Exmouth sailor Sam Matson set for biggest race of his life

Sam Matson chats with Alain Gautier after he finished Rookie runner-up in the Solo Concarneau. Sam Matson chats with Alain Gautier after he finished Rookie runner-up in the Solo Concarneau.

Friday, June 6, 2014
11:23 AM

Exmouth sailor Sam Matson is all set for the biggest race of his sailing career as he prepares for the start of the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro on Sunday (June 8), writes Steve Birley.

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The atmosphere and excitement is building in the port of Deauville, the air thick with the rustle of hundreds of race flags in the wind, the creaking of the mooring lines holding 38 race-ready Figaro Bénéteau II’s to the dockside and the grinding of winches hoisting hard-working preparateurs up masts as the sailors prepare their charges for the start of the big race.

Matson is one of eight British sailors in the event, all part of the Artemis Offshore Academy.

The British sailors line up with 30 foreign counterparts and all have enjoyed an exciting week of skipper activities since the official prologue race on Saturday, May 31, fully immersing themselves in everything from social receptions to paddle board racing to zumba in the harbour!

The first leg of the race sees the boats race the 484 mile leg to Plymouth with the start being at noon on Sunday (May 8).

This is a currently an important pre-race period when the skippers take time away from the 33ft keelboats they are about to call home for the next four weeks, and the official skippers’ programme is a great way to remove them from their Figaros – both physically and mentally.

Matson, who graduated with first class honors from Plymouth University in 2013 and will compete in the race in Artemis 21 says: “It’s great having Artemis Offshore Academy graduates around us while training and preparing for the race, as they’ve always got good snippets of information for us – whether that is which are the best meals to eat or how they adapt to the different conditions we’ll experience through the race. That feeding down of information from the more experienced sailors is what helps us to progress. I think that is the best thing about being a part of our large Artemis team, although we’re solo racers it’s also a really tight knit group and everyone will help one another out to ensure the Brits succeed.”

As part of their Deauville down time, event coach Marcus Hutchinson took the entire Academy shore and offshore team to visit the Normandy beaches as the world commemorates 70 years since the D-Day landings and the battle of Normandy (1944-2014). Over 19,000 thousand people in just two days were recorded passing through the international ferry port at Portsmouth this week, with huge crowds, including the Queen and Barack Obama, making their way to Ouistreham, France to remember those who fought and gave their lives in the battle.

Matson said of the experience: “It was really moving to visit the beaches and learn more about what went on 70 years ago. Since we made our own landing in the region, we’ve been really warmly welcomed into the event in Deauville and the French have totally embraced the British team, we feel like we’re an important part of this race. I’m now really looking forward to returning the favour and welcoming the race to home turf in Plymouth – it’s such an honour to be a part of this prestigious race.”

The time for preoccupation with boat work is now over as the skippers’ days are increasingly filled with official briefings and as much eating and sleeping as they can manage in the final days ahead of the 2014 mile solo marathon. Leg 1 of the Solitaire du Figaro starts at 1200 BST on Sunday June 8, with light conditions forecast for the start. Running 484nm from Deauville, France to Plymouth, UK, Leg 1 of the race could take as long as four days to complete, giving the fleet an estimated-time-of-arrival in Plymouth of between Wednesday 11 and Thursday June 12.

You can track the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro via the live race tracker on the Artemis Offshore Academy website going live this Friday. For race updates, visit the Academy website, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. More information on the Solitaire du Figaro can be found here.

2014 Solitaire du Figaro entry list – (38 boats, 7 Rookies)

Skipper/Boat name/*Rookie

1. Joan Ahrweiller/Region Basse Normandie

2. Jérémie Beyou/Maitre Coq

3. Vincent Biarnes/Guyot Environment

4. Henry Bomby/RED

5. Jack Bouttell/GAC Pindar

6. Thierry Chabagny/Gedimat

7. Nick Cherry/REDSHIFT

8. Charlie Dalin/Normandy Elite Team

9. Fabien Delahaye/Skipper Macif 2012

10. Corentin Douguet/Un Maillot Pour La Vie

11. Yann Elies/Groupe Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir

12. Gahinet Gwenolé/Safran-Guy Cotten*

13. Alain Guatier/Generali

14. Gbick Gwanael/Made in Midi*

15. Sam Goodchild/Team Plymouth

16. Damien Guillou/La Solidarité Mutualiste

17. Adrien Hardy/AGIR Recouvrement

18. Ed Hill/Macmillan Cancer Support

19. Corentin Horeau/Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance

20. Isabelle Joschke/Generali – Horizon Mixite

21. Nicolas Jossier/In Extenso Experts Compatables

22. Dave Kenefick/Full Irish – Le Comptoir Irlandais

23. Alexis Loison/Groupe Fiva

24. Xavier Macaire/Skipper Herault

25. Gildas Mahé/Interface Concept

26. Anthony Marchand/Ovimpex-Secours Populaire

27. Rich Mason/Artemis 77*

28. Sam Matson/Artemis 21*

29. Paul Meilhat/SMA

30. Gildas Morvan/Cercle Vert

31. Jean Paul Mouren/Groupe SNEF

32. Claire Pruvot/Port de Caen Ouistreham

33. Yoann Richomme/Skipper Macif 2014

34. Frédéric Rivet/DFDS Seaways

35. Alan Roberts/Artemis 23*

36. Clément Salzes/Darwin – Les marins de la lune*

37. Sébastien Simon/Bretagne – Crédit Mutuel Espoir*

38. Erwan Tabarly/Armor Lux-Le Comptoir de la Mer

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