This week I got the chance to hop on a cross channel ferry with AOA director Charles Darbyshire and go out to watch the prologue of the Solitaire du Figaro which starts today. As well as being a good chance to go and see the four British boats and wish them luck before they set off it was also important to get a feel for the atmosphere on the dock during the build up. Anyone who has been around the start of a big French offshore race will know that they do things properly over there and the interest from the public is incredible. This was definitely and inspirational trip for me and I intend to redouble my efforts to get to the start line next year!
My day in Perros-Guirec was spent between, helping Phil get the branding on his boat, catching up with friends from the winter’s training, eating canapes, drinking champagne and watching the driftathalon that was the prologue. Based on this research I have tried to put together a quick form guide for the four academy boats.
Sam Goodchild – although the youngest and least experienced of the bunch Sam has probably done the most Figaro sailing in the past two years. Winning the scholarship has ensured his preparation has been second to none and on the dock he seemed calm and collected. If things go well then I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam beats his own expectations and finishes well inside the top 20 and features highly in the rookies classification.
Nigel King – the UK stalwart of the class Nigel’s input in training at the start of the year was helpful for the whole squad. Being on his third Solitaire now makes him a safe bet not to make any of the rookie errors that can cost first timers a lot places. Having to juggle a busy professional sailing calendar into his schedule means his preparation won’t have been as good as he would like but after a strong finish in one leg last year Nigel has the potential to finish highly too.
Conrad Humphreys – with the least time in the boat this year and less recent small keelboat experience than the rest it would be tempting to rate Conrad lowest of the bunch. Except that Conrad not only won the UK nationals in Weymouth earlier this year but also finished a very respectable 10th in the prologue race. With a very slick looking program and a relaxed vibe on the dock as well as a healthy offshore track record only a fool would write Conrad off.
Phil Sharp -has a solo sailing track record that most of the skippers in the race would be proud of. Although he had the most on at the dock before the start Phil’s ability to push himself way beyond normal human limits make him my wildcard bet for a very high placing.
My plans for the summer involve working on the Artemis Open 60 and fleet of Figaro’s during the summer. Racing wise I am currently preparing for the Fastnet which I’ll sail double handed with Matt Adams and then my first proper Figaro race the Tour de Bretange. This is a mini version of the Tour de France, sailing double handed with Ed Hill with a mixture of short offshore legs and round the cans inshore racing.
The rest of my time will be spent following the Solitaire Here