Great Britain’s Will Harris was the stand-out performer in the opening race of the 2016 single-handed Figaro circuit, finishing in an impressive sixth place in a fleet of 23 boats on debut.
Harris, aged 22, from Surrey at the helm of Artemis 77, was the top rookie by some distance in the 342-mile Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten – a tough non-stop, two-day race along the French Brittany coast that saw bitterly cold and, at times, windy conditions.
Harris was one of three British newcomers to the Figaro racing circuit taking part in the Concarneau race who are currently learning their craft at the UK’s Cowes-based Artemis Offshore Academy. Harris was the first non-French skipper to finish the race which was won by France’s Charlie Dalin on Macif 2015.
Harris was delighted with his first performance as a professional and is hoping to maintain – and even improve on this form – as he continues his build-up to his first La Solitaire Bompard – Le Figaro race in June.
“I am very happy with my result but I think it is just a start,” said Harris, still recovering from a decidedly chilly baptism of fire. “It’s a result I still think I can improve on. I can keep working up the field – I am never happy until I am at the front and I was always gaining places, so I am happy with that.”
Harris started the way he finished, at the business end of the fleet, running in seventh place in the early stages. He believes his race management was key to his performance and was determined to try and make sure he got some sleep early in the race. He stuck to his plan, managing three 15-minute naps in the first 12 hours.
“I wanted to make sure I could keep my body going for the next two days and actually manage myself properly,” he said. “I think I slept much earlier than most of the fleet.”
Another key element was Harris’s boat speed in a range of conditions. He was always in or around the top-eight boats and was heartened to see that he could mix it with far more experienced French skippers. “I’ve learnt so much over the past few months of training,” he said. “It is so important to have those few months before going into the racing season where you are just fully focused on making the boat go fast on every point of sail.”
It was not all plain sailing though. Harris found he did not have adequate clothing to keep out the cold and by the second night at sea, he was forced to spend much of his time below as the boat powered through the night. He was also short of decent food and will look at both his clothing and food options before the next race – the Solo Maitre Coq which starts on April 15th.
Charles Darbyshire, the director of the Artemis Offshore Academy, was impressed by Harris’s debut. Harris had been working part time with the Academy over the past two years, while he was still a fulltime student at Southampton University, and Darbyshire believes this was the perfect background for him to learn from other skippers as he prepared to join the Academy himself.
“Will is showing how important the whole Academy experience is for young sailors. Clearly he has been listening and learning from the older sailors on the programme and now he is bringing all that he has leant to bear onto the racecourse. Will is already refining what he is doing on the water and this looks like being a very exciting rookie season for him,” said Darbyshire.
The two other Academy rookies Hugh Brayshaw (Artemis 23) and Mary Rook (Artemis 37) finished the race in 17th and 19th places respectively. Academy alumni sailors Nick Cherry (Redshift) and Alan Roberts (Vasco de Gama) finished ninth and 10th.
The next race on the Figaro calendar is the 320-mile Solo Maitre Coq that starts from Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Biscay coast on April 15th.
See the results in full below.
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The double-handed division
1. Yann Elies & Antoine Carpentier/Queguiner Leucemie Espoir
2. Sebastien Simon & Xavier Macaire/Bretagne CMB Performance
3. Adrien Hardy & Vincent Biarnes/AGIR Recouvrement
4. Gildas Morvan & Alexis Loison/Cercle Vert
5. Martin Le Pape & Eric Peron/Belloco Paysages
6. Sam Matson & Robin Elsey/Artemis 21
7. Milan Kolacek & Pierre Brasseur/Fulgur – Evapco
8. Andrew Baker & Nicolas Jossier/Artemis 64
9. Tanguy Le Turquais & Hervé Aubry/Cuisine Ixina
10. Tolga Ekrem/Stéphanie Jadaud/Freedom – Service á Domicile
The single-handed division
1. Charlie Dalin/Skipper Macif 2015
2. Yoann Richomme/Skipper Macif 2014
3. Thierry Chabagny/Gedimat
4. Nicolas Lunven/Generali
5. Anthony Marchand/Ovimpex-Secours Populaire
6. Will Harris/Artemis 77
7. Bejamin Dutreux/Team Vendée
8. Corentin Douguet/Sofinther-Un Maillot Pour La Vie
9. Nick Cherry/Redshift
10. Alan Roberts/Vasco de Gama
11. Justine Mettraux/Teamwork
12. Marc Noesmoen/Team Vendée Formation
13. Arthur Le Vaillant/Un Bateau pour Demain
14. Damien Cloarec/Saferail
15. Claire Pruvot/Port de Caen Ouistreham
16. Aymeric Decrooco/Bretagne CMB Espoir
17. Hugh Brayshaw/Artemis 23
18. Pierre Casaux/Welcome to LA
19. Mary Rook/Artemis 37
20. Cécile Laguette/Cecile Cherche Sponsor
DNF – Sophie Faguet/Region Normandie
DNF – Yves Ravot/Hors La Rue
DNF – Arnaud Godart-Philippe/Faun Environnement