The month of June was a gruesome one for the Artemis Offshore Academy sailors. They took part in one of the shortest, but toughest editions of the Solitaire Bompard-Le Figaro in the history of the race. During the race, levels of sleep depravation were pushed to the extreme, as the coastal and tidal elements of the race demanded diligence round the clock.
Everyone deals with the aftermath of such a difficult race in his or her own way.
Half of British sailors started their recuperation period by sailing their boat back to Cowes on the Isle of Wight, ready for Cowes Week in August. With the pressures of competition faded away and help from another experienced sailor on board, the deliveries went smoothly for the most part.
After the Solitaire, campaigns start to differ depending on experience. Three time Solitaire skipper Alan Roberts, who finished 16th in 2016, is looking forward to spending some time training in the new Merlin Rocket. Roberts was a Merlin Rocket National Champion in 2013, also winning the Endeavour Championship in the Merlin Rocket the same year.
“I live to go racing and now the Solitaire is over, I don’t really like finishing racing and coming ashore“ said Roberts. “But after a while you do need a break. It’s nice to try new boats and get experience from bigger ones. I’m always learning so whatever I can take from it and bring to my own sailing is a plus.”
Roberts’ fellow Alumni sailor Andrew Baker, who raced his second Solitaire in 2016, will be compete in the Ireland Flying 15 National Championship in the coming weeks. Baker is also looking forward to a stint on Artemis Ocean Racing II, Artemis’ IMOCA 60 based in Southampton.
While his team mates get straight back into sailing, south west racer Sam Matson has been enjoying some well earned time off after crossing the Atlantic on his Figaro Chatham this year with co-skipper Robin Elsey, and then racing his third Solitaire.
“I’ve spent a long time on my Figaro this year between the Transat AG2R and the Solitaire so I’m going to enjoy going on a camping trip” explains Matson. “Being able to get away from sailing for a bit makes you miss it even more. I’ll get some kite surfing scheduled in my holidays so I won’t be to far from the sea.”
Already working on Artemis’ Open 60, Matson’s Transat AG2R teammate Elsey will act as first mate board the racing boat for the coming Royal Ocean Racing club series. Elsey will take on his first RORC race on the season on July 30th aboard AORII, alongside Baker and Matson.
Nick Cherry, the most experienced Figaro sailor amongst the Brits, is heading out on a cruise around the Scilly Islands before coming back to Cowes for some training ahead of Cowes Week.
Even though the main event is now done and dusted, the Academy Alumni are just as busy in the Figaro off season, gaining experience and making contacts – hoping to secure new partners and sponsors that will give their Figaro campaigns longevity.
Meanwhile, this year’s three British Rookies embark on a period of rest and recuperation and decision-making about their coming season.
Achieving his goals of winning the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro Rookie top spot, Will Harris is spending some time surfing in the south west of France – the Mecca of French surf – while Hugh Brayshaw will be enjoying a family holiday inland and far from the sea.
Having raced the Solitaire as a member of the Magenta Project, British sailor Mary Rook now joins the girls from the project aboard the OC Sport GC32 – a fast foiling catamaran used on the Extreme Sailing Series.
“The Magenta Project is a very interesting concept to be a part of. I grew up admiring some of the sailors from the Project and have sailed with others,” says Mary. “The idea is to continue the legacy of the all women Team SCA from the last Volvo Ocean Race by being a platform for women to get into high performance sailing. Not necessarily as just all-women crew but also to promote mixed teams.”
Having competed in a month long race with no on-board comms as a rule, now is the time for the skippers to share their social story – spending time blogging, publishing and refurbishing websites – ahead of the all important Cowes Week.