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Strangford Lough's Hammy Baker Eyes Strong Performance in Second Race of 2016 Figaro Calendar

18th April 2016
Northern Ireland solo sailor Hamish Baker from Strangford Lough is in action in France today Northern Ireland solo sailor Hamish Baker from Strangford Lough is in action in France today

Strangford Lough sailor Hammy Baker is among a line up of British sailors from the Cowes-based Artemis Offshore Academy are looking to post strong results in the week-long Solo Maitre Coq race that starts from Les Sables d’Olonne today.

With several of the main Figaro competitors currently racing across the Atlantic in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale race, this year’s Solo Maitre Coq – the second of the main build-up races to the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro in June – offers an opportunity for strong performances from both Artemis Offshore Academy alumni and rookies.

The Maitre Coq starts with two days of inshore racing off Les Sables d’Olonne. After a rest day on Wednesday, there is then a long 280-mile offshore race that could see the sailors at sea for up to three days. The key to a good result is consistency across both disciplines and stamina over what promises to be a tough week of racing in the 33ft Bénéteau Figaro II one-design fleet.

As well as Northern Ireland's Baker there are five British sailors on the 22-boat startline, three alumni sailors – Alan Roberts (Vasco de Gama), Nick Cherry (Redshift) and Hammy Baker (Artemis 64) – and three rookies in Will Harris (Artemis 77), Mary Rook (Artemis 37) and Hugh Brayshaw (Artemis 23).

With strong dinghy racing backgrounds, both Roberts and Cherry will be looking for a good start to the championship and will hope to be well up in the standings after the four inshore races. Baker, who is returning to racing alone after competing in the double-handed division of the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten, is hoping to match them.

“My goal is to be in the top-half of the fleet and definitely top-10,” said the Ulsterman, “but then again I have only managed to get two days of training in since the Concarneau race, so I’ll have to see when I get out there…it’s a bit like riding a bike, when you have been off it for while you can still be a bit rusty.”

Among the British rookies Will Harris will be looking to continue the sparkling form he showed in the Solo Concarneau when he started brilliantly and then sailed confidently to finish top-rookie and sixth overall in a 23-boat fleet. Harris is hoping he can bring the same level of performance to the Maitre Coq.

“There is only one guy racing here who was ahead of me in the Concarneau race,” said Harris, aged 22 from Surrey. “In terms of achievement I wouldn’t put a result on it but I want to come away from the week feeling I have given it my all. It’s going to be a very different experience, especially because we have inshore racing this time. If you have a bad start, you haven’t got three days to catch-up. Every race counts and you can’t have a bad result in any of them.”

Charles Darbyshire, director of the Artemis Offshore Academy, is in Les Sables d’Olonne to keep eye on his charges and says the Solo Maitre Coq is another big step on the road to the Figaro for the rookies. “This will give the sailors a flavour of what it is like in the Solitaire in terms of rest and recovery time between races,” he said. “On Monday and Tuesday they will be off the dock at 9.00am and will not be back until seven after a long day on the water. Then they only have Wednesday to recover and plan for the long offshore race which will be two nights at sea.”

The weather forecast for Les Sables d’Olonne promises two light wind races today and then breezier conditions for tomorrow’s inshore contest. The long offshore race was looking like a thrash in 30-knots, but latest predictions suggest a wind range of 10-15 knots, giving a total passage time for the 280-mile course of up to three days.

Published in Figaro

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The Solitaire du Figaro, was originally called the course de l’Aurore until 1980, was created in 1970 by Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault.

Half a decade later, the race has created some of France's top offshore sailors, and it celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new boat equipped with foils and almost 50 skippers Including novices, aficionados and six former winners.

The solo multi-stage offshore sailing race is one of the most cherished races in French sailing and one that has had Irish interest stretching back over 20 years due to the number of Irish stopovers, usually the only foreign leg of the French race.

The race has previously called to Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

In 2013 Royal Cork's David Kenefick raised the bar by becoming a top rookie sailor in the race

In 2018, for the first time Ireland will have two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who join the rookie ranks and keep the Irish tricolour flying high in France. 

The 2019 course is more Than 2,000 miles between Nantes, Kinsale (Ireland), Roscoff and Dieppe and is the longest in the race's history.

 

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

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