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Solitaire du Figaro preview part 2

A look at the form overall, while Nigel King and Conrad Humphreys discuss their prospects

Sunday July 31st 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

As mentioned in part one of our preview to the 2011 Solitaire du Figaro Eric Bompard Cachemire, among this year’s 47 competitors are four British skippers, the strongest entry the UK has ever made in what many view as the unofficial annual world championship of singlehanded offshore racing. This is in no small part thanks to the advent of the Artemis Offshore Academy.

We have looked at the prospects of Artemis Offshore Academy winner Sam Goodchild and the talented, somewhat maverick Phil Sharp and today we speak to Vendee Globe skipper Conrad Humphreys and well known professional sailor Nigel King about their campaigns – but first a little about this year’s race:

As usual this year’s Solitaire du Figaro comprises four legs:
1) Perros Guirec-Caen (320 miles), starting 31 July.
2) Caen-Dun Laoghaire (470 miles), starting 7 August
3) Dun Laoghaire-Les Sables d’Olonne (475 miles), starting 14 August
4) Les Sables d’Olonne-Dieppe (430 miles), starting 21 August

As the crow flies just 160 miles separate Perros-Guirec from Caen, the opening leg takes the boats past the Channel Islands and across to the UK coast where they must round the Eddystone light off Plymouth before heading east along the coast, past Start Point and Portland to the Needles Fairway buoy off the Needles before returning across the Channel to the finish Caen. With a very light forecast combined with spring tides there was the prospect of shortening course but instead the organisers have chosen to leave out one of the first marks that was to take the fleet along the notoriously treacherous north coast of Brittany, although the leg length remains 320 miles.

As Race Director Jacques Caraës explains: “The first mark, the Roche Gautier cardinal, northeast of Perros Guirec, has been removed from the course. The solo sailors will therefore head direct to the Radio France mark. Note that the start will be on a fixed position; the line will be set perpendicular to the axis of the buoy and not in relation to the axis of wind."

The current ETA into Caen is for around noon on Wednesday, 3 August.

So who is likely to win? Oddly this year the Solitaire du Figaro is down on big names. There is no Michel Desjoyeaux, back to see if he can win it for a fourth time, and Armel Le Cleac’h, who dominated last year’s event, now has the Banque Populaire IMOCA 60 to play with while recent double winner, Nicholas Troussel, has recently been competing in the Tour Voile where he finished third and is otherwise competing in the Class 40 while he attempts to get an IMOCA 60 campaign together.

The strong competitors this time are likely to be 2005 winner and former Delta Dore IMOCA 60 skipper Jeremie Beyou, who is competing in the Solitaire for the 12th time and we suspect may well do a ‘frustrated at losing IMOCA 60 sponsor’ repeat of Armel Le Cleac’h performance last year; Nicolas Lunven, the 2009 winner, and Cercle Verte's Gildas Morvan, who recently won the Generali Solo, the arduous Mini-Solitaire sailed down in Mediterranean, and having had four podium finishes in 15 attempts on la Solitaire should statistically be in the running. Fred Duthill may also be be in the chocolates having been on the podium consistently from 2007-9, but having had to abandon last year.

After these four there are a whole roster of potential winners from Mr Sam Davies, Romain Attanasio, aboard Saveol; Gedimat skipper Thierry Chabagny on his tenth Solitaire this year, having been second in 2007; 2001 Solitaire winner Eric Drouglazet sailing his 19th Solitaire once again on Luisina; or Banque Populaire skipper Jeanne Gregoire, now on her 9th participation; or Erwan Tabarly, nephew of you know who; or the talented Anthony Marchand, winner last year of the Bretagne Credit Mutuel Espoir, (the French equivalent of the Artemis Offshore Academy scholarship – except you win it for two years); or another of the hot-shot nippers, Bretagne Credit Mutuel Performance skipper, Thomas Rouxel.

Then there are a large group of sailors who were all highly successful in the Mini class, such as 2009 winners Thomas Ruyant and Portugal’s Francisco Lobato, Charlie Dalin, Isabelle Joschke and Xavier Macaire and who are all now trying to make their mark in the Figaro.

The big question is - do we dare hope that any of the four Brits will make an impression this year?

“It is very open this year,” says DMS skipper Conrad Humpheys. “There aren’t any clear outstanding people - there are the Jeremie Beyous, Fred Duthils and Gildas Morvans, who I think will be the guys to watch, but then there is some potential that we [the Brits] could break into that 20.”

Nigel King rates Jeremie Beyou, who beat him into second place (his best Figaro class race result by far) in the Transmanche. “Jeremie Beyou looked pretty impressive in the Transmanche - he was really quick," says King of the form, "and after that the only other previous winner is Nicolas Lunven, although he hasn’t gone so well this year and the other guy is Gildas Morvan, who won the Generali and he always stands out and he has never won it.”

