• 130 days of competitive short-handed racing planned this year for the Academy Squad – a 20% increase on 2012
• Academy recruits inspired by recent Vendée Globe, as 3rd placed finisher Alex Thomson extols the virtues of the Academy: “In England we are very fortunate in having the Artemis Offshore Academy for short-handed sailing.”
• Mark Andrews, Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell continue their solo Figaro training in France with Team GBR Finn coach Matt Howard and seven time Solitaire du Figaro veteran Nico Berenger. Read Matt Howard’s final report on his week with the Academy squad here.
• Nikki Curwen kick starts her Mini training in Lorient with her sights firmly set on the 2013 Mini Transat
• Academy graduates Sam Goodchild and Henry Bomby train at Pole Finistere, the elite French offshore training centre
• Part-time Squad sailors training in double-handed racing to compete in the RORC’s offshore race programme
The 2012/13 Vendée Globe race has proved to be record-breaking for the top three skippers, beating the previous 84-day record. At the age of 29, François Gabart (Macif) sailed into the record books as the youngest winner and fastest skipper ever to finish the race in an incredible time of 78 days, 2 hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds. The race was also the closest ever as just 3 hours later fellow Breton skipper Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) crossed the finish line to take 2nd place. Taking 3rd place to set a new British Circumnavigation record was Gosport based Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) who finished after 80 days and 19 hours on the course. Commenting at his press conference Thomson said: “In England we are very fortunate in having the Artemis Offshore Academy for short-handed sailing. They have supported the sport well and there are some good people coming through the ranks.”
The Artemis Offshore Academy squad followed the race day by day and have found inspiration from the performance of these great sailors. The Academy is developing British short-handed sailing talent by providing an intensive training programme for aspiring sailors who want to follow in the footsteps of British Vendée Globe sailors Dame Ellen MacArthur, Alex Thomson and Mike Golding. The Academy programme is designed to bring these ambitious sailors up through the ranks into the demanding world of short-handed offshore racing, and in 2013 the Academy will one again be competing on the world stage in over 130 days of competitive racing, a 20% increase from 2012, with the Solitaire du Figaro, Rolex Fastnet Race and Mini Transat being the highlight events of the year for the Figaro and Mini classes respectively.
Academy graduates Sam Goodchild and Henry Bomby have recently begun their 2013 training at the elite Pole Finistere offshore training centre in Brittany France. Sam and Henry are training alongside the likes of Francois Gabart and Armel Le C’leac’h as they focus on the main event of the season, the Solitaire du Figaro. “The great thing about joining the Pole Finistere centre is that we’ll train with many of the greats in Figaro and solo offshore racing to really develop our skills further and learn from the best of the best” explained Sam. Read Henry and Sam’s recent blogs about training at the elite Pole Finisterre here.
The Artemis Offshore Academy 2013 race programme. Download the programme here.
“The Solitaire du Figaro would be the highlight race of the year for me, but there is a lot to learn beforehand,” reported squad sailor Jack Bouttell, who is hoping to secure a place in the four-stage Solitaire du Figaro alongside Sam, Henry and Nick Cherry. The 44th Solitaire du Figaro will start from Bordeaux on the 2nd of June. “As well as the Solitaire du Figaro we also have the legendary Rolex Fastnet Race, followed by the Mini Transat in the calendar, these races combined with the other Figaro, Mini and double-handed events make it our most comprehensive race programme to date,” expanded John Thorn, Artemis Offshore Academy Performance Director.
Jack Bouttell © Lloyd Images
“The full-time Squad of Mark Andrews, Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell are currently training at the Centre d’Entrainement Méditerranée under the guidance of seven-time Solitaire du Figaro veteran Nico Bérenger as they prepare for their first solo race of the season, the ICOM CUP in March. While full-time Mini sailor Nikki Curwen has also moved to France to train in the Lorient Grand Large Mini group led by renowned solo coach, Tanguy Le Glatin, before she too moves south to Italy and prepares for the Roma Mini Solo,” explained John. Read John’s latest blog here.
