There are now just four months to go until the start of The Artemis Transat, the oldest solo race in the history of ocean racing, which will start on Sunday, 11 May 2008 from Plymouth (UK).
Up to 40 IMOCA 60 and Class 40 racing yachts are expected to gather at Sutton Harbour, Plymouth for the 13th edition of the race that will see the skippers face 2,800 miles of tough racing across the treacherous North Atlantic to Boston (USA).
British skipper Mike Golding won the IMOCA 60 Class in the 2004 edition of The Transat and will be looking to defend his title this May in his new generation 'Ecover'. Awarded an OBE a year ago, 46-year-old Golding has raced around the globe five times. His tenacity for offshore racing knows no bounds and he will be a formidable defending champion.
Brian Thompson (45) has been racing professionally for over 15 years and has held 25 world sailing records to date. His experience in the IMOCA 60 fleet is extensive, and now Thompson will be racing his brand new IMOCA 60 Pindar, in her first ocean race, in The Artemis Transat which will also serve as his qualifying race for the legendary solo, non-stop round the world Vendée Globe that starts later in the year.
Jonny Malbon (33), has previously worked with both Golding and Thompson as well as with Ellen MacArthur over a number of years. The highlight of his career to date was winning the Oryx Quest in 2005. He joined the Artemis Ocean Racing team as Boat Captain in 2006 and during the first year skippered the boat to break the Round Britain and Ireland Race record.
In 2007, he stepped up to the role of Skipper for Artemis and despite a promising start to the year he was sadly forced to retire from the Transat Jacques Vabre. Malbon's brand new Artemis Ocean Racing II, which is currently being built in Lymington, will be launched at the end of February. The Artemis Transat will be Jonny's first major race in his new boat as he builds to the Vendee Globe.
Dee Caffari (34) is the first British female to officially enter the race. In May 2006, Dee became the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world against the prevailing winds and currents onboard the 72ft Aviva Challenge. Her first solo race experience onboard an IMOCA 60 monohull was in the B2B race from Brazil back to France that proved to be a test of not only her solo skills but also her survival skills when the boat dismasted off the coast of Spain in the final stages of the race.
However, this disappointment was short-lived as Caffari celebrated the launch of her new IMOCA 60 Aviva on the 14th December in New Zealand. Aviva will shortly be shipped back to Europe for final sea trials before her next solo test in The Artemis Transat.
Renowned Figaro sailor Jéremie Beyou, is a relatively new addition to the IMOCA 60 fleet but has already proved his mettle in the class. Finishing in 2nd place in the Calais Round Britain Race and 4th place in the Fastnet Race last summer, Beyou was also lying in 4th place having crossed gate 4 of the race off Cape Town in the double-handed Barcelona World Race when disappointingly Delta Dore was dismasted. He will be eager to finish his first solo race onboard Delta Dore and is certainly capable of a podium finish in The Artemis Transat.
Like Beyou, Sébastien Josse (32) was a successful Figaro sailor before entering the world of IMOCA 60 racing, threatening the 'rock stars' in the 2004 solo Vendée Globe before hitting ice in the Southern Ocean that compromised his chances of a podium finish but saw him finish in 5th place overall. Recently he competed in the Barcelona World Race with Vincent Riou on PRB but suffered the disappointment of retiring from the race following the loss of the top 3 meters of the mast whilst leading the race. Now he has a new IMOCA 60 campaign onboard the new IMOCA 60 BT and will be putting the boat through its first solo paces this May before taking on the Vendée Globe again.
In the Class 40, Italy's favourite sailor Giovanni Soldini (41) has officially entered Télécom Italia.
The Artemis Transat 2008 -
Soldini, an effusive character and prolific multihull and monohull sailor, led the 28-boat Class 40 fleet home in the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre last November and will be seen as the Class 40 hot favourite for The Artemis Transat.
Louis Duc is only 24 years old - the youngest entry so far. 2007 was his first year in the Class 40 circuit and culminated in him participating (and finishing 22nd) in the Transat Jacques Vabre onboard Ocean Eleven, the same boat Duc will race in The Artemis Transat.
The IMOCA 60 and Class 40 fleets offer a combination of the pre-eminent ocean racing fleet of IMOCA, with a class that contains aspiring ocean racing professionals and determined and accomplished amateurs in equal measures.