Of the British participants this year in the Solitaire, King is the most capped having previously sailed it in 2007 and 2009 (“odd years, like Tottenham winning the FA Cup”). However this year there are significant differences to his campaign in that firstly he comes having had some training with the Artemis Offshore Academy, and particularly benefitting from their support infrastructure during the race, but secondly he has a sponsor in E-Line Orthodontics.

“The sponsor coming on board is fantastic,” says King. “It is not a massive budget, but it allows me to be here and it is linked in with the Artemis Academy and it has allowed me a bit more training than I’ve done in the past. It is the first time I have some money from another source other than my own wages. It makes a massive difference. My sponsor didn’t originally come on board with the intention that I would do the Solitaire. It was like ‘let’s get involved and do some stuff with the boat and see where that goes’ and I said ‘with that support I can probably fit in a Solitaire’ and they said ‘okay, let’s go for it’. We are working on hopefully a longer term future.”

There is the prospect of Dr Stephen Hopson, Director of London-based E-Line Orthodontics sailing some doublehanded races with King. “We have been talking about it and we have a plan for the winter," says King of this. "He has a lack of experience, so we are looking at a program to get him involved with the sport. He is very keen and a really nice guy and loves the concept of the sport and wants to be involved.”

The Artemis Offshore Academy is also providing the shore crew for King and Conrad Humphries and Sam Goodchild and other support for all the Brits. “There are three shore crew for the three boats and because Phil [Sharp] came on later, he is doing his own thing because we didn’t have any spare capacity. So we are taking one van which is enough for three boats.”

The shore crew are French and have been working with the Artemis sailors throughout the year as each of the boats/skippers has their own requirements - take the boats for example: Goodchild’s belongs to the Academy, while Humphreys' has chartered his and King owns his own Beneteau Figaro.

In terms of the Artemis Offshore Academy training, King admits that he only did three weeks of it as at the time he got the spot he didn’t have a sponsor and had already committed to his other regular programs with Chris Bake’s RC44 program with Team Aqua and Chris Bull’s Cookson 50 Jazz.

“I had to continue my commitments with the other sailing because although the sponsor put in a lot of money I needed more and the only way to achieve that was by going to work as normal. So it has been better time spent than previous years, and I’m sure my sailing level has improved, but it is just how much has the fleet advanced around me,” says King.

So where does King hope he will finish? “The difference between this and 2009 is that then I was just focussed on a leg at a time, hoping I would end up with a reasonable result in the general classification. This time I am more focussed on the general classification. I would like to believe it is possible to be top 10, but to do that I’d have to sail better than I’ve ever sailed a Figaro before. My aim is to be top 10 overall, if in the process I can get a decent leg result I’ll be happy, but I would definitely sacrifice good leg results for an overall top 10. There is no doubt that is going to be pretty hard to achieve, but that is what I’m aiming for.”

Clearly King is capable of putting in a good performance as he demonstated in the Transmanche. So how did he manage second place in that? “I turned up nice and early, so I was pretty relaxed going into the race and I just felt more comfortable on the boat,” he explains. “I played around a bit more with the boat settings as I got used to getting back into the Figaro - it takes time to remember how to sail the boat and to relax into it and I picked a few [good] shifts and Sam [Goodchild] was with me and led the way a bit and I was watching what he was doing and thinking he was taking some good options and then I managed just to nip around him once he’d shown me the way!”

Conrad Humphreys says he has no idea how he will fair in his first crack at La Solitaire. “There is no one slow here. I think the really good guys are going to do well. I’d like to think that I’ll be in the mix. A challenging race will suit me. If there are lots of tactical options that is probably where my strengths are. I’d like to be in the top half of the fleet, but if any one of us breaks into the top 20, we’d be delighted.”

So how much has the Artemis training helped him? “It has been invaluable for a first timer," says Humphreys. "There are a number of components: pre-race just having access the coaching staff and just being able to share preparateurs and their experience – that has been really, really significant. And during the race we have effectively three days prior to each leg start where we sit as a group with Sylvian Mondon from Meteo France and [former Figaro skipper] Nicolas Berenger, who is very good and we discuss scenarios and look at the likely weather and look the general synoptic and the detail with Nico based on his experience having done multiple Figaros. To have had this in the first year has been absolutely crucial. I certainly wouldn’t be nearly as up to speed with the boat and in terms of what to expect without them. And it means that the Brits are generally pretty relaxed, because the boats are well prepared.”