Academy soloists Jack Bouttell, Mark Andrews and Ed Hill in La Grande Motte © Artemis Offshore Academy
Mini sailor Nikki Curwen, was born with Class Mini blood in her veins – her father Simon Curwen finished in a brilliant second place in the 2001 edition of the Mini Transat beating pro’s like Brian Thompson and Sam Davies. Simon still holds the accolade for highest placed British competitor. Nikki is focusing on qualifying for the 4,020nm Mini Transat from Douarnenez, France to Pointe á Pitre, Guadeloupe in October: “The Mini Transat is the ultimate challenge – being on your own in a tiny little 21ft boat with no communication to land for over 30 days. The mental aspect and preparation is as great a challenge, as is the physical ability!” Firstly, Nikki must complete her qualification miles – 1000nm racing in the Roma Mini Solo and the Gran Premio d’Italia, as well as 1000nm solo passage on her boat Mini 438. Nikki hopes to have qualified by mid-May, however, simply qualifying does not guarantee her a place on the starting grid, she will join the short waiting list of eager Mini sailors vying to compete , whilst spending the summer months raising the final part of required funding that she needs to compete, and follow in her Father’s footsteps.
Nikki Curwen and the newly refitted Mini 6.50 © Artemis Offshore Academy
Meanwhile part-time Academy sailors, Robin Elsey, Sam Matson, Dyfrig Mon, and Alex Gardner, will be training throughout the year in a double-handed racing season from Cowes, UK, as Alex reports: “Our double-handed programme this year is all focused towards doing the RORC Fastnet race in August, and hopefully the Tour de Bretagne in early September.” For this group of sailors the first race of the season is the RORC Cervantes Trophy in May. “I am really looking forward to our first race, and at 140nm the race won’t be the longest of the year, but a perfect way to start what will be a pivotal season for me.”
Part-time Academy squad member Alex Gardner © Lloyd Images
This is an exciting time for all members of the Artemis Offshore Academy as training intensifies both on and off the water. A series of interviews with the Academy sailors will be published online over the coming weeks to look at their campaigns in more detail.
Read Team GBR Finn coach Matt Howard’s final report on his week with the Academy squad here.
Artemis Offshore Academy 2013 Race Programme
ICOM MED CUP – Figaro – Solo – 6–12 March
Roma Mini Solo – Mini – Solo – 15–18 March
Solo Arimer- Figaro – Solo – 9– 13 April
Gran Premio d’Italia – Mini – Solo – 13 – 21 April
Solo Concarneau – Figaro – Solo – 4-9 May
RORC Cervantes Trophy – Figaro – Double-handed – 4-5 May
UK Solent 6.50 – Mini – Double-handed – 5-7 May
UK Fastnet 6.50 – Mini – Double-handed – 12-18 May
RORC Myth of Malham – Figaro – Double-handed – 25-26 May
Round the Island Race – Figaro – Fully crewed – 1 June
Solitaire du Figaro – Figaro – Solo – 2-23 June
Trophée Marie-Agnés Péron – Mini – Solo – 13-15 June
RORC De Guingand Bowl – Figaro – Double-handed – 14-16 June
Mini Fastnet – Mini – Double-handed – 23-27 June
RORC Morgan Cup – Figaro – Double-handed – 28-30 June
RORC Cowes-Dinard-St Marlo – Figaro – Double-handed – 12-14 July
RORC Channel Race – Figaro – Double-handed – 27-28 July
Cowes Week – Figaro – Fully crewed – 3-10 August
RORC Rolex Fastnet – Figaro – Double-handed – 11-18 August
Le Grande 8 – Mini – Solo/Double-handed – 18-25 August
Tour de Bretagne – Figaro – Double-handed – 1-7 September
RORC Cherbourg Race – Figaro – Double-handed – 6-8 September
Mini Transat – Mini – Solo – 13 October till approximately 23 November
After a grueling 52-hour selection process, seven British sailors from the 16 participating in the Artemis Offshore Academy Selection Trials have now been recruited to join the Development Squad. They are Ollie Bond (31, Hamble), Henry Bomby (20, Kingswear), Aaron Cooper (22, Southampton), Robert Gullan (25, Southampton), Lizzy Foreman (21, Worcester Park), Robin Elsey (19, Turo), Sam Matson (20, Ottery St Mary).
