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Harris makes his mark on debut in Figaro season-opener

Artemis waves

Harris, aged 22 and from Surrey, is the most experienced of the three British Artemis Offshore Academy rookies taking part in the 340nm Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten from the medieval French town of Concarneau.

Conditions for the start were fair, with 10 knots of chilly breeze setting the fleet on a reach along the Brittany coastline towards the infamous Raz du Seine and imposing Ouessant lighthouse.

Harris on board Artemis 77, got off to a great start, taking an early top-five position in the 23-boat solo fleet behind experienced French sailors Nicolas Lunven, Yoanne Richomme, Charlie Dalin and Thierry Chabagny.

“I was trying so hard to not think about the race ahead of the start,” Harris explained before setting sail. He said his goal is to finish in the top-three in the rookie division. “If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have slept for nerves,” he added.

“Despite the pre-race anxiety, I am feeling ready for this race, I’ve been sailing the Figaro now for three years. I’ve put a lot of hours in on dock and on the water over the winter season, and I’m proving to be quite fast in training. I hope I can now apply that competitively,” he said.

Academy Alumni Alan Roberts (Vasco da Gama) and Nick Cherry (Redshift) joined the two other British rookies, Mary Rook (Artemis 37) and Hugh Brayshaw (Artemis 23), on the startline.

In the double-handed fleet, Britain’s Andrew Baker has teamed-up with Artemis Offshore Academy coach and Figaro competitor Nicolas Jossier (Artemis 64). Fellow Britons Sam Matson and Robin Elsey (Artemis 21) are also taking part, using the Concarneau race as a warm-up for the two-handed Transat AG2R La Mondiale.

After a good start to their race, Matson and Elsey have now settled into a steady top-half position as the 10 boat double-handed fleet races into the first night.

“The competition among the double-handed fleet is really strong,” Matson reported. “This is the first time Robin and I have sailed together in three years, so we’ll be using the race to adjust to sailing double-handed again. It will be a great test of where we’ll fit in against some of the more experience double-handed pairings also racing the AG2R. Yann Elies has also decided to do the Solo Concarneau double-handed, he just couldn’t let us have this one!” he joked.

Historically, the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten has been a wet and wild race but, with plenty of transitions from sea breeze to land breeze forecast as the March air heats and cools, the 2016 edition looks set to be more of a tactical affair as Harris explained: “The wind conditions are looking relatively kind, but it still won’t be easy. There will be a lot of reaching which should give us some time to sleep, but we’ll need to stay ahead of the weather and make some tactical decisions. We are expecting lighter conditions with every transition, leading to a possible shut down of the wind on the first night. On the second day we’ll have a fairly long fetch down to Belle Ile and I’m hoping to get some 15 minute naps there to put me in good stead for the final day of racing.”

After 36 hours of light and tactical conditions, the wind is forecast to pick up to 25 knots on the home stretch to Concarneau, making for a tough last few physical hours for the skippers.

Following a figure of eight from Concarneau to Ouessant, around Belle Ile, Ile d’Yeu and back to Concarneau, the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten course is expected to take approximately one day and 20 hours to complete, seeing the fleet finish in Concarneau on Saturday 19th March.

The Fleet

Solo division – 23 boats
Skipper/Boat name

Yoann Richomme/Skipper Macif 2014
Charlie Dalin/Skipper Macif 2015
Alan Roberts/Vasco da Gama
Sophie Faguet/Region Normandie
Cécile Laguette/Cecile Cherche Sponsor
Hugh Brayshaw/Artemis 23
Aymeric Decrooco/Bretagne CMB Espoir
Nicolas Lunven/Generali
Mary Rook/Artemis 37
Arnaud Godart-Philippe/Faun Environnement
Justine Mettraux/Teamwork
Arthur Le Vaillant/Un Bateau pour Demain
Claire Pruvot/Port de Caen Ouistreham
Nick Cherry/Redshift
Anthony Marchand/Ovimpex-Secours Populaire
Corentin Douguet/Sofinther-Un Maillot Pour La Vie
Yves Ravot/Hors La Rue
Will Harris/Artemis 77
Marc Noesmoen/Team Vendée Formation
Thierry Chabagny/Gedimat
Damien Cloarec/Saferail
Pierre Casaux/Welcome to LA
Bejamin Dutreux/Team Vendée

Double-handed division – 10 boats
Co-skippers/boat name

Gildas Morvan & Alexis Loison/Cercle Vert
Adrien Hardy & Vincent Biarnes/AGIR Recouvrement 
Yann Elies & Antoine Carpentier/Queguiner Leucemie Espoir
Sebastien Simon & Xavier Macaire/Bretagne CMB Performance
Martin Le Pape & Eric Peron/Belloco Paysages
Sam Matson & Robin Elsey/Artemis 21
Tanguy Le Turquais & Hervé Aubry/Cuisine Ixina
Andrew Baker & Nicolas Jossier/Artemis 64
Tolga Ekrem/Stéphanie Jadaud/Freedom – Service à Domicile
Milan Kolacek & Pierre Brasseur/Fulgur – Evapco

THEY SAID:

Hugh Brayshaw – Artemis 23, Rookie

“For me the biggest challenges in this race will be the length of the course and trying to stay awake and in the game. We’ll be racing for almost 48 hours solo, and that will be a challenge in itself."

“I’m taking a lot of chocolate digestives with me and quite a few sweets to pick me up when it gets hard early morning and late at night.”

Mary Rook – Artemis 37, Rookie

“I don’t really have a result expectation, but I’m hoping I can get round the course and cope ok with the sleep deprivation.”

“I really want to try and be in the race for the duration, making tactical right up until the end. I hope I can put my all into this race, and won’t end up physically and mentally ruined.”

Andrew Baker – Artemis 64

“My advice for the Rookies is to get the boat around the course in one piece and don’t crash into anything. It’s their first race and it’s a long season. Don’t try and win on your first go, sail as fast as you can and follow the fleet. Learn from the fleet and experience the race.”

Alan Roberts – Vasco da Gama

“The first race of the year is always a bit of a test, a chance to measure yourself against the other boats in the fleet. I haven’t raced since the Generali Solo Mediterranée last year and that is a long time not to race. I’ll be trying to get back into competition mode mentally and physically out on the water.”

“This year I’ve been training at Port La Foret. My winter training has been very different this year to what I’ve done before, very racing focused. I’ve also had the opportunity to sail double-handed with some really experienced sailors. That was great, I learned a lot.”

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