Humphreys, 38, reckons his strength is partly his experience in other short handed races so rather than getting wound up at any one point he can see the big picture and focus over the three or four day duration of the legs. “Weather-wise I have a fairly good handle on that - I have always felt that was one of my stronger area. This race is very tactical boat on boat and I guess if there was a weak area, I haven’t had as much time in the boat as the other guys and ultimately that combined with speed of manoeuvres, and those sorts of things, will be areas that I’ll be much better in year two than year one.”

What we can perhaps dare to hope for the Brits this time around are some good results among the ‘bizuths’, the Solitaire du Figaro first timers, as all the Brits except King fit into this category. Overall, we think Phil Sharp might have a top five finish in one leg and that Sam Goodchild will get into the top 20, but then the Solitaire is a little like the Grand National and anything can happen. The name of the game will be consistency.

Entry list:

Name Boat Nat Born Participations
ATTANASIO Romain SAVEOL FRA 1977 8
BEYOU Jérémie BPI FRA 1976 11
BIARNES Vincent PRATI'BÛCHES FRA 1974 2
BOTHUON Michel  LES RECYCLEURS BRETONS FRA 1959 4
CHABAGNY Thierry  GEDIMAT FRA 1972 9
DALIN Charlie KEOPSYS FRA 1984 Bizuth
DELAHAYE Fabien PORT DE CAEN OUISTREHAM FRA 1984 2
DROUGLAZET Eric LUISINA FRA 1967 18
DUTHIL Frederic SEPALUMIC FRA 1973 7
EMIG Marc  ENSEMBLE AUTOUR DU MONDE FRA 1969 6
GIROLET Matthieu ENTREPRENDRE (LAFONT PRESSE) FRA 1973 2
GODART-PHILIPPE Arnaud  SENOBLE FRA 1983 2
GOODCHILD Sam ARTEMIS GBR 1989 Bizuth
GOUEZIGOUX Laurent  VALORISONS FRA 1981 4
GREGOIRE Jeanne BANQUE POPULAIRE FRA 1976 8
GUILLOU Damien LA SOLIDARITE MUTUALISTE FRA 1983 1
HARDY Adrien AGIR RECOUVREMENT FRA 1984 3
HUMPHREYS Conrad DMS GBR 1973 Bizuth
JOSCHKE  Isabelle GALETTES SAINT MICHEL FRA/GER 1977 3
JOSSIER Nicolas ENTREPRENDRE EN PAYS GRANVILLAIS FRA 1976 3
KING Nigel E-LINE ORTHODONTICS GBR 1969 2
LAGRAVIERE Morgan VENDEE FRA 1987 Bizuth
LE GARREC Loïc SAVEURS D'EVENEMENTS  FRA 1973 1
LITTOZ-BARITEL Alexis SAVOIE MONT- BLANC FRA 1983 Bizuth
LIVORY  Yannig ONE NETWORK ENERGIES FRA 1966 1
LOBATO Francisco (Portugais) ROFF PORT 1984 1
LOISON Alexis PORT CHANTEREYNE CHERBOURG- OCTEVILLE FRA 1984 5
LUNVEN Nicolas GENERALI FRA 1982 4
MACAIRE Xavier  STARTER ACTIVE BRIDGE FRA 1976 Bizuth
MARCHAND Anthony BRETAGNE CREDIT MUTUEL ESPOIR FRA 1985 1
MEILHAT Paul  MACIF 2011 FRA 1982 1
MONNET Jean-Charles PARIS 15e - Château Peyrat Fourthon FRA 1984 3
MORVAN Gildas  CERCLE VERT FRA 1968 15
MOUREN Jean-Paul GROUPE SNEF FRA 1953 24
NICOL Jean-Pierre BERNARD CONTROLS                               FRA 1978 4
PELLECUER Laurent  ATELIER D'ARCHITECTURE JEAN PIERRE MONIER / OPTION SUD FRA 1974 14
PERON Eric MACIF 2009 FRA 1981 4
PICAULT Sébastien  KICKERS FRA 1976 Bizuth
RICHOMME Yoann  DLBC FRA 1983 1
RIVET Frédéric VENDEE 1 FRA 1978 3
ROUXEL Thomas  BRETAGNE CREDIT MUTUEL PERFORMANCE FRA 1982 5
RUYANT Thomas DESTINATION DUNKERQUE FRA 1981 Bizuth
SHARP Phil The Spirit of Independence GBR 1981 Bizuth
SINEAU David BRITANIE COSMETIQUES FRA 1973 Bizuth
SVILARICH Etienne  VOLKSWAGEN THINK BLUE FRA 1980 3
TABARLY Erwan NACARAT FRA 1974 10
TANNYERES Louis Maurice ST ERICSSON FRA 1958 2



 

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