The annual Selection Trials were staged from 26th September to 2nd October, at Wokefield Park and the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. Sixteen hopefuls were split into two groups for 52-hours of intense challenges to identify those who had the potential to be a first class short-handed sailor. “It was a difficult decision as we are not only looking for sailors with extraordinary talent, potential and commitment, but they also have to be at the right stage of their career to benefit from the Academy training programme,” explained Rod Carr, ex-CEO of the Royal Yachting Association, who leads the Artemis Offshore Academy Advisory Board. “The Artemis Offshore Academy has a similar structure to the successful RYA Olympic Sailing programmes and has started to show signs of success with 2011 graduates Phil Sharp finishing in 18th place in the Solitaire du Figaro, the highest placed finish for a British sailor in the history of the race, and Sam Goodchild who will be making his debut in the grueling double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race.”
The judges, who included record-breaking round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari, were looking for candidates with good racing skills and the ability to perform under pressure. Physical fitness, mental strength and their ability to manage their sleep and food intake were key factors in their assessment, as well as their overall potential to succeed in short-handed racing. It was a tough programme with the candidates, on average, only managing 4.5 hours sleep in total over the two and a half days. “I was really impressed with how hard these guys have worked,” said Caffari. “If I think back to when I started, I spent years acquiring all the facets of what it takes to make a solo offshore sailor and the Artemis Offshore Academy are offering it in one programme. It’s an amazing opportunity and I would have loved to have signed up back when I started!”
2011 – 2012 Development Squad* with John Thorn © Lloyd Images
Aaran Cooper, Ollie Bond and Henry Bomby will join the Development Squad from the end of the month. They begin their training at the specialist Figaro training facility, the Centre d’Entrainement Mediterranée in La Grande Motte, in France. Cooper is delighted to have been selected for the new Development Squad: “It was a real heart in mouth moment when I was told I was selected. I realised I was going to be part of the team and would have some fantastic opportunities ahead of me,” said Cooper. “It’s a real step on the ladder towards progressing my solo sailing towards the ultimate goal of racing in a Vendée Globe.”
Part of the Development Squad programme has been adapted for the new Squad members who are currently attending University: “To be given the opportunity to join the squad and train with the Artemis Offshore Academy around my studies means that I can finish my university degree whilst working towards my long-term goal which is a fantastic opportunity,” commented Lizzy Foreman. Foreman, Robert Gullan, Robin Elsey and Sam Matson will be on an 18-month training programme with an aim to be ready to race in the Mini Class or Figaro Circuit in 2013.
The new Squad on Figaro 23 © Lloyd Images
The candidates who attended the Selection Trials ranged from a solo round-the-world sailor to dinghy sailors, match racers to crewed keelboat racers. The judges had to make the tough decision on who would make it through. John Thorn, Performance Director explains: “We saw a diverse group of sailors with very mixed backgrounds. Some sailors excelled in certain areas but still need to develop skills in weaker areas, and with feedback from us we hope those unsuccessful applicants will spend the next year furthering their knowledge with some guidance from us before re-applying next year.”
The Development Squad will be training this winter in the south of France. All the sailors will be training together as a team, as well as working on their own tailor-made programmes. The sailors will undergo training not only in racing but also meteorology, navigation, onboard systems, boat maintenance, sponsorship procurement, French language and fitness. Once individual needs have been assessed, a more detailed plan will be released, including details of the 2012 racing programme.
Meet the 2011-2012 Development Squad here.