It is an event rarely seen in the sporting world of solo sailing, the gathering of many of the great solo sailors from the past, present and future who came together to celebrate the official launch of the 13th edition of the oldest solo race history, now known as The Artemis Transat.
Dame Ellen MacArthur, who won the race in 2000 aged 23 years and went onto finish 2nd in the solo Vendée Globe, stood alongside Mike Richey (aged 90) who competed in every edition of the race from 1964 onboard the famous Jester. The first edition of the race in 1960 was founded by Lt Col Blondie Hasler and Sir Francis Chichester (Gipsy Moth III) who was the first to reach New York after 40 days - it now takes the modern-day IMOCA 60 racing machines a little over 10 days to cross the 2800-mile course to Boston. 'I think the reason The Artemis Transat is so special is that it is THE race that kicked off and started solo sailing,' commented MacArthur.
From the other side of the channel came French legends Loick Peyron, who won the race twice in 1992 and 1996 - only he and Eric Tabarly hold that claim to fame - and Florence Arthaud who achieved unprecedented levels of acclaim in her home country for her participation in this race and the solo Route du Rhum.
Britain's Mike Golding OBE (Ecover) who won the race in 2004 has every intention of defending his IMOCA 60 title but he will be facing tough competition from the other skippers representing one of the strongest field of IMOCA 60 solo skippers in the history of the race. Fellow Brits Brian Thompson (Pindar), Jonny Malbon (Artemis Ocean Racing), Dee Caffari (Aviva) and Samantha Davies (Roxy) all pose a strong threat, whilst the combined force of the very best of the French solo sailors including Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), Seb Josse (BT), Vincent Riou (PRB) and Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) to name a few, will make the IMOCA 60 title a hotly contested affair.
Alex Bennett (Fujifilm), who will be racing in the smaller Class 40 fleet, carries the hopes of the host city Plymouth on his shoulders and he will be racing against up to 15 other Class 40 skippers including Italian maestro Giovanni Soldini and, hopefully, Florence Arthaud.
It is a daunting prospect for any sailor to set out alone, across the North Atlantic, facing the risk of huge storms, icebergs and dense fog - the 2,800 mile course takes the sailors through the heart of 'Perfect Storm' territory and close to where the Titanic was lost.
UK's leading investment company, Artemis, official title partner to the race welcomed the sailing greats from past, present and future:
'Artemis Investment Management is delighted to support The Transat, the sailing world's most enduring single handed ocean race. It takes skill, passion, persistence, knowledge and dedicated teamwork to compete with the best in the offshore ocean racing world. All our activities in sailing reflect our company's core values and philosophy. We look forward to a successful and enjoyable event and I wish all the competitors a safe and quick crossing to Boston,' commented Mark Tyndall, Chief Executive of Artemis.
The Artemis Transat will start on Sunday, 11th May, 2008 from Sutton Harbour Plymouth and will finish at Rowes Wharf, Boston Harbour Hotel, Boston whilst the smaller Class 40 fleet will finish at the Corinthian Yacht Club, Marblehead. 2008 entry list for The Artemis Transat at 15.2.08: IMOCA
Akena Veranda/ Arnaud Boissieres (FRA)
Artemis/ Jonny Malbon (UK)
Aviva/ Dee Caffari (UK)
BritAir/ Armel Le Cleach'h (FRA)
BT/ Sebastien Josse (FRA)
Ecover/ Mike Golding (UK)
Foncia / Michel Desjoyaux (FRA)
Pakea Bizkaia 2009/ Unai Basurko (BASQ)
Pindar/ Brian Thompson (UK)
PRB/ Vincent Riou (FRA)
Roxy/ Samantha Davies
Veolia Environnement/ Roland Jourdain (FRA)
Generali/ Yann Elies (FRA)
Cervin En R/ Yannick Bestaven (FRA)
Gitana Eighty/ Loick Peyron (FRA)
Groupe Bel/ Kito de Pavant (FRA)
Safran/ Marc Guillemot (FRA) Class40
Appart'City/ Yvan Noblet (FRA)
Fujifilm/ Alex Bennett (UK)
Groupe Partouche/ Christophe Coatnoan (FRA)
Mistral Loisirs-Elior/ Thierry Bouchard (FRA)
Ocean Eleven/ Louis Duc (FRA)
Prevoir VIE/ Benoit Parnaudeau (FRA)
Telecom Italia/ Giovani Soldini (ITA)
Miranda Merron (UK)
Patrick Carpentier (FRA)
Halvard Mabire (FRA) http://www.theartemistransat.com/