2013 development squad unveiled, as six from sixteen hopefuls selected

After being put through their paces at the grueling 52-hour Selection Trials that finished 12 days ago, six of this year’s 16 hopeful candidates have now been selected to join the 2013 Artemis Offshore Academy Development Squad. The new Squad come from across the UK:

Dyfrig Mon (24) from West Glamorgan,
Jack Bouttell (21) from Southampton,
Alex Gardner (22) from Southampton,
Ed Hill (29) from Southampton,
Mark Andrews (26) from Weymouth,
and sole female sailor Nikki Curwen (23) from Bournemouth.

These six new aspiring solo sailors will line up alongside existing Squad members Robin Elsey (20, Cornwall), Lizzy Foreman (22, Surrey) and Sam Matson (21, Devon) to form the 2013 Development Squad.

The judges at the Selection Trials, which included Dee Caffari, were looking for candidates that not only demonstrated technical sailing ability but also those that demonstrated a certain amount of mental toughness: “The 2012 Selection Trials have been the toughest yet and we are really pleased with the standard of applicants and their performance during the trials,” commented John Thorn, Performance Director.

“Selecting the new squad has been a really tough decision and we’ve had to say no to some really talented sailors simply due to the available resources we have. We want those selected to have the best training programme possible.” The decision on who made the cut was made by the panel of judges and experts including former Royal Yachting Association CEO, Rod Carr, who was Field of Play Manager at the 2012 Olympics sailing venue in Weymouth. “After making the final decision we are now welcoming six great sailors from varying racing backgrounds to the 2013 Development Squad. Their training is due to start in early November at the home of the Artemis Offshore Academy in Cowes, Isle of Wight and we are very excited about the year ahead.”

The Development Squad will continue to be split between full and part-time members. Full-time members Jack Bouttell, winner of the Virtual Vendée Globe at the Selection Trials, accomplished keelboat sailor Ed Hill and world-class GBR Finn competitor and Olympic training partner to Ben Ainslie, Mark Andrews will train in the UK and at the Centre d’Entrainement Méditerranée, La Grande Motte, France, during the winter to be ready to compete in their first solo race in spring 2013.

“Joining the Development Squad will enable me to gain experience in offshore sailing and learn the skills needed to become a top offshore sailor,” commented Andrews. “It is great to have been given this chance to prove myself as an offshore sailor. We have some good sailors in the squad and it would be great to be able to play the French at their own game and win.”

The pinnacle race of the 2013 season for the majority of Squad members will be the Solitaire du Figaro and with limited places available these full-time sailors will be competing for a spot on the starting line next year.

Some of the sailors are new to offshore sailing, whilst some caught the bug early. Bouttell first raced offshore at just 15 years old and then three years later went on to skipper a Class 40 to an impressive class victory, finishing 2nd overall in the 2009 RORC Caribbean 600. He is now looking forward to going solo with the Academy: “I feel it is a really great achievement, taking on a hugely tough selection trials against very good sailors from different backgrounds and to then come out as a squad member is awesome.”

Also training full-time will be 23-year-old short-handed sailor Nikki Curwen who will be training on the Academy’s Pogo 2 Mini: “I can now follow the dream to race on the Mini circuit,” said Curwen. “Accumulating as many miles and as much experience as possible. My ultimate goal would be to qualify and get to the start of the Mini Transat in September 2013, although it will be very tough in the time scale available.” Class Mini racing is clearly in the Curwen DNA, with Nikki’s Father Simon posting the best ever result by a British Sailor in the Mini-Transat, 2nd place overall in 2001 Mini Transat.

As well as offering intensive coaching in short-handed offshore racing, the Artemis Offshore Academy Development Squad receive training in meteorology, navigation, onboard systems, boat maintenance, sponsorship procurement, French language and fitness, that fully equip the Academy sailors for their immersion into the world of short-handed offshore racing.

The Artemis Offshore Academy Graduate sailors Sam Goodchild, Nick Cherry, Henry Bomby and Aaron Cooper are actively seeking and negotiating support for the forthcoming Figaro season. Their aim is to train on their own Figaro boats and compete in the 2013 Figaro circuit, with assistance from the Academy. Further announcements of their plans are likely in the coming weeks.