Here is my top 10 list of very hard challenging sailing events. The order is ranked based on personal experience, the event and the conditions experienced. Most are solo events, but the Amsterdam Extreme sailing event made the short list because the challenge of racing a powerful multihull in 600m x 200m stretch of canal which was insanely challenging!
- Racing the Figaro Circuit 2011
- The Vendee Globe
- Archipelago Raid
- The Transat
- BT Global Challenge
- Whitbread Round the World Race (VOR)
- Route du Rhum
- Extreme 40 – Amsterdam Event*
- Transat Jacques Vabre
- EDS Atlantic Challenge (Open 60)
A question that I’ve been asked quite often since announcing that I am taking part in La Solitaire this year is my motivation for taking part. I guess, because for many aspiring Figaro sailors, they dream of taking part in the Vendee Globe and having already raced the Vendee…so why take part?
After a break from solo sailing for 6 years, I wanted to really harden my solo ability and raise my performance levels and the Figaro is without exception the best place to do this. In the UK, it is possible to climb the solo sailing ladder and compete in the holy grail of single-handed sailing, the Vendee globe without any single-handed track record (almost every solo sailor in the UK, with the exception of Ellen MacArthur and Sam Davies) and yet, almost every winner of the Vendee Globe has progressed at one stage from the Figaro. There is no coincidence. The UK has spawned several very media savvy solo sailors who have passed the hardest test and found the sponsorship to compete at the highest level, but then neglected the performance training necessary to put them on a footing to win.
The converse is true of many of the French Figaro sailors, who dream of competing in the Vendee Globe, but have no intention of learning to become smooth talking, business minded sailors that can woo a corporate. They simply believe that training and results will give them their best chance.
Having been part of the Artemis Academy (as an associate), I can see why someone like Sam Goodchild was selected over Phil Sharp. Sam is young, talented and very personable and OC clearly think this is the makeup needed of a future Vendee star. On the other-hand, when you talk to French sailors, particularly the Figaro “Bizuths” they are all very surprised (and relieved) that Phil Sharp has not been selected.
Whilst, I cut much of my youth racing dinghies at Junior and World level, I would say my Vendee aspirations only started to materialise after deciding to Skipper the BT Global Challenge and using the event to raise my profile and corporate experience. That experience remains invaluable to understanding how the corporate sponsorship world works, but stopped short of teaching you how to win.
I started this blog with a top 10 list of challenging sailing events and have drifted slightly off course, (like my Solo Concarneau race this weekend which I will blog about tomorrow) but the point is that the Figaro is, I believe the most challenging racing experience in single-handed sailing, more challenging even than the Vendee Globe. If a UK sailor is serious about winning the Vendee Globe, then every aspiring solo sailor should do the Figaro. So that’s my motivation for taking part…learning how to “Fight”