Photos: Artemis Offshore Academy

Fiercesome line-up for the Solo Maître Coq

With just six weeks until La Solitaire, eight Brits will compete in this week's solo Figaro race

Monday April 20th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Now in its fifth year, the Solo Maître Coq starts today in Les Sables d’Olonne, home of the Vendée Globe, for the Figaro fleet. Taking place over 20-26 April, the event starts with a series of short coastal races today and tomorrow , before culminating in a 350-mile offshore race starting on Thursday 23 April, around Ile de Ré, Ile d’Yeu and Belle Île.

Scored on a co-efficient point system weighted towards the offshore race, the winner of the Solo Maître Coq will be the skipper with the least points accumulated over the week, all races to count.

An impressive line up of 42 skippers have signed up to take part in this unique Figaro racing regatta, including 12 Rookies, four 2016 Vendée Globe competitors, one Vendée Globe winner (Alain Gautier - 1992/93), two past winners of the Solo Maître Coq, two multiple Solitaire du Figaro winners, three female skippers and the Classe Figaro Bénéteau’s first Turkish skipper.

And the fleet, worthy of La Solitaire itself, include eight Brits, including the Artemis Offshore Academy and its graduates. 

“It’s going to be a fun set of races, but it’s going to be tough because there are so many good sailors taking part,” Robin Elsey, winner of the Solo Basse Normandie Rookie division, explained. “It’s also going to be quite physically testing, because we have two days of inshore racing before we set off on a full length offshore race. I think we’ll be a bit more tired ahead of the race than we would usually – good training for the Solitaire. I’m really looking forward to it though. Solo racing is challenging enough and a few days of close contact racing before we set off will make things exciting.”

Elsey and his fellow British Rookies Rob Bunce and Andrew Baker had their first taste of competitive solo Figaro racing back in March during the Solo Basse Normandie. Thrown in at the deep end with a last minute change in the 200-mile course through a chicane of rocks, big waves and high winds, the race proved a baptism of fire for the British Figaro newbies.

Now armed with a barrage of new lessons learned only through experience out in the field, the British ‘Bizuth’ trio is ready for the Solo Maître Coq – their second race this season.

"It’s a nicer feeling going into our second race. I’ve taken onboard the good bits and the bad bits from the first race and I’m now looking to improve my performance,” Rob Bunce reported. “The fleet is double the size with double the amount of Rookies, everyone who will do the Solitaire du Figaro will be on the start line so it’ll be a great test for us. It’s also a really epic venue for the race, we sailed in down the famous Vendée Globe canal and it was a little bit intimidating, I just kept thinking about all the photos I’ve seen of the Vendée skippers setting out around the world. It’s amazing.”

For the Academy graduates, the high standard of the fleet and the intensity of the week long competition means the Solo Maitre Coq is about as close as they’re going to get to a dry run of the Solitaire. Lining up against the very best in offshore racing, the Solo Maitre Coq comes as a fantastic opportunity for the more experienced British skippers to measure themselves against the cream of the Figaro crop.

Nick Cherry, who finished just inside the top 10 in the Solo Basse Normandie, explained: “I’m super excited for the Solo Maître Coq because its status as a championship of France event means 42 boats have turned up to compete. I also really enjoy the shorter races so I’m super fired up for Monday and Tuesday. The race is not only a great warm up to the Solitaire du Figaro, but a really important event in its own right.”

Cherry and the Artemis sailors will be up against other Brits Jack Bouttell (GAC Concise), Henry Bomby (Rockfish), Alan Roberts (Magma Structures) and Sam Matson (Chatham).


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