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Successful 2016 Solo Maitre Coq for British sailors

Artemis waves

Great Britain’s Nick Cherry was the best of the six Artemis Offshore Academy sailors in the second event of the 2016 Figaro season, finishing fourth overall in the Solo Maitre Coq at Les Sables d’Olonne.

Behind him Alan Roberts was sixth but the standout performance came once again from the 22-year-old British rookie, Will Harris, who underlined that his sixth place overall in the Solo Concarneau race in March was no flash in the pan.

Despite a poor start to the long offshore race that concluded the week-long Maitre Coq, Harris on board Artemis 77 once again showed that he is a competitive racer with big potential in this discipline, finishing 10th in the offshore contest and seventh overall in a 22-boat fleet.

Cherry is one of the oldest Artemis Offshore Academy alumni at 31, and he used all his experience to produce a fine performance in the 280-mile offshore race on board Redshift, having finished the first two days of inshore sprints in sixth overall.

A good start to the final race saw him get away with the leading trio. Although he was dropped by the race winner, Benjamin Dutreux on Team Vendee and then second-placed Anthony Marchand on Ovimpex-Secours Populaire – the championship winner - Cherry held station in third place during a tricky coastal course that took him two days and three hours to complete.

“I think I can be pretty happy,” said Cherry on the pontoons at Les Sables after a marathon week of racing in the Figaro Beneteau II one-design. “Benjamin got far enough ahead from the start to the point where he was out of reach, but it was a shame that Anthony sailed away. We were under some clouds on the first night and we got slightly different wind and I didn’t manage the transition and the windshift as well as he did.”

Harris managed to get Artemis 77 locked together with another boat on the startline of the offshore race and then thought he was OCS when in fact he wasn’t. All-in-all it was not the best get-away for the young man intent on stamping his authority on the 2016 rookie contingent in this most competitive of classes.

But his boatspeed came to the rescue. “I started catching up – I was quite fast,” he said. Harris then lost places during the first night but clawed his way back to finish 10th and seventh overall. “Top Rookie has been my aim for the season, so I am very happy,” said Harris. “I hope to improve my results overall in the next event.”

Two other Brits mirrored Harris’s problems at the start – underlining that on long solo races it never pays to make errors at the gun. Mary Rook on Artemis 37 was OCS in that final race – she finished the championship in 17th overall. Roberts, meanwhile, blew his chances of an overall podium in the championship by also being adjudged OCS, losing precious minutes before he realised he was being called back.

It was a frustrating start to the final race for Roberts who went into it on Vasco da Gama in third overall, having posted the first ever win by a British sailor in a Figaro race during the first two days of inshore contests. “I was a bit disappointed by my start when I pushed the line a bit and was over. I didn’t think it was me – I thought I was alright on my transit but hey-ho,” said Roberts afterwards.

“After that it was hard to get back into the race with the leaders gaining all the time. But I worked my way through the fleet nicely and back into ninth place. I was really happy with how I did the transitions – I felt more confident in changing modes from the light to breezy conditions and getting the boat to accelerate, so there are a lot of positives coming out of the week. “

A final mention goes to Harris’s fellow rookie Hugh Brayshaw on Artemis 23 who produced his best career result when finishing the long offshore in eighth place, leaving him 14th overall.

After a good start when he was up alongside Cherry’s Redshift, Brayshaw was disappointed to slip back into the chasing pack. Although he professed to be “fairly positive” with his performance at Les Sables, Brayshaw knows he still has work to do to get on terms with more experienced sailors.

“I think I was slow,” he said. “The boat was slow. I was sailing slow and missed a couple of things that I should have done.”

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