Solo and short-handed racing is demanding, competitive and all encompassing, it requires a unique set of skills and few make it to the top echelons of the sport. Ellen MacArthur, Mike Golding, Dee Caffari, Samantha Davies and Alex Thomson are just a few of the modern-generation British sailors who have made an impact in this highly competitive discipline that is dominated by the French. The Artemis Offshore Academy offers British sailors the chance to train exclusively in this discipline, and now in its third year the Academy will be staging its annual Selection Trials.
Aaron Cooper & Henry Bomby racing in the boat they built for the Sikaflex challenge as part of the 2011 Selection Trials © David Harding
Taking place between 9th - 14th September at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, the Selection Trials are an opportunity for any sailor, male or female, of any age, with a proven sailing track record, be it dinghy, match racing, Olympic or offshore to test their solo potential.
“Winning sailors have to be the all round package,” stated Olympic and America’s Cup physiologist Dr Pete Cunningham. “They must have aerobic fitness to be able to recover, strength for the day to day toils of sailing and the stamina and determination to keep going.”
2011 Selection Trials © Lee Tuckett
Pushing candidates to their limits, the Artemis Offshore Academy’s three day Selection Trials are designed to test whether applicants possess the physical and mental attributes essential to succeed in solo offshore sailing. Long solitary hours, sleep deprivation and the rigor of competitive racing demands that solo offshore sailors are in peak physical and mental condition; when the going gets tough, a solo sailor only has him or herself to rely on.
Aaron Cooper fixing the winch to earn miles during the Virtual Vendee Globe challenge © David Harding
“We are not only looking for exceptional sailors but also those with the mental stamina to succeed in the toughest racing discipline in the world – solo, long distance,” explained Academy Performance Director John Thorn. “Many sailors can keep up with the best over short distances but night after night at sea, and you have had very little sleep, that’s when we see the difference.
“The Artemis Offshore Academy can provide the opportunity to convert talent into an all-round solo and short-handed competitor, competing at the highest level. During the recent Solitaire du Figaro, Morgan Lagraviere, an ex-Olympic 49er sailor who finished 2nd overall in only his second participation, said at the finish ‘As you sail along, always in close combat with your competitors...it feels like a day of Olympic sailing but it is a 50 or 60 hour version!’ This perfectly captures the intensity of this discipline and it is not for everyone.”
2011 Selection Trials liferaft drill © David Harding
If selected, successful applicants will train with the Academy’s full time Development squad, and on completing their winter training, the sailors will compete and gain experience on the solo offshore racing circuit in preparation for the highlight of the Figaro calendar, the prestigious Solitaire du Figaro. Only sailors who show determination, aptitude and a willingness to improve throughout the race season will be considered for the Academy’s entry in the Solitaire du Figaro in 2013.
Earn your chance to compete in the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro © Alexis Courcoux
“It’s such a great opportunity to be part of the Artemis Offshore Academy,” reported Solitaire du Figaro 2012 rookie Henry Bomby. “To go into a race well prepared with an experienced support team around you is all you could ask for and a major step up in this hard and super competitive environment.”
The Artemis Offshore Academy Figaro programme is not all on water training, the squad will attend shore-based classes in meteorology, navigation, sponsorship, French language and media training; imparting the necessary skills for the sailors to go on and build a successful solo sailing career, a career that perhaps one day will end on the top of the Vendée Globe podium – a first for British sailing. “So where will the next solo British hopeful emerge from? Olympic classes, round the world fully crewed racing, Grand Prix racing, commercial skippers? We don’t know right now, the Selection Trials aims to unearth that talent and help develop sailors into exceptional solo racers who can compete against the best in the world,” concluded Thorn.
Robin Elsey racing on the Figaro © David Harding
Working along side the Figaro squad, some sailors will opt to direct their energies at the Mini Class (21’ boat that is used in the famous Mini Transat Race), the Academy operates a series design Mini Class (Pogo2), providing competitive racing and allowing the sailors to build their skills without having to worry about the technicalities of the ‘prototype’ division. The Mini Class is a proven learning environment, and allows a sailor to develop their own small sponsors, learning how to balance the commercial demands of professional sailing with the need to be competitive in large fleets (sometimes 80 boats) that gather at Mini Class events.
For your chance to attend the Selection Trials and have the chance to join the next Artemis Offshore Academy Development Squad apply now! Entries close at midnight on the 20th August. The 2013 Development Squad will be announced the week of the 17th September.