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.