinson, who is managing the British team and who has raced with (and won against) Michel Desjoyeaux in the past.
Etchells Australasian Winter Championship 2014. Team Australia's Iain Murray back on an Etchells. - Etchells Australasian Winter Championship 2014
With a large majority of the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro fleet, including six past winners and six of this year’s prospective Rookies all competing in the Solo Arrimer, the race will be a good early testing ground for the prestigious 1,938 mile race in June, an opportunity Ed Hill plans to utilise: 'The race will be a good chance to really see how fast or slow we currently really are against the 2013 Solitaire fleet. It will also be a great opportunity learn from the top of the class and enable us to compare our ability, speed and performance against a large number of this year’s race Rookies, I’m under no illusions, to be amongst to top rookies is my only goal'
'The guys know how to sail, they know how to bring their boats home safely, they know how to race, they know the rules - but they are very light on experience and specifically managing the transitions around the course. Watching the good guys and staying motivated as fatigue builds and the gaps inevitably grow across the fleet will be one of the hardest elements of the Solo Arrimer,' concluded Marcus. Read Marcus’ pre Solo Arrimer blog in full here.
From multiple world record breakers back to test themselves against the young blood, to Rookies trying to find their place in the world of solo offshore sailing, the Solo Arrimer looks set to be an exciting 320 miles.
Solo Arrimer competitors
Name/Nationality/Figaro no./Figaro name/Rookie/Solitaire du Figaro win SDF,date)/Vendée Globe competitor
1. Jean Ahrweiller/FRA/14/Region Basse Normandie/Rookie
2. Jérémie Beyou/FRA/40/Maitre Coq/ SDF 2005,2011/VG 2013
3. Henry Bomby/GBR/19/ZHIK-Made for water
4. Jack Bouttell/GBR/77/Artemis77/Rookie
5. Thierry Chabagny/FRA/92/Gedimat
6. Nick Cherry/GBR/23/Artemis 23
7. Michel Desjoyeaux/FRA/34/TBS/SDF 1992,1998,2007/VG 2001, 2009 (winner)
8. Frédéric Duthill/FRA/7/Sepalumic
9. Yann Eliés/FRA/10/Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir/SDF 2012/VG 2009
10. Mathieu Girolet/FRA/86/Lafont Presse
11. Sam Goodchld/GBR/Vascoe de Gama
12. Ed Hill/GBR/37/Artemis 37/Rookie
13. Benoit Hochart/FRA/-/Aquarius/Rookie
14. David Kenefick/IRE/45/Full Irish/Rookie
15. Morgan Lagraviére/FRA/1/Vendée
16. Gilles Le Baud/FRA/60/Carnac Thalassso and Spa/SDF 1973,1978
17. Armel Le Cléac'h/FRA/62/Banque Populaire/SDF 2001,2003/VG 2009,2013
18. Yannig Livory/FRA/67/Thermacote France
19. Alexis Loison/FRA/28/Groupe Fiva
20. Nicolas Lunven/FRA/3/Generali
21. Xavier Macaire/FRA/8/Herault
22. Pail Meilhat/FRA/6/Skipper Macif
23. Jean Pierre Nicol/FRA/68/Bernard Controls
24. Claire Pruvot/FRA/55/Port de Caen Quistreham/Rookie
25. Fédéric Rivet/FRA/22/DFDS Seaways
26. Julién Villion/FRA/74/Seixo Habitat
Jack Bouttell: 'The Solo Arrimer will be a big step up, going from the light winds of the Med, to the nuclear winds, lumpy seas and rocky coastline of the Atlantic. There is no doubt the course will be tough, but 26 Figaros battling around obstacles in 30-40 knots should be exciting.'
'Not only will we have to manage the boat, steering, navigating and planning for the tide, we will have to manage our sleep and food between all of the obstacles. My aim to know the course off by heart and be able to make considered decisions out on the course, managing my boat and myself well throughout. '
'I still find it pretty amazing that I am here, as I will be sailing against skippers that I have only seen in magazines until now. I am trying not thinking about it like that, as really they are just another boat on the course, but it’s still pretty cool.'
Etchells Australasian Winter Championship 2014. No Star's Michael Coxon driving the boat while Richie Allanson and Iain Murray called the tactics. - Etchells Australasian Winter Championship 2014
Ed Hill: 'Racing in big swell and waves during the 320nm Solo Arrimer will certainly be a different experience, not to mention the effects of the tide we have to accommodate for. In training my speed has been good and fingers crossed this bodes well for the race.'
'Not knowing this area of the French coast very well, it is important that I build a very strong mental picture of the route, have a clear understanding of what the tide does at certain points in the course and know the key geographical features.'
'The race will be a good chance to really see how fast or slow we currently are against the 2013 Solitaire fleet. It will also be a great opportunity learn from the top of the class and enable us to compare our ability, speed and performance against a large number of this year’s race rookies.'
Nick Cherry: 'This race is a great warm up for the rest of the season but also a very worthwhile event in itself. A good result here would be the highlight of my Figaro career to date.'
'The standard of competitor in the Solo Arrimer is probably higher than that of any Figaro races I've done before. I'm just looking forward to getting stuck in and hoping I'm not too rusty.'
'Coming back to the Figaro after competing in the Princess Sofia regatta, I should be on form. I have sailed something like 15 days out of the last 18, so I'm feeling fit and lean, my hands are tough and I'm in the mindset for racing.'
Sam Goodchild: 'This is the first chance to tell how my winter training has gone. The quality of this fleet is high and although 14 other competitors are sailing in a Transatlantic race at the moment, it’ll be great for me to see how much work I have to do in the next six weeks before the start of the Solitaire.'
Henry Bomby: 'To be starting in Les Sables d’Olonne is always special. It’s really exciting to be going into my first race with my own boat and campaign. It’s given me the freedom and independence to make my own decisions, which I much prefer. Maybe last year, in my rookie season, it was all too new and I wasn’t ready for that, but I am really enjoying this added factor this year'
Artemis Offshore Academy website