Record holder Mike Golding analyses the field of the Artemis Transat for

Mike Golding will be watching the progress of the Artemis Transat fleet from the sidelines this time and as he does he has agreed to report for throughout the race and interpret the tactics and strategies of the various IMOCA Open 60s. In this first report, he analyses the field and nominates the favourites:

‘Despite not racing in this year’s Artemis Transat Race, this event will hold a unique fascination for me. As the winner of the last race in 2004 and the current time record holder with Ecover 2, I will be watching the race with an extra special interest.

‘The Everest of solo sailing events The Vendee Globe is now just months away and this is the last major solo event in which we can see some of the most competitive IMOCA boats and skippers in action. Some of the boats racing are already fully qualified for the Vendee, others are not, and whilst this may impact how different competitors face the Atlantic over the next few weeks, I feel sure that the best boats and skippers will still shine through to win the race, regardless of these background agendas.

‘Some of these teams have already faced each other in either the Transat Jacques Vabre or Barcelona World Race so we have a reasonable inkling of what we can expect in terms of form.

‘At the very front end of the fleet personally I can’t splitMichel Desjoyeaux(Foncia) orLoick Peyron(Gitana 80). Both are great sailors with the ability and boats to win this race.

‘Vincent Riou(PRB) andSeb Josse(BT) would fall into a ranking close behind these front runners as Vincent historically plays a longer game plan and the Artemis Transat is just too short for this. Seb simply will be coming to terms with what is, for him, a completely new boat and though I doubt this will take very long, the Transat is too short for him to make the catch up needed.

‘The forecast for the first few days is for light wind reaching and downwind sailing. Given this and despite my prediction of the front boats being dominated by Bruce Farr designs,Marc Guillemot, sailing Safran, the lightest boat in the fleet (designed by Guillaume Verdier), may well dominate this early part of this race. I really like this boat: it is innovative, light and efficient and if the weather plays well for him he could even carry this through to a win in Boston.

‘However, the North Atlantic over the coming weeks will almost certainly “revert to type”, and the boats will see extended periods of heavy weather upwind slog, which won’t suit this configuration of boat so well.

‘Armel Le C’leach(Brit Air) andYann Elies(Generali) are both sailing new generation Finot designs but despite the quality on paper of the skippers and boats they have failed so far to deliver on the race course. If the weather does become tougher and upwind then these boats could come through to acquit themselves better than before and despite the results achieved to date these two skippers and boats could now start to deliver more consistent and better results. I guess I would put Generali ahead of Brit Air but there’s really not much in it.

‘Dee Caffariis racing Aviva, the sister ship to our Ecover 3 and she should definitely relish North Atlantic conditions. Frankly even with the diversity of weather the fleet is facing at the start, I would feel very happy and confident to be in this race with this design, which is able to be very light when needed and extremely powerful in stronger conditions.

‘Whilst it is still fair to say that Dee is learning her new, more complex boat, with the experience of the Transat Jacques Vabre and most of the Ecover BtoB behind her, plus the training she has been doing in Portugal in the spring, it really is time for her game to start moving up.

‘Realistically however, given the high quality of the fleet I can’t see her doing better than 6th or 7th on the water and even this will depend on her ability to battle against her own up-and-down morale.

‘I also seriously doubt thatSam Davies(Roxy) will let Dee get away from her easily. Sam has quietly and professionally arrived in a position where she can expect to deliver good and consistent results despite the relative age of her much updated boat. If I were putting money on the outcome I would put Sam into Boston ahead of Dee based purely on her more extended IMOCA 60 experience.

‘Giving some of the newer boats a run for the money will be the Finot designed (ex Aquitaine Innovations) Cervin EnE skippered byYannik Bestavan. The boat is much refitted but the design is now looking quite dated.

‘Yannik is a highly skilled skipper and I feel he is determined to make good results to reinforce his strong reputation in France, but I put him 8th as despite his skill the newer boats will just be much faster all around.

‘The back of the fleet will see a close battle between the French skipperArnaud Bossieres(Akena), the UK skipperSteve White(Spirit of Weymouth) and Spain’sUnai Basurko(Pakea Bisaka 2009). Between these it is hard to call, but I feel sure that this group will produce another interesting race within the race for overall glory.’

Read more of Mike Golding’s analysis in the coming days on