Britain's Emma Richards confirms her entry in the single-handed round the world race Around Alone

Around Alone, the single-handed race round the world with stops, got a shot in the arm yesterday with the announcement that British sailor Emma Richards will be taking part. The event is run by British company Clipper Ventures, but had no British entry until now and little to focus native interest on the race or its stopover in Brixham in October.

Emma Richards could change that. The 27-year-old will be the youngest skipper and the only woman in the race. With an excellent track record, including class wins in the OSTAR and two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre in an Open 50, she is a rising star and already her entry is sparking comparisons with Ellen MacArthur’s in the Vendee Globe.

Richards is backed by Pindar, an electronic media company, and is chartering Josh Hall’s Groupe Finot designed Open 60 Gartmore. The hull is from the same moulds as Mike Golding’s Group 4/Ecover and Marc Thiercelin’s former Somewhere (Thiercelin has also entered the race but has sold his boat and has not yet announced a replacement), but this variation of the design has a fixed rig, fixed keel and water ballast.

This should make it easier for Richards to get up to speed with the boat, but she admits that she wants to work on upwind performance, one of the boat’s weak points. Josh Hall and his shore team will be supporting her entry and the team are discussing fitting either a single symmetrical daggerboard or two assymetrical daggerboards to improve performance. Richards will be having a new 3DL gennaker, mainsail and Solent.

The announcement is a surprise, not least because it is so late. Around Alone starts from New York on 15 September, before which Emma Richards must do her 2,000-mile single-handed qualifier. She admits that she decided to do the race only this spring, after a transatlantic record attempt on Tracy Edwards’s big catamaran Maiden 2. Until then, she had been planning to do the single-handed Route du Rhum in November, then be part of Edwards’s crew for a Jules Verne attempt in January or February.

“I’d been talking to Andrew Pindar about doing the Route du Rhum,” she says, “but it’s only a two- to three-week race and then you have to give the boat back. You don’t really get to know it, so we decided to do Around Alone instead of doing all that work for one transatlantic race.”

There was a delay in getting the boat after Josh Hall was dismasted bringing the boat back from the Azores. A replacement mast was built but only stepped at the beginning of June and, to date, Richards has had only seven short sails during corporate days out on the new Pindar.

It means that Emma Richards will go into the race with the least sea time of any competitor. Many of her rivals, like Thiercelin, or Bernard Stamm, are either highly experienced single-handers or very familiar with the capabilities of their boats. But Richards is not put off. “I’ve no experience in these boats,” she says, “but I never had any experience in the 50s before I got into one and we did really well.”

She points out that her record last year in the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre in a 60ft trimaran, the former Lakota, also proves the point: “It was the same in the tris last year. We were green on board, but we beat five other boats and that was a big jump for us.”

Despite her years, Emma Richards has an amazing diversity of experience. She sailed on Royal & SunAlliance during Tracy Edwards’s last Jules Verne attempt, when Edwards first discovered an immense latent talent for helming. She has won two major races on an Open 50, had a season on a 60ft trimaran, a record attempt on a maxi multihull and in between done almost half of the Volvo Ocean Race on Amer Sports Too. She will be among the elite group of competitors with front line experience of racing in the Southern Ocean..

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