Exmouth sailor Sam Matson and British Solitaire du Figaro competitors hit Plymouth

PUBLISHED: 10:34 08 April 2014 | UPDATED: 10:34 08 April 2014

Sam Matson on board and setting his course

Sam Matson on board and setting his course

Tom Gruitt

As the sun in set in Plymouth last Wednesday, six British, one Irish and five French solo offshore sailors and their fleet of 12 identical Figaro Bénéteau IIs sailed into Sutton Harbour, Plymouth, as part of a 400-mile Solitaire du Figaro training exercise.

Sailing from Lorient, France to Plymouth via Cherbourg, British skippers Alan Roberts, Rich Mason, Jack Bouttell, Ed Hill, Phil Sharp and Exmouth-based, Plymouth University graduate Sam Matson, spent two days familiarizing themselves with the stretch of water separating the UK and northern France in preparation for the 2014 mile solo ‘Solitaire du Figaro’, which, for the first time in it’s 45 year history, stops in Plymouth.

Plymouth’s inclusion in the course marks the first UK Solitaire stop over in 11 years.

Making the most of their time in Britain’s Ocean City, Britain’s next generation of solo ocean racers and their French counterparts braved the English rain and headed out into the Sound for a solo training session.

Getting to grips with the tides, conditions and features of the south-west coastline, the fleet of 12 Figaros were an impressive sight as they lined up against Plymouth’s coastal land marks. The most Figaros Plymouth will have seen since the finish of the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race, the training group treated the sail to and from Plymouth as a valuable familiarization session, preparing both first timers like Artemis Offshore Academy Rookies Sam, Alan and Rich and French Figaro veterans alike for what lies ahead out on the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro course this June.

Kicking off from the historic French port of Deauville, France on June 8, the iconic French race will take 45 skippers and their 33ft keelboats (differing only in cosmetic design and the ability of the skipper) 484 nautical miles to Sutton Harbour, Plymouth. Here the fleet will rest, recover and make any repairs to the boats between the June 11 and 14, in preparation for the 535 mile leg two Roscoff, France.

In 2014, there are a total of nine British sailors expected on the Solitaire du Figaro start line, all born and bred of the Artemis Offshore Academy – the UK’s only solo offshore training school.

From ‘Team Plymouth’s’ Sam Goodchild going into his fourth year on the Figaro circuit, to Plymouth University graduate and Artemis sailor Sam Matson making his debut - 2014 is set to be a big year for Britain and it’s growing number of budding solo offshore sailors.

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