Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Promenade des Anglais

British Figaro sailors lining up for top results in the Generali Solo

Thursday September 24th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

For the first time in the 25-year history of the Classe Figaro Bénéteau circuit, a skipper from north of the English Channel is leading a major French solo offshore event. At 30 years old and after four years  competing on the Figaro circuit, British skipper Nick Cherry (Redshift) is starting a revolution.

His victory reported in France as 'Coup de Trafalgar', an event with repercussions set to go down in  French history, Cherry has upset the French pecking order in the latest event, the Generali Solo Mediterranée, counting towards the ‘Championnat de France Elite de Course au Large en Solitaire’ – the offshore championship of France.

Cherry established himself on the battlefield early on in Sete, proving himself to be a formidable Figaro competitor. Dominating the competition both inshore and offshore, Cherry has unnerved the French offshore experts with his consecutive top 10 performances - ninth being his lowest result in the competition so far. Impressive.

Cherry’s British reign is a first for Figaro racing, heightening the competitiveness among the fleet.

While the Brits will take confidence from his victory, the French will be pushing harder than ever – adding an extra spice to the Grand Prix inshore racing in Nice, starting Friday 25th September.

British teammate Sam Matson was denied a Generali podium position in the final hour by Figaro favourites Gildas Morvan and Alexis Loison. Holding a top three position for much of the 350nm leg to Nice, Matson fell foul of a transition in the wind and was left chasing transoms with 40nm to the finish line. Finishing sixth, just minutes behind leg winner Loison, Matson is now seventh on the overall leaderboard.

Alan Roberts has already impressed the Figaro fraternity this season, taking ninth place overall in the 2015 Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire. Gwénole Gahinet, currently 11th on the Generali leaderboard, will be checking his rearview mirrors over the next half of the race with Roberts just four points behind.

Looking back at the rich history of the Solitaire, the 70s was a great time for British Figaro sailing: Leslie Williams finished 6th in 1970, Clare Francis was 5th in 1975 with a leg victory and John Rainforth finished 8th in 1976. More recently Sam Davies finished sixth on a leg and competed in four Solitaires.

Henry Bomby achieved the best leg result in the modern era with a fourth in Leg 2 in this year’s Solitaire.  In 2013 Jack Bouttell became the first British skipper to win the coveted Rookie division, with Matson coming close in 2014 (2nd). Robin Elsey made it two in three years for the Brits in 2015, winning the ‘Bizuth’ title once again.

Since the Artemis Offshore Academy was established in 2010, British offshore sailing has gone from strength to strength. Now, more than ever, the French are keeping on eye on the British. If Cherry continues his winning streak in the Generali Solo, history will be made and a British offshore revolution will be well underway.

Nick Cherry (Redshift): “I feel great, this is my best result in Figaro racing so far! I’m leading overall, which is great. It was a really exciting race, especially on the first night. I experienced some of the scariest moments I’ve ever had on a boat. I wanted to put the spinnaker down, but I knew the others wouldn’t so kept going and held my position. I’m really happy. This is the result I wanted after a disappointing Solitaire.”

Sam Matson (Chatham): “Sixth is a good result. I’m happy with the way I sailed, racing in contention with the top Figaro skippers. I was second with 40nm to the finish. I was alongside Nick (Cherry) and Xavier (Macaire), but then the wind changed and I got left behind. It was frustrating to watch them getting away from me, but that is the name of the game. The was great, I am proud to have finished in the top 10.”

Alan Roberts (Magma Structures): “I made a good start and things were going well for me in the mistral winds. I was happy, but then I broke my pole strop and twisted my spinnaker and I lost the entire fleet. It’s more difficult to navigate when you’re on your own. When I retouched with the fleet, I realised I was 3nm behind the leaders. It was difficult to come back from. I’m really happy for Nick, I think he’s had a really great race and I hope it continues! I can’t wait for the next leg now, there’s still a lot of racing to do.”

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