It’s crunch time in Concarneau for the Artemis Offshore Academy soloists

The May Bank Holiday Monday may come as a welcomed day off for most, but not for Artemis Offshore Academy skippers Jack Bouttell, Ed Hill, Sam Goodchild, Henry Bomby, Nick Cherry and ‘Full Irish’ sailor David Kenefick, as they set their sails for the Solo Concarneau. This final test before the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro in one months time, sees the fleet cross the start line in Concarneau, France on May 6th at 14:00 BST, and race along 350 miles of the rugged Brittany coastline.

The foreign contingency. From left :David Kenefick, Jack Bouttell, Henry Bomby, Sam Goodchild, Nick Cherry and Ed Hill © Artemis Offshore Academy/Brian Carlin

Conditions for the race look set to be moderate throughout, sailing in 10-15 knots, upwind for the start, with wind speeds forecast to top out at 20 knots during the race. Although giving the skippers a break from the 30+ knot winds and salt water showers they have become accustomed to, the lighter winds will add to the difficulty of the race as Jack explained: “It’s going to be a hard course, heading up through the infamous Raz de Sein, around some fairly epic rocks and back through the Glénans , the lighter winds will only make navigating around the rocky course more difficult. But it’s a good dry run for the Solitaire, as the Solo Concarneau follows some of the same course as the third leg of the race, from Gijon, Spain to Roscoff France.”

Jack gets a face full during training in Concarneau © Artemis Offshore Academy/Brian Carlin

Not only will the six strong Anglo-Saxon alliance come up against the boat crippling rocks of the Atlantic, but they will line up alongside a shortened (19 boats confirmed), but still formidable entry list including Michel Desjoyeaux, Nicolas Lunven, Armel Le Cleac’h, Solo Arrimer winner Morgan Lagraviére and the Class Figaro president, Didier Bouillard. Winner of the Solo Arrimer Rookie class Jack and second placed Ed will be among five rookies competing, including David Kenefick, with all three sailors hoping they can keep the French off of the new generation podium once again: “It’s another tough crowd to beat,” said a realistic Ed. “There’s already so many challenges presented by the course, that you don’t want to think about the competition too much, but as ever my goals for the Solo Concarneau are to stay competitive and with the fleet. There’s a lot riding on this race, so I’ve just got to sail well.”

Ed has sacrificed a lot to follow his dream of competing in the Solitaire du Figaro © Artemis Offshore Academy/Brian Carlin

The Solo Concarneau comes as an important milestone for the Academy skippers, with the number of Artemis Offshore Academy boats competing in the Solitaire du Figaro set to be announced after this final indicator race: “I’ve put everything into this season and to compete in the Solitaire is everything we’ve been working towards,” said Jack. ”I’ve not been putting pressure on by thinking about the decision, but if I miss out on the race this time, I reckon I’ll be on the first plane to South America to go climbing and getting as far away from boats as possible, for a bit – to say I’d be disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I’d feel.”

The Academy fleet training in Concarneau © Artemis Offshore Academy/Brian Carlin

For the ‘old hands’, Sam, Nick and Henry, the time to secure those all important sponsors ahead of the Solitaire du Figaro is slipping ever faster through the hour glass: “I’ve been balancing my campaign on a knifes edge since January,” Henry revealed, “but I know I have given it everything I've got either way and I am remaining confident that all will come good in the end, I've made it this far! If I actually pull this off this season, I think it will be just as rewarding as actually finishing the Solitaire itself!”

'Old hand' Nick Cherry is still loving Figaro life © Artemis Offshore Academy/Brian Carlin

On the other side of the Solo Concarneau not only lies the welcoming sight of the finish line, but also the next chapter for the fleet, as the final countdown begins to the start of leg one of Class Figaro’s premier event, the Solitaire du Figaro in Bordeaux, France on the 2nd of June.

You can follow the sailors’ progress during the Solo Concarneau, via the Artemis Offshore Academy website, Facebook and Twitter.

The Solo Concarneau line up (confirmed so far)
Name/Nationality/Figaro no./Figaro name/Rookie

1.    Henry Bomby/GBR/19/ZHIK-Made for watercheck
2.    Jack Bouttell/GBR/77/Artemis77/Rookie
3.    Nick Cherry/GBR/23/Artemis 23
4.    Michel Desjoyeaux/FRA/34/TBS
5.    Sam Goodchld/GBR/Shelter Box – Disaster Relief
6.    Ed Hill/GBR/37/Artemis 37/Rookie
7.    Benoit Hochart/FRA/-/Aquarius/Rookie
8.    David Kenefick/IRE/45/Full Irish/Rookie
9.    Morgan Lagraviére/FRA/1/Vendée
10.    Armel Le Cléac'h/FRA/62/Banque Populaire/
11.    Yannick Livory/FRA/67/Thermacote France
12.    Nicolas Lunven/FRA/3/Generali
13.    Xavier Macaire/FRA/8/Herault
14.    Pail Meilhat/FRA/6/Skipper Macif
15.    Jean Pierre Nicol/FRA/68/Bernard Controls
16.    Claire Pruvot/FRA/55/Port de Caen Quistreham/Rookie
17.    Julién Villion/FRA/74/Seixo Habitat
18.    Didier Bouillard/FRA/69
19.    Frederic Duthill/FRA/7/Sepulmic